The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church was that it would be strengthened.
A strong church is one that is less likely to be pulled to pieces by the world. A strong church is less likely to be divided by the spiritually immature. The strong church is more likely to commit to the work Jesus wants the church to do, and a strong church is more likely to grow in love than a weak one.
But, what makes a strong church? In Colossians, Paul said a strong church is one filled with knowledge (Colossians 1:9). A church filled with knowledgeable members will have people with a strong desire to grow spiritually (1 Peter 2:1-3). It’s one thing for a church to want to grow, and quite another thing for a congregation to have the strong desire to grow. If a congregation’s members truly desire the nourishment God’s word supplies, then their faith will be strengthened (Romans 10:17) and their devotion to God will increase.
The Thessalonian church was a group of believers whose faith was strong. How can we know? We can know because Paul wrote them saying, “because that your faith growth exceedingly,” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Do we grow our faith like that, or are we so preoccupied with the world or so complacent, we don’t do anything?
Growing faith seeks a way to express its devotion to God. One of the complaints of Jesus about the church at Laodicea was that it’s devotion was lagging. The members of that church had become lukewarm, a sure sign of lack of devotion, which meant their faith was weakening to the point of failure. Jesus said, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked,” (Revelation 3:17 ESV).
Speaking of the complacency common to those afflicted by affluence like Laodicea, Homer Hailey, in his commentary on Revelation, wrote these people, “live in worldly enjoyment that requires neither sacrifice nor effort. They feel sufficient within themselves.” They lack devotion because their faith is microscopic.
A church is strong when its members pray often. What would be wrong if brethren took a Sunday morning or Sunday evening two or three times per month and just prayed for the church? What could they pray for? They could pray for more opportunities to preach the word, for more people to teach, for its members to grow closer to God and Christ through study. The list is endless. Strong churches have people who pray for it and for others every day.
A strong church is a giving church. Heartfelt and scriptural worship means giving. The freewill offering is an opportunity to show how much we love the Lord Jesus for giving himself for our sins. Giving means we not only show our love (2 Corinthians 8:8), but we exhibit the characteristics of the church that realizes it belongs to the Lord.
And, a strong church is one in which its members want to be filled with the will to launch every good work (Ephesians 2:10). A strong church’s members are never idle. No one buries their talent in the ground, but does everything they can do to glorify God and do his work.
What other things do you believe characterize a strong church?