Pastor/Elder, what do you desire your church to be known for? As we work in our cities or in the suburbs or more rural areas, what do we want our flocks to understand as their mission in the world? For most we jump right to the Great Commission and seek to send our people out to be disciple makers. This is indeed the call that has been given to us by our Lord (Matt. 28:18-20). But underneath all of that, what are the foundations that underpin the reputation of a church that is godly?
In Colossians 1:3-8 we discover some characteristics of a church with a godly reputation. It reads:
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.” (ESV)
To summarize, this church’s reputation is built upon faith, love and hope in the gospel.
In faith, this church is known as those who have not only believed in Christ as their savior but also those who recognize His lordship and live accordingly. This is further fleshed out in love for the saints. This is, of course, that sacrificial love that Jesus displayed in washing his disciples feet, which foreshadowed his ultimate act of sacrificial love when he laid down his life and reconciled man to God with His blood. Paul also states that they do these things because of the hope they have laid up in heaven. The gospel is not just a message of forgiveness for now, but also causes us to live in hope of what is to come. We have an expectant certainty that God will fulfill his promises and that drives our faith deeper and makes our love for one another flourish.
Is it okay to be known as the church that has great preaching and great evangelistic zeal? Is their value in being known as the church that serves the community well? Is their benefit to being known as the church that does not entertain children and students, but seeks to disciple them and their parents as well? All of these things are indeed significant, but only if God is at the center; and faith, love and hope in the gospel are the underpinnings of that reputation.
Consider lastly, that Paul in this passage also speaks of the leadership of Epaphras within the church of Colossae. That church had learned these things from him. Consider what you are teaching and modeling for your flock. Does it emulate the characteristics of this church with a godly reputation?