Ten Rules for Improving the Church

I.         The bookstore shelves groan under the weight of “self-help” books. The kind that tell you how to improve various aspects of your life.

            A.        I would like to offer a different type of self-help: a way you can improve the church -- all by yourself!

            B.        It sounds like a tall order, but it is not.

                        1.         Each one here can greatly improve this congregation with just a small amount of effort.

                        2.         I’m going to give you ten, simple things that you can do, which will improve this congregation and any other one you attend in this life.

II.        The Ten Simple Rules

            A.        Tell yourself over and over that since you are not perfect, you would not fit into a perfect congregation, if one existed.

                        1.         Too many people are looking for the perfect congregation. One that has no flaws, no problems, no irritations.

                                    a.         The members in that congregation are too old. The members of this congregation are too young. There are too many hypocrites. The people are too apathetic. The preacher is not dynamic enough. The preacher shouts too much.

                        2.         Consider the seven churches of Asia. They represent all of the Lord’s churches.

                                    a.         Ephesus was a diligent worker, but they lacked love.

                                    b.         Symra was poor and suffered heavy persecutions; some were told they would soon be facing prison.

                                    c.         Pergamos was located in a bad section of town. In fact, Jesus describes it as the location of Satan’s throne. Some have been killed for their faith, but others are compromising the truth -- falling into sins, such as fornication, idolatry, and false teachings.

                                    d.         Thyatira was known for its many good works, but it allowed a false woman teacher to serve in their midst. She has even lead some of the members into committing fornication.

                                    e.         Sardis looks active on the surface, but it is basically dead. They were once a strong congregation, but no more. However, there are a few strong members still in Sardis.

                                    f.         Philadelphia is spiritually weak, but has a number of opportunities and remains faithful to God.

                                    g.         Laodicia is a wealthy congregation, but it is spiritually so-so. The members are so full of their own greatness that they cannot see the things they are lacking.

                        3.         Which church would you and your family join? You see there is no perfect church. Every one has problems. The problems differ, but none will allow a person to just drift into heaven.

                        4.         Church hopping doesn’t solve a single problem. You just exchange one set for another.

            B.        Instead of picking out the worldly members to point at, pick out the sincere, dedicated, spiritual members and thank God for them. You will find what you seek.

                        1.         People will find what they are looking for - Tit. 1:15-16

                        2.         I Thess. 5:21-22 - Test things. Hold to the good and reject the evil. Too often we reject the good if we find evil anywhere near by.

                        3.         I Cor. 4:16-17 - Follow Paul who is following Christ

                        4.         Phil 3:17 - Faithful men for examples

                                    a.         Ps. 37:37 - Mark the blameless man

                                    b.         Heb 13:7 - Follow after the elders

            C.        If you are old, treat the young with the consideration you desired as a young person. If you are young, treat the elderly with the respect you will want when you are old.

                        1.         This is basically, “Do unto others” - Matt. 22:39

                        2.         I Tim 4:12 - Don’t despise the young

                                    a.         I Cor. 16:10-11 - Don’t despise Timothy

                                    b.         Matt 18:10 - Don’t despise the little ones (young in faith)

                        3.         I Peter 5:5 - Submit to the elder

                                    a.         Prov 16:31 - Gray hair is a crown of glory if gained through righteousness

                                    b.         Lev. 19:32 - Give respect to the elderly

                                    c.         Job 12:12 - Age brings wisdom and understanding

            D.        When you are tempted to criticize others, be sure to pray earnestly for them first. This may not change them, but it will do wonders for your attitude.

                        1.         Matt. 7:1-5 - Correct yourself before correcting others

                        2.         Ps. 51:9-13 - Forgive my sins, then I can teach others

                        3.         Matt. 5:44 - Pray for those who abuse you

                                    a.         Ps. 35:11-13 - David’s example

                                    b.         Acts 7:60 - Stephen’s example

                        4.         I Pet 3:9 - We were called to return blessings for cursing and railings.

            E.        When you see a work being neglected, instead of being critical, offer to help.

                        1.         Neh. 2:12-20 - Nehemiah saw the devastation of Jerusalem and determined the work to be done. Sanballat and his friends instead were critical and tried to stop the work.

                                    a.         When there is work to be done in the church, which are you? A Nehemiah or a Sanballat?

                                    b.         Starting in Neh. 3:1ff is a list of who repaired what portion of Jerusalem’s walls and gates. No one person did all the work, yet each person’s work was important and critical to the final success of the project.

                                    c.         What would happen if just one person was neglectful? What if just one person did poor work?

                        2.         Eccl. 9:10 - Whatever you find to do, do it with all your might.

                        3.         II Chron 31:20-21 - The example of Hezekiah - full dedication to God

                        4.         What do we do for the church?

                                    a.         Do you see something that needs to be done?

                                    b.         Do you complain or do you do something about it?

                                    c.         Do you give it the minimum time that you can get away with or do you do it as if you are working for God?

            F.        Never, never blame others for your own failures. Every individual can be fruitful in spite of the bad examples and discouraging attitudes of others, if he is determined to be.

                        1.         Numerous examples

                                    a.         Gen 3:12-13 - Adam and Eve did not accept responsibility of their own actions, they blamed others for their own wrong doing.

                                    b.         Gen 16:5 - Sari blamed her disagreements with Haggai on Abram. After all, he is the father of the child, even though it was by Sari’s suggestion.

                                    c.         Gen 25:29-34, 27:36 - Esau freely gave up his birthright, but soon he blamed his lose on his brother Jacob.

                                    d.         Ex 32:22-24 - Aaron blamed the people for making the golden calf.

                                    e.         I Sam 15:20-21 - Saul blamed the people for not obeying God.

                                    f.         Matt. 27:24 - Pilate tried to excuse himself from the death of Jesus.

                        2.         God has consistently stated that we are responsible for our own actions. You can’t blame anyone else. It is not in your genes - so you can’t blame your parents. You can’t blame your children. You can blame your friends. (See Ezek. 18)

                        3.         Ezek. 33:8 - Even if a wicked man is not warned, he still dies for his sins.

                        4.         Gal. 6:4-5 - Every person bears his own burdens.

                        5.         I Pet. 2:12 - Others may disparage us, but our good works will glorify God.

            G.        Remind yourself every day that the best way you can improve the world or the church is to begin with yourself.

                        1.         Mt 7:1-5 - First remove the beam from your own eye.

                        2.         Ps. 51:9-13 - Cleanse me and then I will teach

                        3.         Acts 19:13-16 - Some Jews tried to heal without becoming Christians themselves. They tried to improve the fate of another without improving themselves.

                        4.         Rom 2:1,21-24 - The Jews condemn the world while violating that same law.

                        5.         Ps 19:7-13 - God’s law instructs us, improves us

            H.        Consciously look for the good qualities in every brother or sister in Christ. When you think of a brother or sister, make a mental note of the good points each possesses.

                        1.         Ps. 106:4-5 - David’s prayer to see the good of God’s people

                        2.         Prov. 12:25 - A good word brightens a person’s day

                        3.         Prov. 15:23 - A joy giving a fitting reply

                        4.         Prov. 16:24 - Pleasant words are healthful

                        5.         Isa 50:4 - God teaches us how to teach others and improve their life

                        6.         Ps. 34:12-14 - Man desires to see good, so avoid speaking evil

            I.         Constantly strive to increase you circle of friends in the church. Try to do something good for each.

                        1.         Pr 18:24 - To have friends, you must be friendly.

                        2.         Rom 12:13 - Help fellow Christians and being hospitable.

                        3.         I Jn 3:17 - If you have the ability to help, and do not, how can you love God?

                        4.         I Pet. 4:8-9 - Show love and hospitality among one another

                        5.         Heb. 6:10-11 - Work at love and serving each other

                        6.         Heb 13:16 - With such sacrifices, God is pleased

            J.         Every church has problems. Constantly ask yourself, “Am I a part of the problem or a part of the solution?”

                        1.         James 4:17 - Sin if you know to do good and then do nothing

                        2.         James 1:25 - Not a forgetful hearer, but a doer.

III.       You see, each item is not difficult.

            A.        Let us resolve to improve the church by changing ourselves.

            B.        Every improvement in ourselves improves the church.

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