The measure of a church is the measure of its people. As its people go, so goes the church. What is it that we as a people of God must possess and practice to be spiritually healthy, vibrant, and effective, so that our church(s) can therefore be the same way? In I Corinthians 13 Paul gives us three eternal spiritual qualities that I believe we must be strong and growing in as individuals so that the church we belong to will be strong and growing as well. These are faith, hope, and love. As believers we have these attributes, yet we may be weak in one or more of them. For example, the church at Corinth was spiritually immature and was especially weak in love (I Corinthians 13), and you can see the many problems it had as a result. The believers written to in II Peter needed to be diligent in developing their faith (II Peter 1:5-11) so that they would not be susceptible to the cleverly devised tales of the false teachers. The believers in Hebrews needed to press on to maturity leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ to anchor their hope more securely, so that they would persevere under their trials. James told the twelve dispersed tribes what real faith was all about.
Faith, hope, and love are mentioned in almost every New Testament book. And out of all the churches and groups written to there are only two that are commended for all three of these qualities. They are the churches at Colossae and Thessalonica. In the first chapter of both epistles Paul says that he is thankful for them and praying for them. He commends the Colossians on their faith in Christ Jesus, the love which they had for all the saints, and their hope laid up in heaven. He commends the Thessalonians for the work of their faith, the labor of their love, and the steadfastness of their hope. Also, in the first chapter of both epistles, he talks about the reception and power of the gospel, which is the tool God uses to develop faith, hope, and love in His children, and as His children are, so is the church.
Even though these attributes are spiritual and intangible, they are not inconspicuous. They are evident in the life, the attitude and actions of the people of God. They are the ground of our motivation, the core of our spiritual life, the evidence of our salvation. So we in the church must look to make sure these qualities are ours and are increasing, and those of us who preach, teach, and lead the flock must be diligent to develop these qualities in the flock that God has assigned to us, so that the flock will be spiritually healthy and vibrant.
More on this later.