If you think that Mike's Perfect church . . . not having a building, having a teacher, but then elders who are above the teacher in leadership . . . looks different, then you haven't seen anything yet.
The most defining difference is the community. The hallmark of the community is their complete feelings of emotional/intellectually safety which would result in a tremendous transparency. There is nothing to hide because we each would know that we are fallen and saved only by Christ. We would not hold to the inaccurate beliefs that once we became a Christian, we start with a clean-slate and all our problems go away.
So, if someone was having trouble with their children, being tempted to have an affair, wondering if they are gay, questioning specific doctrine . . . they would know that they are among loving friends and can share deeply and honestly without any fear of condemnation.
Of course the center part of God's gift of the church is "encouraging one another.” So, the community should reflect that.
If you go back, many posts ago, I talked about the essence of human (fallen human) behavior and it comes down to a desire for significance. This concept rules all human behaviors, hopefully Christian behavior a little less than others.
So, for the church to be an encouraging place, it must be a place in which the “righteousness of God” is so manifest, that people can start to suspend that subconscious drive to seek their own significance.
In many modern Christian circles, I really think, if you are very, very honest, this personal desire for significance taints the quest for true encouragement. I will give a practical example of the error that I am talking about.
Betty walks up to a group of women during a refreshment time between Sunday school and preaching. During the middle of trivial conversations Sandra looks at her and asks, “So what is Jason (her son) up to these days? I haven’t seen him around church.”
Betty answers with teary eyes, “Well, I don’t know. He’s going through hard times right now. Since turning 16, he has been loosing interest in church and youth group.”
Sandra, with a little rolling of her eyes in front of the other women drinking coffee: “Well, girl, like I told you a long time ago, if you put your kids in public school, then you are abrogating your responsibility to the school to raise them in God’s way.”
So what’s really going on here? I will analyze this and give an example how this would work in the perfect church.
Betty is hesitant to share the truth about Jason, because as a mother, she wants be seen as a good mother (desire for significance in the eyes of her Christian friends and God’s eyes). She does share, but not the whole truth and how seriously her son is struggling with depression, possibly smoking pot and many other problems. So she is only brave enough to scratch the surface . . . but after this interaction, she may never even bring it up again.
Sandra, also wants personal significance, takes this opportunity (the chink in Betty’s armor) to make a point of her own spiritual superiority.
In Mike’s perfect church, the people are so secure in God’s righteousness bestowed on them in Christ, they don’t have to worry about how they look to each other or even to the non-Christians. This is how the conversation could go.
First of all, people at church wouldn’t find out about Jason’s troubles months later. No, Betty would have been sharing things with them from the beginning. The fellow women would in response tell her of their troubles, because they have nothing to prove.
I’m using women as examples here, but it is usually men who are more defensive and insecure in these matters.
So, if the perfect church is to be encouraging, then people must be honest and others must be confirming, not confirming in their own successes but in God’s grace.