I love the church. But sometimes we disagree over the weirdest things. One church I read about had an argument about whether they should allow deviled eggs at their potluck suppers (the thinking presumably being that the eggs might be demon-possessed).
The church is simply a group of people whom Jesus has called out of the world to be together. But because we're still imperfect—we're all a work in progress—sometimes we just aren't going to get along. Such was the case in the church at Philippi. Philippians 4 hints at an argument between two women that was affecting the whole congregation. From this episode, let's look at five qualities that make a healthy church:
1. A big heart. Paul wrote, "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved" (v. 1). In one sentence, he expressed his own gracious, loving heart toward this group, providing an example of what is needed in every church: people with big hearts. The number one hallmark of the church should be love (see John 13:35).
2. A firm stance. Notice in verse 1, Paul told them to "stand fast in the Lord." He was asking them to take a stand in healing the division that had gotten out of hand. That tells me the church ought to be a place filled with people who have deep convictions and are going to follow Jesus no matter what.
3. A warm embrace—that is, the ability to embrace and help two disagreeing parties resolve their conflict. "I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life" (vv. 2-3). The solution to the disagreement is found in the phrase "in the Lord." In other words, settle the issue by focusing on what God wants, on what will bring Him glory.
4. A merry soul. "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (v. 4). Joy is a personal choice to react or respond to life's uncertainties with faith. You can be filled with sorrow and at the same time choose to rejoice (see 2 Corinthians 6:10). The church ought to be known for that.
5. A soft touch. "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand" (v. 5). Gentleness could be better translated sweet reasonableness. Whenever there's a conflict, like the one at Philippi, it's the gracious, gentle, diplomatic touch that makes all the difference (see Proverbs 15:1). Remember, you follow the Savior who said, "I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29).
So those are the components of a healthy church. We need to remember that the church is the only thing Jesus said He came to build: "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). That means deviled eggs at a potluck will not prevail against the church, or anything better or worse. We belong to the Lord, and as imperfect as we are, as failure ridden as we are, He still loves us and has a plan for us.