1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 – Improving the Image (10/22/95)

A Sermon (#536) Preached by William “Bill” Touchton

Edited by Michael D. Lawson

If you have your Bibles tonight, turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 4.9-12.

Sometime back there was a commercial on TV starring Andre Agassi, and in this commercial, image is everything.

In other words, it’s very important how other people see you.

There was a time in this country when preachers, Christians, and churches were all well respected, but for the most part, those days are gone. Our image has been destroyed by sin and scandal and tonight I want to show you how we can improve our image.

Several years ago I attended a church growth conference down at Lake Yale and this conference was led by Dr. Andy Anderson, and while we were there, he talked a lot about the church’s image, and about the church’s atmosphere.

And he said when you leave here, I want you to do 3 things:

  1. Write a paragraph on how you see your church.
  2. Have your congregation write a letter on how they see the church.
  3. Go into the community and have them write a letter on how they see your church.

Here’s what. It’s important what you and your congregation see, but it’s more important how that lost world around you sees your church. And I think he’s right.

Let me illustrate. Several months ago a young man brought his children to our Sunday School, and while there he asked if he could talk. He said, “I don’t know if I should stay in my church or not.” He said, “We used to have several hundred people, then we began to argue and fight. Everyone left. Last Sunday we had 12.” He said, “We have no one to work with the youth, so I decided to take it, but every time I visit, I hear the same thing…’All you people do is argue and fight.'”

Now listen, I listened to him talk and tried to encourage him to stay tough, to hang in there, find where God is working and get in on it.

But listen, I knew the story of that church long before he came by my office. They have had a history of fighting for years. That’s what people see. That’s what they remember.

Several years ago, a friend called. He said, “Have you ever heard of this church?” I said, “They are in our association.” He said, “Someone told me their pastor left and they are looking at my resume.” He said, “What do you know about the church?” I said, “Nothing, but let me make a phone call and I’ll get the scoop.”

Listen, here it is. This church is a grave yard for preachers. They run them off. They come in and get started and the old guard runs them off. I called my friend and said, “Stay put.”

What’s the image?

Another friend, Scott, a Minister of Music, he said, “They are considering me.” Let me call…Seven Ministers of Music in less that ¬†seven years!

What’s the image?

I have been in churches that were cold, with no desire for souls, no commitment to holiness.

We are the body of Christ. We represent Him. The world should look at us and say, “That church is like Jesus!”

Now, wouldn’t it be interesting to go through this community and ask them how they see us?

Maybe we wouldn’t look as good as we think we do. Maybe we could improve our image.

Let me share how we can. Let’s develop our outline with Paul’s word.

  1. First, if we are going to improve our image, we must “Love one another.” Now this love must be godly and it must be growing.

A. Godly Love:

*Godly in its inception. Look at verse 9. 1 John tells us that “God is love.” Watch this, when God came into my heart, the love of God came into my heart and I began to love the people of God and the things of God.

In Acts 8, Saul consented to the death of Stephen.

In Acts 9, He loves the church. That morning he hated the church, that afternoon, he loved the church. Why? Because the love of God came into his heart.

Godly love. In inception, and…

*Godly in its instruction. “Ye need not that I write…ye are taught by God…”

Now watch, When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he gave an entire chapter on the doctrine of love. But here he says, there’s no need to write. One church was carnal, one spirit-filled.

Listen, Brother Pollock has interim pastored many churches. He just finished one in Thomasville. He said, “I preached love.” Why? They were carnal, not spirit-filled.

Focus on this. Jesus said we should love one another. And when we do, they will know who we are.

B. Growing Love:

Verse 10 – Expand it beyond the walls of your church. The churches that are growing are reaching beyond itself. We need ministries that reach out.

We are to:

  1. Love one another
  2. Study to be quiet

When I was in college, several students tried to involve one of my professors into a carnal debate, but he kept focusing upward. He would not be drawn in. He remained consistently quiet and humble in all that he did. He made quite an impression on my life.

  1. Love one another
  2. Study to be quiet
  3. Do your own business

“Don’t meddle in the affairs of others”

What’s the business of the church? It’s not to police the government. It’s not to run the school boards or picket abortion clinics. It is to win souls!

  1. Love one another
  2. Study to be quiet
  3. Do your own business
  4.  Work with your own hands

Publicly this means we get a job. Some sat by, idly waiting on the rapture. When it comes to the pew, it means we serve in the church.

If the church is going to be the church, we must improve our image.