A Loving Church - The Model for Us

By Rev. John Kao

Scriptural Reading: Eph. 4:15-16; John 13:34-35

When Moses embarked on the construction of the tabernacle, God gave him an elaborate design the details of which he was to follow.  The tabernacle, as we now see, was to become a type of the New Testament Church (Heb. 8:5).

While the basic design remains, local churches, such as the seven mentioned in Revelation, have been allowed to retain some distinctiveness of their own.  Hua Chi, we believe, must pattern herself after God’s basic design for the local church - - to be a church where Christ’s love is genuinely practised.  Consistent with this basic design are some characteristic features upon which a church model may be observed.

(1) Love: The Origin of Our Faith (1 John 4:19; Rom. 5:5-8)

We love, for God first loved us.  We believe that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ, that we might learn to appreciate, accept, respond, and repay His love for us.

In Hua Chi, the cross is a treasured symbol of our covenant relationship with God.  It is displayed in a most prominent place, and is well illuminated to remind us that it is at the cross where God’s love for us is shown, and that the cross is our blessed hope unto eternity.

(2)  Love: The Spirit of our Worship (Matt. 2:37-39)

Worship best exemplifies our sincere response to God’s love for us.  When we worship Him in spirit and in truth, we come to a fuller realization of God’s majesty, glory, sovereignty and holiness.  He alone deserves our praise and adoration.

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to love Our Lord god with all our heart, our mind and our soul, and to love our neighour as ourselves.  In the spirit of worship, we acquire a desire to love others.  For this reason, we purposefully place the communion table in the centre, on the same level with the congregation.  The elements of communion—the bread and the cup –symbolize Christ’s sacrificial love for us.  We meditate, commemorate, give thanks, and worship.  Also, as one body in Christ, we share from the same source of divine love and forgiveness.

(3)  Love: The Essence of our Nurture (John 21:15; Matt. 24:45)

Not only has Christ made new life possible, He is our Bread of Life.  For this reason, behind the communion table, also in the most central location, is the pulpit.  It is by design that the pulpit faces not an empty aisle, which might be desired if someone were to plan an impressive wedding ceremony, but pews for souls who desire the nurture of God’s Word.  We believe that true worship is manifested in our willingness to submit to God’s Word.  We believe whole-heartedly that it is the final authority on all matters related to our daily living.

Thus, God’s servants teach the Word to the nourishment of the flock.  Also, teachers of the Word themselves need to be nurtured.  They spend much time in prayer and study so that God’s Word can be rightfully divided.  Teachers, as well as the congregation, must honour this priority.

(4)  Love: The Motive of our Concern (Heb. 4:15-16; 1 Thess. 1:7-12; 5:13-14)

Jesus instructed Peter to feed His sheep – large and small.  In a church where Christ’s love is genuinely practised, attention is paid to the varying needs of the flock.

“Love” in the Greek, as different words, connotes different meanings.  Eros is Greek for physical love.  Jesus, during His earthly ministry, met the physical needs of His followers.  We, sharing the same concern for our people, have built a church with a gymnasium, a kitchen, and a nursery.  Philia, on the other hand, is the Greek for friendship or romantic love.  Our Lord also recognized man’s need for friendship and romantic love.  He visited Zaccheus’ home; he celebrated with the people in the wedding at Cana.  Agape is Greek for divine love, and it is best demonstrated by Christ’s sacrificial death as propitiation for our sins.  While he was at the cross, He even prayed for His enemy.

All of us possess different capacities for communicating these different kinds of love with others. We  also differ in our needs for them. Thus, while there is a need for some to receive, others bestow.  The ultimate purpose is that we learn to grow and mature in the practice of Christian love.

(5) Love: The Possibility in Mutual Acceptance (Rom. 12:16-18; Phil. 2:1-5)

Because the population of overseas Chinese in North America is dispersed, Chinese Christians seldom can afford to organize themselves along denominational lines. If they do, the community becomes segmented.  However, if only one denomination prevails in any given city, Christians from other denominational backgrounds may have difficulty identifying with that local church.

However, in Hua Chi, a “Chinese Community Church”, we have sought to maintain an environment whereby evangelical Christians, regardless of their denominational background, can serve together for the furtherance of the Gospel. But only through Christ’s love can mutual acceptance of one another become a reality.  While we cannot, and must not, compromise on matters of fundamental importance, we can, nevertheless, permit much liberty in secondary issues.

The early church fathers, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, William Carey, John Sung, Wang Ming Tao, regardless of their historical “denominational ties”, are all worthy models for us to emulate.

(6) Love: The Purpose in Accountability (Matt. 18:12-14; 2 Cor. 11:28-19)

In receiving those with different backgrounds, we practise Christian hospitality.  In showing concern for each other, we participate in a ministry of caring.  When we worship together, we circulate amongst us “our Christian Concern”, so that those in attendance can record their names and telephone numbers.  This helps our pastors not only to identify the visitors, but also those who, due to sickness or other reasons, are absent from us.   Our Lord is the Good Shepherd, who not only knows His sheep by their names, but also numbers them.  When even one is lost, He seeks after it until it is returned to the fold.  God so loved the world, He kept an accurate account of all who have trusted Him, even crowds of 3,000 or 5,000 at a time.

(7)  Love:  The Reason for Grouping (John 1:3; 2:44-46)

As our church family grows in number, how can we continue to share in the ministry of caring?  The Lord’s way is to raise up from among us many fellowships and cell groups, so that we may continue to enjoy fellowship with each other in the Lord.  We form fellowships on the basis of age and background.  Then, we organize ourselves into cell groups to ensure more in-depth sharing, caring and encouragement.  Through devotional Bible studies and participation in kingdom ministries, we may be edified and trained in the Lord’s service.  Data generated from “Our Christian concern”, when interfaced with the structure of grouping, provide the means by which the needs of all parts of the body are met.

(8)  Love: The Design for our Family (Eph. 2:19; 3:15; 5:22-6:9; Acts 16:31)

Aside from groups, God also organizes Hua Chi according to a most basic unit - the family.  The family best reflects the artistry of God’s handiwork.  It is also a vehicle through which His eternal purpose is accomplished.  In the beginning, God made man and woman and instituted the family.  Then, through the redemptive work of Christ, larger “families”, local churches, were born.  Although yet future, He will bring all who trust Christ to the grandest family reunion of all times.  For this reason, love must first be practised within each family unit.  In an effort to promote the family, we have built two large nurseries behind our sanctuary, so that caring for the young might not interfere with parents’ desire to hear God’s Word.  We run a day care centre, so that our children may be properly nurtured.  In addition, we organize retreats, and families, encourage family altars, and endeavour to be a “home” that is warm and caring for foreign students while they are away from home.

(9)  Love: The Attitude of our Service (Eph. 4:16; 2 Tim. 1:6)

In families where love prevails, every member assumes responsibilities and contributes to the family’s welfare.  Similarly, in our church family, each of us assumes responsibilities and contributes to the functioning of the total body.  The practice of love through service is both a responsibility as well as a privilege.

The Lord has given each believer spiritual gifts—gifts which must be discovered, invigorated, and exercised. Our recently elected deacons, and our other church leaders, will work hard together toward the goal of total member mobilization, when each of us exercises his or her spiritual gifts.

(10) Love:  the Rationale behind our Priorities (Acts 2:41-47; Matt. 28:16-20; 6:33)

The church can be caught up with its many activities.  However, we must not be totally consumed by these activities, as was Martha, but be clear always about our priorities, seeking what is best first, like Mary.   From the example of the early church and implied in our Lord’s Great Commission, we see these priorities: (1) worship; (2) witness; (3) teaching; (4) training; (5) helps.  In the beginning of our model we have discussed the correct attitude in worship.  We must emphasize here the importance of prayer.  Prayer must undergird every activity in our service.  As a church we have fallen short in this area.  We must do better by being watchful and pray without ceasing.  Whether at home or in church, we must make prayer an integral part of our lives.

(11) Love:  The Motivation for our Outreach  (Matt. 5:13-16; 28:19-29; Acts 1:8)

God’s love for us is not meant to be kept within the confines of the church; rather, it is to be extended to all the lands, even to the uttermost parts of the world.  As believers, we are witnesses of God’s love, radiating it to all four corners of our world.  In addition to our home missions work, we have also actively participated in various areas of social concern: operating a day care centre, participating in Red Cross blood donor programs, sharing material wealth with the poor, and contributing to Ethiopian famine relief.

In the area of foreign missions, Hua Chi has been learning to do her part since her founding ten years ago. Brothers and sisters have shown delight in giving to world missions, for the furtherance of the Lord’s work, particularly in North America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.  In 1984, the faith promise in world missions exceeded $90,000, an evidence of brothers’ and sisters’ dedication and sacrifice.  However, despite a membership exceeding 30 in our Dedication Fellowship, up to now we have not succeeded to groom anyone ready to go out to the field.  By faith, we must continue to look to the Lord of Harvest to send His workers.

(12) Love:  The Demand for our Growth (1 Cor. 3:6; Matt. 13:31-32)

If our outreach programs are to have quality results, we ourselves much first experience qualitative growth, in the practice of love.  In other words, quantitative growth must be preceded by qualitative spiritual growth.  As a church, spiritual growth occurs when each believer grows in the area of devotions, personal evangelism, knowledge of God’s Word, and fellowship.  For this reason, we have adapted the tune of “sweet Hour of Prayer”, to a hymn that reminds us our motto for Christian daily living”

We seek a life His purpose do;

Arise in prayer and study too;

To share His love with all the lost,

And show concern as friend who’s true.

To hunger for the hallowed page,

And pray unceasingly by faith.

Press on, we shall, ‘til His return,

A crown of life to be our praise!

Qualitative growth, on the other hand, must bring about quantitative growth.  We share CCOWE’s vision that we must grow in terms of congregational membership, number of churches/missions, and number of full-time workers.  In the past decade, the Lord of Harvest has blessed us richly.  Our slogan for the Church construction was “Building for Harvest”.  We will continue to pray that in the decade to come, our Lord will add even more believers to His church through us.

(13) Love: The Character of Discipleship (2 Tim. 2:2)

The key in qualitative and quantitative growth lies in the development and training of leaders.  Just as older siblings lead and guide their younger brothers and sisters, each believer has the responsibility to lead and guide, as well as to benefit from the leadership and guidance of others.  Our Lord’s followers:  the inner circle of three, the twelve, the seventy, received different levels of training from their Master.

Similarly, the apostle Paul admonished Timothy to teach those faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.  All our leaders (pastors, Sunday School teachers, counsellors) and members must be willing to assume leadership as well as to train new leaders to succeed them.  As Christ’s body, the law of metabolism must be a part of our maturation process.

(14) Love: The Basis for Mutual Sub-Mission (Matt. 24:45-51; John 12:26; Heb. 10:24; 1 Tim 4:11)

While leadership training and development is important to us, we must cherish our faithful workers.  “Those who are most capable often have just their fatigue to show for their labour.”  Often our ablest workers are burnt out.  They show signs of exhaustion, discouragement, and even despair.  How we must learn to encourage one another and share our loads and burdens!  If there is a project that few have shown the desire to participate, it may be better that we postpone this project, for the sake of not putting excessive burden onto our workers.  Seeking greater efficiency, Paul was once dissatisfied with Mark’s work, although later he confessed that Mark was a most capable co-worker.  This attitude of mutual appreciation should prevail in our midst.

(15) Love: The Test of our Leadership (Acts 20:23-24)

When the number of workers increase, the number of viewpoints an opinions also will increase.  This is a good sign, that our base of operation has been widened.  However, the leaders must learn to lead with love and to heed constructive criticisms.  Our Lord says, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.”

When the spirit of love prevails in our leadership, peace and unity will be preserved in a time of storm, tribulation, and adversity.  This spirit of love can win enemies, convict sins, cause forgiveness, motivate love, encourage service and overcome crises.  The church can then grow unto maturity.

(16) Love: The Demonstration of our Witness (John 12:32; 13:34-35)

Christ’s death on the cross as a propitiation for our sins has already attracted many to trust and believe in Him.  A church that genuinely practises Christ’s love will not only cause those within the church to experience the joy and satisfaction of new life in Christ; it will also, as a community of saints, show forth a wonderful witness.  Impressed by such a dynamic witness, others in turn will be attracted to this fellowship of love.


In a highly impersonal and uncaring world where conflicts are rampant, man longs for a home where love prevails. A church where Christ’s love is genuinely practiced, people find the refuge for healing of mental anguish and life direction. The whole church submits to the leadership of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, sharing in a relationship of love, and moving onward, as a wonderful and dynamic witness. May Hua Chi be forever true and faithful to this model, and continue to bring all honour and glory to our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.

*translated by Ernest Cheng

Last modified on Monday, 01 April 2019 08:45


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