The Perfect Priest for the Perfect Church by Revd. Phil Collins


Candidate after candidate was turned-down for the position of Incumbent of a parish that was as near-perfect as you could get,…….a bit like the Itchen Valley……….

In the many papers that were submitted, this one caught their eye:

“Dear Selection Committee,

I understand you have a vacancy for a new Rector. I’ve been a preacher with much success and similarly a writer. Some say I’m a good organizer. I’ve been a leader of some considerable skill in a number of places,at home and abroad. I’m over 50 years of age.I have never stayed in one place for more than three years. In some places, I have caused riots and disturbances.I have been imprisoned three or four times.My health is not too good, although I still get a great deal done.The churches in which I have preached have been small, but located in several large and significantly-placed cities. Religious leaders in towns where I have preached haven’t taken to me. Some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. However, if you take me on, I shall do my best for you, but I won’t be a “yes” man!”

The  Chairman of the Selection Committee asked –`Well, what do you think? Shall we call him?“They were horrified! The audacity even to submit an application to us, a Church that is as near-perfect as any is going to find!

An unhealthy, trouble-making, potentially-difficult ex-jailbird? “On your bike, mate!”

Who submitted this application? they asked. What a nerve!

The Chairman eyed them carefully before he answered, “It’s signed, `the Apostle Paul.“

Paul, the Minister with a terrible track-record founded many Churches; When looking around for an example of the ideal church he turned to the Christians in Thessalonika:

HOMEWORK – 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3remembering before our God and Father YOUR WORK OF FAITH AND LABOUR OF LOVE AND STEADFASTNESS OF HOPE IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. 4For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you5because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for IN SPITE OF PERSECUTION YOU RECEIVED THE WORD WITH JOY INSPIRED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where YOUR FAITH IN GOD HAS BECOME KNOWN, so that we have no need to speak about it.

9For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Acts 17 tells of the beginning of this church. Paul preached in the synagogue at Thessalonika for 3 weeks and got a church going,but that the traditional Jewish believers were furious,and started a revolt…. they were some of the first to have said “it’s never been done this way before”….and thus was founded The Church of England!

“these have turned the world upside down” they said of Paul’s Thessalonian Christians what a testimony!

What made them, in Paul’s eyes – the nearest to the ideal Church?

  • 1. THEIR ENERGY. Verse .3     “Your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”      What they did they did out of love for Christ and hope in Christ, and, in all things,   this was open to and INSPIRED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.
  • 2. THEIR EXAMPLE. Verse. 7  “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”
  • 3.THEIR ENTHUSIAM. V. 8  “The word of the Lord has sounded forth from you in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.”

Paul’s “Blueprint” for a Church that is inspired, motivated, by the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 5:16 Such a Church lives by the Spirit, and displays

  • love,
  • joy,
  • peace,
  • patience,
  • kindness,
  • generosity,
  • faithfulness,
  • gentleness,
  • self-control. (vv.22,23)
  • Are we such a Church?
  • Are we as individual members of it?

Elsewhere, he describes best-practice of a Spirit-filled Church,“the more excellent way”, as displayed through its members in their attitude to one another…where Church members are:

  • patient;
  • kind;
  • not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude.
  • not insistent on their own way;
  • not irritable or resentful;
  • who 6rejoice in the truth…….
  • Are we such a Church?
  • Are we as individual members of it? 

We need to be seen to be Spirit-filled examples of Christ,people who live out Christian principles, Christian ideals –

“We need to be Walking Sacraments” said the great preacher Austin Farrer…..which says far more than a million sermons. 

And what of our search for the ideal Minister for the Ideal Church?

Only Jesus Himself would fit the bill!… and there is no ideal Church, not even in The Itchen Valley!

In the wait for the Day of Pentecost, we read in Acts 1:

(13) The disciples went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of* James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

In our search for the perfect Rector for this place:

We will get what we pray for….

We will get what we deserve,

if we wait prayerfully in The Spirit…..



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