What is a “faithful” church? The question contains an implied premise that being faithful and true to something is essential to loyalty. What is the premise that determines loyalty?
Some call the church in Smyrna “the faithful church" because it was the one church of the seven written to in Revelation for which no criticism or correction was needed. But we know almost nothing about the church in Smyrna except that they were rich--their poverty notwithstanding. They were slandered by some people in Smyrna who were described as “a synagogue of Satan,” and persecution was about to begin. That’s all we know. If that handful of things is true of us, does our compliance with the sterling example of Smyrna make us “the church of the New Testament?”
There is a belief that faithfulness lies in conforming to the “ancient paths,” which means sticking as closely as possible to the early church’s practices and methods. Since the church had its beginning under the direct instruction, training, and oversight of the apostles, who clearly had the authority to direct the affairs of churches, the church must have at first been pure in doctrine and practice. The early church was believed to be the model, or pattern. Therefore, the more closely we adhere to that “ideal,” the more faithful we are believed to be, and thus more pleasing to God than churches whose practices conform less.
It becomes important for us to distinguish the doctrinal truths from the cultural nuances and contexts of Biblical times. Our goal is to know God’s purposes and plans for faithfulness both in our personal lives and the corporate lives of our congregation. Then, get faithful to those things.