by: Rev Ed Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org
It should be no secret to those who have a passion for “church growth” that far too many local congregations seem to be floundering in a sea of mediocrity. In some cases outright failure is all but assured because the requirements of vibrant and sustainable growth are completely out of the scope of possibility. Even if local church leaders wanted to grow they find themselves lounging in the lap of ignorance of where to begin the journey of either revitalization or re-start.
- What does a healthy church look like?
- What are its characteristics and attributes?
- What should be our first steps to get out of the mess we find ourselves?
- How much money will be needed?
- Do we have enough people to even begin the journey?
- Does the physical church structure or its actual location find value, purpose or even a recognizable identity within a 5-7 minute drive from the front door?
- Are we willing to reflect the actual population of the current parish boarders?
In addition to these questions there are dozens more that will need to be seriously and objectively answered prior to determining a decision as to whether a Re-birthing project should be attempted. However, one of the foundational ways we can begin this journey is to take an honest look at where the local church legitimately finds itself in comparison to a typically healthy church.
Just as there are symptoms of disease and decay, there are also symptoms – indications – of a healthy church.
Here are 7 indications you are attending a healthy Christian church.
A healthy church studies the Bible.
The reason God created us and redeemed us by His Son’s vicarious death on Calvary’s cross is so that we might know Him – indeed, knowing Him is the primary purpose of life, without which we will never feel satisfied and complete. We can only know Him through the revelation of His Word, so we study His Book – all of it, verse by verse – in order that we might know Him better every day. The primary responsibility of the shepherd, the senior pastor, is to teach the Bible to God’s people. Jesus said, “feed my sheep,” and in the Old Testament God said His Word was wheat for our souls. In a healthy church, you will find congregants regularly studying the Bible together because they are deeply hungry to know God.
A healthy church is filled with people who pray and actively pursue visiting others who are in need of care and comfort.
Paul said to pray without ceasing; Jesus said people ought always to pray; Samuel thought it a sin against God to not pray; King David cried to God day and night; Martin Luther prayed from 3 to 6 a.m. every morning. Every revival and movement of God in history was under-girded with faithful prayer warriors who cried out to God day and night. Heaven sits still until earth prays, but where God’s people will call upon Him in earnest, He will answer in power.
Healthy churches have a passionate desire to prove for the visitation of others. They visit strangers in hospitals and nursing homes to tell them of Christ, while other volunteers may be found in feeding centers for the poor and homeless, or pregnancy centers. Members of a healthy congregation will do the “hard work of grace” and minister to those in hospices and social service agencies so they can let needy and hurting people know of the God who loves them unconditionally. In a healthy church, everyone has a burden, a burning desire, to help others know Jesus….outside the confines of the building that is used for worship.
A healthy church worships in Spirit and in truth.
A misunderstanding often exists between those who prefer older hymns and those who prefer more contemporary songs to be sung in worship. The fact is, both can be dead and cold or either can be alive and vibrant. We can use many different kinds of songs in worship – hymns, choruses, ancient, modern; and we can use all sorts of musical accompaniment – organs, pianos, keyboards, guitars, drums, bass, brass, woodwinds, to play all kinds of musical styles – folk, rock, jazz, classical, rap and so on. People often think that if one group prefers choruses, and another hymns, we should try to blend them of have different services with different kinds of music.
While this may be helpful, eliminating hymns is not the goal – the goal is heartfelt worship. A healthy church is a church where people pour out their hearts in adoration and praise of God, regardless of the style of music. We do not want to eliminate hymns, we want to eliminate dead worship that does not move the heart and soul, and create a worship atmosphere where people will enter in and adore God fervently, emotionally and lovingly.
A healthy church is filled with people who love one another.
Jesus said the earmark of discipleship is our love for each other; John said if we do not love each other, we are not truly followers of Christ. The early Christians were known for their reputation of loving each other. Biblical love is not a feeling, not a warm emotion, as we often think of love. Biblical love is action, it is not what we feel, it is what we do. If we feel all warm and fuzzy toward someone, but never do anything to express love, we do not love them according to the Bible.
Conversely, if we feel nothing, or even a touch of repulsion toward another, but do practical things to help that person, we love them in the biblical sense. A healthy church is filled with people who care for each other, who surround one another with comfort, who phone each other just to encourage, who pray for each other, who stop by to wash dishes, who take a shut-in for a drive in the country, who are warm and friendly to all, who fix a single mom’s car for her, who read to someone whose eyesight is failing, who put up storm windows for a neighbor, who paint a house for someone who cannot afford to have it done, who give someone a ride to a doctor’s appointment, who babysit a couple’s children so they can have a date to enrich their marriage, who take strangers to lunch after church on Sunday, or have coffee in the morning with a new member. A healthy church is filled with people who express God’s love in small, everyday, practical, creative ways. When you walk into a healthy church on meeting day, you can feel the love in the air.
A healthy church is growing in numbers.
When a local congregation of believers is generally healthy you will find that “church family” filled with people who love God so much that they feel compelled to share the love, support, and empowerment with others. Because of this desire to share what has been experienced they are consequently involved in evangelism, outreach, missions, and social ministry. A healthy church is filled with people who tell other people about Jesus, not about the church; nobody is attracted to an institution, but about Jesus. Everyone needs to know Him – not our programs or building or history – but Him!
In a healthy church, some people are called to regularly go out on the streets or involve themselves in community meeting places and tell others of the Savior who loves them. Some call on old friends and share the gospel with them. There are still more individuals who will go on short-term mission trips to demonstrate God’s love to developing countries. It is certainly not unusual to find people who are compelled to offer financial support to ministries or missions, while others help out in evangelistic endeavors of all sorts. All of these facets of outreach will absolutely provide growth in numbers…..and for the right reason.
A healthy church concentrates on developing Monday through Saturday Ministries.
When a local congregation mistakenly thinks that all they need to do is provide a positive worship experience and that alone defines their “health.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth! To gain a sustainable platform of “health” there must be a commitment to having a 7-day-per-week Christian location of both community service and community interaction. What does the actual community….the parish….the people who live and work within 5-7 minute (3 minutes within a highly dense urban location) drive from the front door of the church….need and want to improve their lives and draw closer to the one, true and living God? The fact is, a healthy church that is sustainable finds programs, ministries, service projects, strategic partnerships, and empowerment opportunities under the banner of Christ that positively affects people’s lives. When a Christian congregation is committed to accomplishing this expression of Christian love then long-term “godly” health must happen.
A healthy church is primarily focused on transforming and empowering lives.
Every healthy church, regardless of denominational affiliation or cultural distinction, must be open for the sole purpose of transforming lives in the name of Jesus Christ. A healthy congregation lives and breathes the belief that Christ’s sole purpose for coming into the life of each believer is to alter their understanding of life itself. As Christ enters into an eternal partnership with the believer He provides not only an awakening of divine possibilities but also the means to walk a journey of discovery and empowerment that they simply could not have experienced on their own. With every daily step of faith the believer takes he/she discovers the past is gone….the “now” is only temporary….and the future is filled with guarantee of God’s blessings and transformation. Every ministry…every sermon….every outreach mission….every choir or praise team rehearsal…every deacon or trustee meeting MUST REFLECT this Christian reality. Every church open in the name of Jesus has to be a “transformation location.” there is no other way to represent Christ with integrity.
A healthy church is a…..
- Bible Learning Church;
- Praying & Visiting Church;
- A place that provides worshiping experiences which are vibrant regardless of outward style;
- Loving & Giving Church;
- Place that enthusiastically practices evangelizing others;
- Place where the Life & Mission of Jesus are experienced in a myriad of differing ways throughout the week; and
- A Healthy Church is noted by the parish they are called to serve as a transformation location.
CIRCLE the number that best describes your local church you are connected to. 10 being fantastic and 1 being “we’re failing miserably” how healthy would you evaluate your church? 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 (to take an initial test regarding the potential need to completely revitalize your local church click here for a 25 question assessment)
What can you do to make your local congregation healthier so it will join the ranks of Christian churches who are obviously vibrant and alive? FIRST THINGS FIRST….. of the 7 categories above being blatantly honest!
Start with your leadership team and ask them individually the above questions, then follow up those private interviews with small group gatherings (not the whole congregation) and pose the same questions.
After building a consensus of thought and focus….CONTACT ME and I would be privileged to offer guidance. Peace.