This is a series of four posts that appear every Friday. You can read part 1 here.
2. To Fulfill the Need for Healthy Churches
a. Success: How success is determined will impact the vision. Success is not determined by: attendance, buildings/property, budget, extent of ministries, number of converts, or number of church plants. Success is determined by: receiving a vision from God and walking in that vision; developing disciples who are worshipers and are equipped for ministry; and a community that reflects the core characteristics of a healthy church. Spiritual and numerical growths complement one another and are not opposed to one another. Healthy churches tend to grow and expand their sphere of influence [Ac.1:8], but numerical growth is not the litmus test of health or success. Healthy biblical churches produce engaged disciples resulting in growth and depth.
b. Core characteristics of a healthy church: The mission and activities of a local church flow from its values. Here are some core characteristics that we believe reflect a healthy church:
i. Bible teaching: Healthy churches emphasize expositional teaching to establish a high value of God and biblical authority. The Bible becomes the basis of decisions and life. By teaching the whole counsel of God you give balance and create an environment where people bring and use their Bibles. Modeling study of the Scriptures in the church encourages personal study. In contrast, to my amazement and sorrow, there are (many) churches in communities today that do not even believe that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God. Furthermore, there are churches that claim a high view of the Bible as the word of God but don’t teach the Bible. For example, they might use a verse from the Bible as a springboard to discuss a topic, or a verse becomes a pretext to convey the preacher’s point but they don’t actually teach what the verse means in context. An additional problem relates to a model that avoids “controversial” passages that challenge a cultural standard. In this scenario, its not that heresy is being taught from the pulpit but that the church is avoiding issues that God deemed important and thus “editing the word” and compromising its effect.
ii. Healthy theology: Healthy churches are intentional about helping people to understand God. They desperately want to reveal God in all of His glory so that people can respond to His revelation. Healthy theology focuses on what God has done for us more than what we must do for God. Healthy churches present clear teaching about God with clear arguments, a call to action, and information to support the argument. Any other technique paradigm or method that takes priority is likely to retard spiritual growth. If the purpose is to transform lives and develop Christ-like character then churches must develop a hermeneutically responsible and theologically coherent philosophy of ministry. We must present a healthy theology to develop a relationship with God. Nevertheless, avoid polarization on non-essentials: be tolerant on social issues when possible [tree hugging is okay but abortion is not]. A healthy local church sees itself as part of the larger Church. There are many good orthodox theologians who have differing views re spiritual gifts, end-times, church government, etc.
iii. Prayer: People learn to pray corporately and become people of prayer individually. Prayer is taught and modeled so that people learn to communicate with and depend upon God. Healthy churches are characterized by people who have learned how to pray and pray.
iv. Reproduce leaders and disciples: Healthy churches have an intentional systematic leadership development system that emphasizes spiritual formation. People are mentored and encouraged to grow in God and use their gifts to advance God’s kingdom. Church leadership is intentional about seeking to develop leaders at every level.
v. Relationships: People discover Christian life together [i.e. one another experience]. Healthy churches create a clear assimilation process to move from attraction to retention to create community. People invest their time talent and treasure to the vision. Relationships hold churches together so that people move from consumers to community. Large worship gatherings and Bible studies, as well as outreach events do not foster relationships in and of themselves. If there is a sense of Christ’s love people will feel safe, welcomed and attracted but this is just a beginning. The next step to develop relationships, especially in a larger church requires the church to “become smaller.” Healthy churches become smaller by connecting people in smaller groups to experience spiritual growth together. Community groups [home groups] and ministry/service together are key elements. In very healthy churches 80% or more of the people are involved in community groups and service. People are united: they enjoy being around each other and stay after services, and relate with one another. Help people establish authentic relationship ~ model it, teach it, and call people on it.
vi. Minister to physical needs: Christ’s church provides for the needs of the hurting [servant evangelism]. Ministry to physical needs is a tangible way to demonstrate Christ’s love, and is also a means to create a bridge to minister to spiritual needs.
vii. Missional: Healthy churches have intentional local and global focus on reaching pre- believers, and making disciples. They are incarnational in the sense that they seek to enter their culture and develop relationships to seek and save the lost [Missio Christi (Lu.19:10)]. People are equipped and encouraged to dialogue regarding their faith. People invest time in relationships with pre-believers and invite their friends to learn more about Jesus and begin a relationship with Him. You sense a passion for Jesus, His people, and His ministry locally and globally. The church will model its leaders and zeal is contagious. People are drawn to a passion for Jesus.
Communities need healthy churches – are you able to lead a healthy church and provide a benefit to a community?