Hey there! Thanks for tuning in again this week as we look at “this whole church thing.”
As we saw last week, the Church is not limited to a building and the pastoral staff; the Church is every single person that places their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus calls His people “the Church.” Worldwide, the Church meets in smaller environments (some not so small…) called “the local church.”
If individual Christ-followers make up the Church, then we are responsible for the health and well-being of it. The non-exhaustive list below outlines a few habits of healthy local churches. As believers, we need to critically assess if we are contributing to the health of the local church we call “home.”
A local church is the sum of its parts. Every. Single. Person. Matters. So let’s not only use this list to evaluate the health of our home/local church, but to more importantly ask if we are contributing to it, or hurting it:
Healthy local churches are striving towards the following:
1. A healthy Church is focused on God Himself as revealed in His Word, The Bible.
A church that is not focused on worshiping and serving God is just a feel-good club. There are lots of fun community groups that meet regularly, share meals, serve the needy, and more, but have no spiritual component whatsoever. There’s nothing wrong with that in those places, but if a local church is not actively teaching about, talking about, talking to, and surrendering to God it is not healthy.
2. A healthy local church is a safe place to ask hard questions.
I was so heartbroken recently when a friend of mine told me that she sat down with members of a local church and shared her authentic questions and doubts, and that she walked away feeling ashamed and criticized rather than embraced and supported.
A healthy church allows room for questions. We serve a Big God that is mysterious, and the idea of some things being real can be really scary and down-right hard to buy into. A healthy church not only allows room for people to struggle through real questions, but also encourages the seeking out of answers. There are tons of great resources outlining reasonable defenses of the faith (i.e. Josh McDowell’s materials, Lee Strobel, and more…).
Two words of caution here: be cautious of any person/place that claims to have answers to every single hard question. The truth is that we all have questions, and there is a level of mystery that we may never fully know or understand.
On the other hand, don’t be so skeptical and cynical to think that no hard question has valid answers.
It is ok to ask tough questions. God is not threatened by our questions; He is insulted by our unwillingness to seek Him out in the middle of them.
3. A healthy church promotes deep unity and community, while also being a safe haven for new people.
I’ve heard this called the “open chair” policy; there should always be an empty chair that can be filled, whether that’s in a small group or a large congregation. Avoid causing or creating cliques and “popular crowds” within church walls at all costs, and avoid the appearance of being closed off. If the local church is a spiritual hospital for the sick and the broken to find refuge and healing, its doors should be open wide with receiving arms.
4. Healthy churches are led by healthy leaders.
Healthy churches are led from the top-down. Good leaders are servant leaders that care more about washing feet than about being known and popular. Leaders in these churches are displaying in action what they teach from the pulpit. Like parenting, many actions (or inactions) are “caught not taught.”
A few questions to ask: How does the leadership treat other leaders and staff members? Are they practicing what they are teaching? Is healthy conflict resolution being practiced?
5. Healthy churches commit to the well-being of the surrounding community.
Is there a park clean up day happening? Is your church represented among the volunteers pitching in to help? What about servicemen/women appreciation? Has anyone stepped out to thank the police force, firefighters, EMS teams, etc. that work around the clock to protect and serve your community? Do volunteer teams reach out to tutor at-risk youth, or meet the physical needs of people within the community?
A healthy church is made up of people that get in the trenches with the community around them.
6. Healthy churches are theologically sound.
I’m not going to go into detail about this right now. But a healthy local church is rooted in the Bible—Old and New Testaments—and worships God Himself as displayed throughout it. Healthy local churches preach one Gospel—the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that alone has the power to save mankind.
7. Healthy churches are equipping disciples.
Are new leaders being developed and raised up? Are people becoming more and more independent and able to study the Bible on their own? Are disciples being trained up to follow Jesus the way Jesus said to follow? Are people growing in spiritual and emotional maturity?
8. Healthy churches are united with the global Church.
Healthy churches don’t play the “church competition” game; they want to support other churches in winning as well. Healthy local churches aren’t slandering other churches on the same mission for the same Gospel. There is room for healthy disagreement on some levels, but healthy, Christ-Preaching churches have each other’s backs.
9. Healthy churches are engaged in raising up disciples that GO.
Rick Warren has oft been quoted as saying, “A church’s health is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.” Christianity is anything but a call to comfortable living. Jesus didn’t stop at commanding His disciples to reach Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but He also said to go unto all the world. ALL of the world. There are needs in every community, city, state, and country throughout the world. Is your church engaged in sending people—short and long term—to other regions?
10. Healthy local churches are fiscally responsible.
This is two-fold: do the individual people that call a local church “home” give of their resources to the church (their tithe)? And is the church budget managed with integrity, uprightness, and responsibility? Are there ever business meetings for the church to gather and be updated on what is happening financially?
No Church is perfect. This non-exhaustive list reflects characteristics of healthy churches, but no single local church is perfect in every one of these areas. The biggest questions to ask are a) Is the church that I call “home” striving to be a Spirit-led, disciple-making, Christ-preaching church with outstretched arms to the community and the world, and b) Am I, as an individual Christ-follower, contributing to the health or the lack of health in any of these areas?
I’d love to hear from you! How do you see churches “winning?” How can individual believers strengthen and support the health of their local church body?