Summary: The Scriptures show us examples to emulate and also examples to avoid. Today, we look at an example to avoid in order to be a healthy, thriving church.
Opening Statement: There has been an incredible emphasis in recent years on church health. Many believe that if a local church is healthy and functioning the way it should, natural growth will be the result. The removal of growth-restricting diseases that often plague the body of Christ enable natural growth to occur.
Observation: One growth-restricting disease of the church is the lack of a process that involves moving people from an unchurched, unbelieving lifestyle to positions of leadership in the local church. When this kind of thing happens in a local church, whether it’s 5 or 5,000, that local church is doing its job.
Explanation: The process that we’ve been working on now for over a year has five basic phases to it: winning them (through friendship), bringing them in (casual invitations and special events), equipping them (putting them in a growth environment), sending them out (to do life biblically), and repeating the process (see them begin the process all over again in someone else). Through the enablement of the Spirit, I believe we can engage in this process to the glory of God.
Title: Healthy and Thriving (vrs. Sickly and Failing)
Transition: There is a New Testament book that is uniquely suited for our theme today.
Background: Third John gives to us a glimpse into the life and struggles of the church at the close of the apostolic age. Even the churches under Apostle John’s care, struggled with the truth and with personalities. This personal letter is about showing the right kind of hospitality to authentic, reliable Christian teachers who have been sent out by the Apostle John. To borrow the words of a New Testament scholar: “Third John is all about the Elder, who wrote it; Gaius, who received it; Diotrephes, who provoked it; and Demetrius, who carried it.” Diotrephes was causing some problems in the house-church that he led. John wrote to his personal friend Gaius to tell him about this. In this letter, John notes his desire for a personal visit. Knowing that a confrontation was more than likely going to take place in this visit, John not only confronts Diotrephes here in this letter, but he also anticipates a need for allies to stand with him when this time came. That is where Gaius and Demetrius come into play.
There is a prayer that the Apostle John prayed for Gaius. I pray this prayer today for you. There is also a warning about those who prove to be more of a growth-restricting disease in the body than a contributor to its health.
Text: 3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
Key Word: If God answers this prayer, I believe it will issue forth in TEN GREAT MOVEMENTS of God within our congregation.
What A Healthy Church Looks Like
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
Explanation: Looking at where God has been at work in and through other churches, we find some common characteristics that are evident in all of these churches. The Bible supports all of these things as well.
1. God-Centered Worship
Church should be energized by faith and provide worship experiences that are biblically based, Christ-centered, and that exalt and glorify God. Be corporate, genuine, inspiring, dynamic, participatory and transforming, relevant.
46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
2. Needs-Based Ministries
Work at transforming your community by meeting physical, emotional and spiritual needs of both members and the local community. Cultural connectedness is essential. Find a need in the community that you have been positioned to meet and meet it. See people as your greatest assets and encourage participation through a personal invitation rather than a ’general notice’ to some task. Welcome everyone’s contribution and get them involved.