Summary: How to have a healthy church.
HAM, HENEK, MET
hile I was serving in Paraguay, a Maka Indian named Rafael came to sit on my porch. I was eating and went out to see what he wanted. He responded, "Ham, henek met." Again I asked what I could do for him, but the answer was the same. I understood what he was saying but not its significance: "I don't want anything; I have just come near." I later shared the incident with a local veteran missionary. He explained that it was Rafael's way of honoring me. He really didn't want anything; he just wanted to sit on my porch. He found satisfaction and pleasure just being near me.
"What brings you here, my child?" the Lord asks. "Ham, henek met." Doesn't that reveal the heart of true worship?
SOURCE: Stuart Sacks, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Introduction: A great deal has been written in the last few years about church growth and revitalization. Several different approaches and analysis have been suggested and these are good. I am for anything that will help the local church! Recently, the discussion has moved in a different direction that excites me as someone who has pastored churches in three states for the last 42 years. Many who have a genuine love for the church and want to see it prosper are now speaking about church health. Questions are being asked like, "What is a healthy church?" and "How can we identify the things that make for a healthy church?" and "How can a church that is ailing make its way to health and vitality?" Is the church ailing? The answer is yes, there are many ailing churches. But before I attempt to give you an analysis of what a healthy church is or is not, let me say that church health does not depend on the size of the church. There are large churches that are healthy and there are large churches that are not healthy. I would suggest that the largest church in America is not a healthy church. Neither does church health depend on the socioeconomic make-up of the church. There are affluent churches that are healthy and there are those that are not. There are churches all around the world were believers meet in homes or rundown buildings or even like the Simmons in Kenya that are healthy and there are those that are not. What are some signs or symptoms that churches may be unhealthy? Did you know that a recent poll of professing Christians revealed that now a majority believe that attending church twice per month is considered regular attendance; that giving as a percentage of income is the lowest that it has been in the history of the church; that the main demographic target of most churches, millennials, demand the most but give the least to the church in return. With any analysis the thing to be avoided is to use a standard of measure that is subjective rather than objective. This morning I want to use what I believe is a definitive passage of Scripture to high light some important truths concerning church health that are based on an objective standard. First and foremost a healthy church is:
I. A Gospel Centric Church
You cannot separate church health from the Gospel.
a. The priority of the Gospel
In this day and age where we have a menu mentality where church and church worship is concerned there is one thing that is irrefutable, God has chosen the "foolishness" of preaching to save men. Nothing else can do it! This is an absolute truth! The trend over the last 25 years is to downplay the importance of the sermon in worship services and to shorten the length of sermons as an accommodation to the notion that to reach the lost you need to stop "preaching" at them. Friends, we don't need less preaching in our worship services, if anything, we need more! But you say the culture has changed and "folks have shorter attention spans and they just won't sit still for a 45 minute sermon." To that I say hum bug, baloney! They have no problem at all "parking" in front of a television, and watching a 3 hour football or baseball telecast. Tuesday evening I sat and watched a 17 inning girls' softball game that lasted for 4 plus hours. I wonder how many professing Christians did the same thing yet they have little patience for a 35-45 minute sermon? They will watch the latest movie for 2 hours with no problem. They will sit and play games on an iPhone or IPad for hours on end or play Xbox or the newest version of Madden or Candy Crush but complain if a sermon more than 30 minutes. The problem is not their attention span or an attention deficit disorder; our churches have a Gospel deficit disorder! Our churches must return to a desire and a hunger for the preaching of the Word of God if they want to be healthy!