Summary: If we hope to make a difference in our churches, we need to know what a healthy church looks like. More important, we need to know how sick churches can be made well. bgv
A study of ‘Marks of a Spiritually Healthy Church’ of Christ
#1 Marks of a Healthy Church
What We Expect and What We Should Know
Play a word game with me. What comes to your mind when you read the word church?
Do you picture a steepled building, dark wooden pews, crosses, offering plates? Do you hear hearty singing? Or does church trigger childhood memories of wiggling through sermons, playing tag on the parking lot, and Sunday school teachers telling stories about Samson and David and Daniel and, of course, Jesus.
Or do you experience again the flat taste of the bread and the sweet taste of grape juice at communion? Do you remember a particular Sunday morning when a sermon gripped you as though you were the only one in the crowd, or the day you became a Christian through baptism?
Or does church sketch other pictures on your mind? A wedding, funerals, evangelistic services, going forward, committee meetings, suppers served in Tupperware dishes, that time at camp when you determined God would have all of you.
When you read the word church, do you have good feelings? Like laughter? Warmth? A quietness? Acceptance? Happiness? Awe? Love? Closeness to God?
Or are your feelings negative? Like boredom? Anger? Confusion? Guilt? Rejection? Does church remind you of arrogance, hostility, manipulation, anger, or irrelevance? Do you think of it as a poor substitute for a picnic or a ball game?
Church dredges up memories and emotions from deep within you, doesn’t it? Some are healthy, some painful, most somewhere in between.
Have you noticed that when Christians think negatively about church, they think of "them" not "I"? Church is an institution out there, a group apart from them.
But we are the church, aren’t we? You and me. We may have a personal faith, but we can’t have an individual faith. We can’t be Christians by ourselves. Every Christian, to be complete, must be a member of a body of men and women who are followers of Christ. Therefore, whether we are part of a vital, growing, glowing assembly of believers depends in some measure upon us.
We are always looking for someone else to blame for our lack of spiritual health.
A woman’s husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she’d stayed by his bedside every single day. One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer
As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, “You know what? You have been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side ....You know what?”
“What dear?” She gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth.
His reply: “I think you’re bad luck.”
If we hope to make a difference in our churches, we need to know what a healthy church looks like. More important, we need to know how sick churches can be made well.
What would you say constitutes the foundation of a healthy church ministry? Many slogans suggest ideas, but wouldn’t you agree that the Word of God and prayer are fundamental? They are two of God’s greatest gifts to us.
In them we find comfort, direction, and hope. In them we discover God through his Spirit. In them we grow in our relationship with our Savior. In them we learn about where we have come from and who we are to become today.
Scripture and Prayer Are Essential
Yes, the Scriptures and prayer are the bedrock of our existence as Christ’s followers, yesterday, today, and forever. Both the study of reflection on, and obedience to the Word of God and the cultivation of our relationship with the Almighty One in prayer are to permeate our experience and expression as Christians.
In a recent survey of 1,899 Christians, most people strongly agreed that local churches should "be prayerful in all aspects of church life and ministry" as well as be "reliant upon God’s power and the authority of his Word." With nine points being the highest, prayerfulness got a mean score of 8.71, and God’s power and Word got a mean score of 8.84.
Strangely, though Scripture and prayer are highly valued, they are more often promoted than practiced. We not only need to reinvigorate our congregations toward greater biblical literacy, but we must reevaluate our traditional view of prayer meetings and introduce prayer into every context of the ministry.
Biblical Analogy of Health
Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mk. 2.17)