What is it that healthy churches do that distinguishes them from less effective ministries? Reflect on snapshots of the first century church in passages like Acts 2:42-47 and consider these 9 Things Healthy Churches DO to become more effective in gathering and growing followers of Jesus Christ…
1) Healthy Churches DO less. “What?” That’s right. Healthy churches do less than habitually busy churches. Their vision is focused and guided by values motivated by a passion for making and being followers of Jesus in their communities. They don’t give in to the pressure of following trend or perpetuating tradition. They are brave enough to do what they have been called to do. No apologies. They often choose greater impact while supporting fewer causes or offering fewer ministries. However, when they do what they do for who they do it for… it is a game and life changer! Ask yourself and your team, “Could less really be more?”
2) Healthy Churches Pray. Most of us have overlooked or just plain missed this one. God said through Isaiah, “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Sovereign Lord declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:6-8, NIV).
Jesus would quote this passage (Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46) when He cleansed the temple. He seemed to be saying, “You are robbing God and yourselves when you make this thing called church about you.”
DL Moody has reminded us, “Prayer does not mean that I am to bring God down to my thoughts and my purposes, and bend his government according to my foolish, silly, and sometimes sinful notions. Prayer means that I am to be raised up into feeling, into union and design with him; that I am to enter into his counsel and carry out his purpose fully.”
How do you make prayer a priority? Here’s a simple phrase that pays… “Every meeting a prayer meeting.” We’ll break this down in another post soon! (Hint: We will debunk the “attitude of prayer” myth!)
3) Healthy Churches Give (a lot!). There is a generous spirit that marks a healthy church. They give time, talent, and treasure with a sense of excitement and expectation, not obligation. They communicate the impact of their giving creatively and consistently. They challenge still more support of their vision and values to share Christ from the local neighborhood to the shrinking global community. Generosity is celebrated and God is given the glory as tangible needs are met and both lives and destinies are changed, forever. Speaking of celebration…
4) Healthy Churches Celebrate. They celebrate people! They celebrate and recognize “wins” in their community outside their walls and the volunteers, staff and pastors within. Most of all, they lift up Jesus! The worship experience itself is seen as a celebration of God where people are active participants in His praise, in giving and interactive teaching of His Word. These churches have a “buzz” about them as they make much of Jesus.
Let’s face it, people love a party where guests are not only invited, but expected. There is no greater reason to party than joining all of heaven in celebrating these guests coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
5) Healthy Churches Connect. They connect with the community outside and create connecting environments and opportunities to build relationships inside. I would suggest we give much more effort to creating connections in our neighborhoods and cities than within our own congregations. Why? Because few saints need to be reminded to hang out with those that are like them and are already “in.” It’s reaching out to those not like us and not “in” that must be purposed with the passion that motivated Jesus to include us at all in the first place.
The Apostle Paul challenged, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5;14-15, NIV)
6) Healthy Churches Equip. Volunteers and staff alike know what they are responsible for and, more importantly, get the training and resources they need to serve and lead with excellence. From conferences to retreats, to on-line simulcasts, podcast subscriptions, to ongoing coaching relationships and so much more, equipping is never seen as an expense to be avoided. Rather, it is an investment in kingdom expansion through well-prepared servant leaders.
7) Healthy Churches practice “Double-honor.” Unhealthy churches and organizations see their leaders like a utility player just called up from the minor leagues. They fill a role (or many roles!) and serve their purpose as long as the team needs them. Far too many churches secretly see their pastoral staff and their families this way. However, healthy (and biblical) churches see them as called of God to serve and lead. They do their very best to invest in them as the “franchise players” or “team captains.” Is it coincidence that these churches often have leaders that serve long term?
Healthy churches fully embrace the reality that John Maxwell described years ago, “As go the leaders, so goes the church.” They encourage, equip, pray for, pay, protect, train and resource in such a way that they can give themselves fully to having healthy personal and family lives and the work of the Lord through the local church… and in that order. This is a joy and a privilege knowing that as God’s people honor His servants, He will honor His people.
8) Healthy Churches Make Disciples who make disciples. There is a simple and purposed process for growing people in the image and knowledge of Jesus. Environments (small groups) and experiences (outreach) are created as part of a step-by-step process. These opportunities encourage individuals and families in their personal walk with Jesus, deep and experiential study of His Word, and their shared responsibilities with the greater family of God. If you have never read “Simple Church,” get it today! If you have, read it again and get back on track. Here’s the Amazon link… http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Church-Returning-Process-Disciples/dp/0805447997
From the first “Welcome to the Family” or “New Beginnings” lunch, “What we believe” class to “Leadership 101, 201, 301” and personal evangelism training… growing in the Lord isn’t taken for granted. Ask yourself and your team, “Yeah, but are we really making disciples?” If not, what needs undone so you can do this?
9) Healthy Churches love well. No church gets it all right all of the time. We are prone to excess and omission. However, if we love God and love people with a passionate and patient grace, then we will be who we are called to be. The doing of whatever we do will then find it’s proper place. Love is what we should be best known for since the One we represent is love and grace incarnate in Jesus Christ. This is what we are to be known for… not our worship, not our our outreach. Rather, how we love while doing whatever we do.
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)
This is by far not a definitive list. What would you add that describes what it means to be a healthy church?