What is a healthy church? Part 2
Last week I put forward five aspects that must be emphasized and nurtured in order to foster a healthy church. Those five attributes of a healthy church were: (1) Strong leadership, (2) Biblical teaching, (3) Vibrant prayer, (4) Genuine membership, and (5) Outward focus. Now, let me say again that these are not the only aspects that are important, or even all those that are essential, for a healthy church, but these are some of the primary ones. Let me add just a few more today before leaving this subject:
While many churches today are heavy on one age group, we must be different. For example, most established, more traditional churches are primarily made up of folks who are 60 years of age or older; on the other hand, most new church plants are made up of people 35 years of age and younger. Most people do not think anything of this trend (unless it is the older churches which are shrinking smaller and smaller, and they are worried that they are going to “die off” without another generation to keep the church alive). Most people are comfortable with this situation and actually prefer to socialize with people who are like them, including their age group. The question becomes: Is this healthy? I would argue, “No.” I can argue this from the practical side as well as the biblical side. So, let's take the biblical side: From the Old Testament to the New, from Proverbs to Titus, we are reminded over and over again how healthy it is for older men to mentor younger men and the same with the women in the congregation. So, a healthy church will have a multigenerational makeup, a heavy emphasis on mentoring, and a focus on the youth of the church.
7. Ongoing discipleship
Much like the last point and others before it, a healthy church is one that pursues the Great Commission by making disciples. We are to make new disciples as well as continue teaching longtime followers of Christ. The church is a teaching institution because God is a speaking God. He has revealed Himself, His will, and His plans in His holy word, and we are to make it our business to mature in it by devoting ourselves to learning and teaching it. Discipleship is a lifelong pursuit of God through the Bible, and a healthy church is one that knows this truth.
8. Long-term pastorates
The last point that we can make before leaving the subject of healthy churches (and this list of eight is certainly not exhaustive) is to say that the pastor does have an important role to play in the health of the church. None of us would deny that a minister can certainly have a negative effect on the church, some of us have experienced that firsthand, and, if that is true, then he certainly can have a positive effect on the health of the church as well. Many studies have shown, and it should be common sense, that ministers must commit themselves to the local church for the long haul. Only when this dedication is present will the minister and church grow together, stick to the plan of biblical ministry, and really learn to love one another. If the church is looking for a new pastor every 2-3 years, then the church is “starting over” every 2-3 years, lots of times with heartache and turmoil.
After reading this article and the previous one, would you consider committing a certain amount of time to prayer for the health of our congregation? Maybe you could commit to praying about all eight of these things over the next eight days. Or, maybe you would devote yourself to praying for our church at noon every day for a month! If you’re willing and want to share your experience, then let me know. I’d love to hear about it!