A healthy church is not a church that’s perfect and without sin. Rather, it’s a church that continually seeks to conform itself to God’s Word. A healthy church is a congregation that increasingly reflects God’s character as His character has been revealed in His Word.
The question we then have to consider is what signs of a healthy church?
I have listed 10 signs of what I believe is a healthy church. These signs are not everything one would want to say about a church. But these signs/characteristics are what, I believe, form a church that pleases our Lord.
THE BIBLICAL SIGNS
1. The Clear Uncompromising Expositional Preaching Of God’s Word
Imaging God’s character as it has been revealed in His Word means, quite naturally, beginning with God’s Word.
God’s Word is the source of all life and health. It’s what feeds, develops, and preserves a church’s understanding of the gospel itself. God’s Word also reveals not only His will but also His character. Paul tells Timothy in 2Tim 3:17 that the Bible would equip him “for every good work.” In other words, there are no good works for which Scripture would not equip Timothy – or us. Fundamentally, this means that both pastors and congregations must be committed to expositional preaching – the kind of preaching that, quite simply, exposes God’s Word. It takes a particular passage of Scripture, explains that passage, and then applies the meaning of the passage to the life of the congregation.
You and I are to build our ministries on the firm foundation of solid Bible teaching. WE MUST DESIRE TO BUILD TRUTH-FOUNDED LIVES IN TRUTH-DRIVEN MINISTRIES.
2. Sound Biblical Theology
Expository preaching is essential for the health of a church. Yet every method, however good, can be abused. Our churches should not only be concerned with how we are taught, but also with what we are taught. That’s why a second essential sign of a healthy church is sound biblical theology. Otherwise we will interpret individual verses to mean whatever we want them to mean.Soundness means “reliable,” “accurate,” or “faithful.” Biblically sound theology, then, is theology that is faithful to the teaching of the entire Bible. It reliably and accurately interprets the parts in terms of the whole.Paul says in 1Tim 1:10-11 (niv) that “sound doctrine” is doctrine that “onforms to the . . . gospel” and opposes ungodliness and sin. In Titus 2:1, he tells Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (niv).Pastors should teach sound doctrine – doctrine that is reliable, accurate, and faithful to the Bible. At the same time, churches are responsible for keeping their pastors accountable to sound doctrine.
3. A Biblical Understanding Of The Good News
It is most important to have sound biblical theology in our understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel. The gospel is the heart of Christianity, and so it should be at the heart of our churches. Because the hope of the gospel is the hope of knowing the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Cor 4:4-6), it is imperative that the gospel we preach and know is the biblical gospel.
4. Impacting Biblical Worship
Our usual first response to the truths of the revelations in God’s word, of biblical theology, and of God’s glorious gospel is worship.
What I mean by impacting is not style but the substance behind it. It is the passion and power that moves people from themselves to desire to please God, and praise Him. The style and instruments are not the key; it is the heart and passion behind it and the focus and object of worship who alone must be God. It is worship that will impact our lives in and outside of the church.
5. Fervent Heartfelt Prayer Life
Jesus tells us in Jn 15:4-5 “4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” In 1Thes 5:17 we read, “Pray without ceasing.”
Andrew Murray said, “We have far too little understanding of the place that intercession (as distinguished from prayer for ourselves) ought to have in the church and the Christian life.”
Prayer must penetrate every aspect of our church. The bottom line is if you have a church that does not pray or only gives lip service to it, you will not grow as a church.
6. Passion For The Lord
The previous 5 signs/characteristics have a way of fueling passion for the Lord.If there is anyone in Scripture who was passionate for Christ, it has to be Paul. Look at his declaration in Phil 3:7-8: “7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
A church that is passionate in following the Lord of the Bible will be overflowing with gratitude for what He has done for her. That church will desire to grow in faith and knowledge of Him. And this will bear the fruit of passionate obedience to Him. Their passion will be enthusiastic and contagious to those around them. This passion gives birth to the next 3 signs or characteristics.
7. Active Love And Care For The Church
Gal 6:2, 10 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ…. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
The general application of these commands (and those found in many other verses in the NT) are to those who are brethren in Christ. But the primary context of these passages have to do with the local churches that Paul was writing to. A grasp of the magnitude of the undeserved love we receive from our Lord should drop us to our knees. It also should cause us to see how we are with those around us. If God is willing to love us in spite of us, then we should do the same with others around us. We must be willing to allow that love to flow out of us as well as in us. This begins within the local churches we belong to.
8. Ongoing Discipleship
Matt 28:18-19a reads “18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples….”
This is perhaps the characteristic that most churches somehow forget. It is also the quintessential aspect and reason why the church exists. As we obey the command to make disciples, it will move us from just playing church to being a church. A healthy church is comprised of members spiritually caring for each other in discipleship relationships. It is a church where people are being discipled, being taught the Word and encouraged to obey it, being helped in their spiritual walk, being led.
9. Involvement In Evangelism And Missions
Read Matt 28:19-20: “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….”
This passage is what is commonly known in Christian circles as The Great Commission.There are 2 aspects to The Great Commission that I would like to emphasize.
Firstly, true discipling must begin with evangelism. You cannot biblically disciple someone who is not in Christ. That’s why a healthy church must be active in evangelism.Secondly, this active evangelism should soon enough give birth to a burden for missions. Our burden to share the gospel to those immediately around us must give birth to the burden of “[making] disciples of all the nations.”
10. Leadership Development
Paul tells Titus in Titus 1:5: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” In a healthy church there must also be training and releasing of lay people. There are people in the church who need to be trained and discipled to be leaders. This training must, of course, be according to the biblical standards of leadership (see 1Tim 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9). That’s why a healthy church must have a deliberate discipling program for leaders and for future leaders in the church.