By Pamela Palmer, Crosswalk.com
The idea of a healthy church sounds appealing and is what God desires for His Church. One day, Jesus will return for His bride (the Church). We want to be ready and we want to be a body that reflects God’s love and stands on His truth. Jesus established His Church, and it is something He loves greatly.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
There is no doubt that God loves the church and cares for it deeply. Unfortunately, just as any family or group, churches will have difficult situations arise, make mistakes, and look a little messy at times. Yet churches should always be aiming toward functioning in healthy ways that bring glory to God. They can do that by looking to Scripture for guidance and instruction. Here are three keys to having a healthy church.
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What Does a Healthy Church Look Like?
Every church will look different – most churches have their own culture, have a variety of giftings among the congregation, and are led by pastors with their own unique passions and plans from God. What all these churches can have in common is good health.
A healthy church will teach from the Bible, have pastors and leaders who are devoted to God and live in line with Scripture, and focus on fulfilling the great commission to share the Gospel and make disciples. A healthy church will be one that shows no partiality, will care for and support its members, be a light in the community, and will work through differences that arise.
Ultimately, a healthy church will keep Jesus at the center of everything as the congregation faithfully advances the kingdom of God.
Is a Healthy Church a "Perfect" Church?
It has become quite common in some parts of the world for a believer to move on and find a different church as soon as they do not like something or realize it’s not a “perfect” church. The reality is that no church is perfect, even a healthy one. Human beings make up the church, therefore, it will never be perfect. The point of the church is not to be perfect, but to point others to the one perfect God who loves them.
You may find yourself struggling to understand everything your church does. It is important to make a prayerful decision about the church you attend. If your church is a healthy church, even though it’s not perfect, then it is likely worth committing to and working through the struggles by talking with your pastor or elders. Like a family, members of a church need to stick together and work through disagreements or misunderstandings through prayer and Scripture.
Please note: church abuse is never acceptable, and you should leave a church immediately if that is happening.
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3 Keys to a Healthy Church
There are plenty of ways a church can build and maintain good health, but here are three vital “keys” to a healthy church.
1. Commitment to God’s Word
“But Jesus answered, ‘It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
A healthy church will reflect a biblical foundation. Decisions will be made in line with Scripture. Preaching and teaching will come from the word of God and proclaim God’s truth. There will be an emphasis on the transformative power of God’s word in the lives of believers. The pastor, staff, and leaders will be biblically literate. Congregants will be led to read, study, and memorize God’s word.
The Bible is our nourishment that we cannot live without. A healthy church will not only encourage but create intentional opportunities and culture around engaging Scripture.
2. Emphasis on Discipleship
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
A healthy church will take the great commission to heart by making it their primary mission and that which informs all they do as a church. Jesus left this earth and tasked His believers to take the Gospel to all nations and to disciple new believers, so that they could go and do the same thing. A healthy church creates opportunities for people to grow spiritually, discern and use their gifts, and be good stewards of the financial resources they have been given.
There will be a focus on worshipping together, fellowship, and investing in fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Congregants will be taught to serve others, be a light to their neighbors, and share the Gospel. A healthy church is one that cares for one another and prays for each other. Disciples making disciples is the goal of the church, and a healthy one will participate in this commission with fervor.
3. Good Leadership
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
Elders, deacons, and pastors will never be perfect, but having the right leadership in place will help a church be healthy and stay healthy. Scripture includes instructions for church leadership. Their focus should be to care for the church and remember that the church belongs to Jesus. Leadership should be prayerful and make decisions in line with God’s word. Pastors and elders should be devoted to God and live their lives in line with Scripture so that they will lead well and by good example.
Right leadership will be transparent and practice good communication with the congregation. They will support their staff and lay leaders by being open to feedback, ideas, and promoting self-care. Good leadership will know to lead the church as more than just another business because it is the body of believers!
Ultimately, leadership will be wise, usher the flock toward greater faith and devotion to God, and be dedicated to the mission of God.
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Bible Verses about a Healthy Church
The Bible shares great wisdom in how the church should function, how its leaders should conduct themselves, and the importance of keeping God at the foundation of everything a church does to bring glory to God.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5).
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
“Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).
“For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7).
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 1:27-2:1).
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What Should You Do if Your Church Is Unhealthy?
If you are attending a church that is not healthy, the best thing to do is pray about what God is leading you to do. For some, God may be prompting you to stay so you can gently foster needed changes, have productive conversations about concerns, and help the church health be restored. This takes time, prayer, and reliance on the Holy Spirit — not only on your part, but leadership, as well.
For others, being at an unhealthy church may cause you to realize God is leading you to move on. It may be time for you to prayerfully decide where God is leading you to another church body to serve, use your gifts, and further His kingdom. Remember, if church abuse is taking place, or a church is teaching in contradiction to Scripture, you should leave immediately.
Christian community is vital for believers in their relationship with Jesus and for spiritual growth. Church is a place where we worship, pray, come to the Lord’s table, and are fed through Scripture. God established His Church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it (see Matthew 16:18). Jesus loves His Church, and although there is no perfect church, it is important for churches to be healthy and honoring to God.
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