Recently, I noticed a trend. I am reading blog after blog about signs of an unhealthy church, a dangerous church, or a negative church. I am seeing blogs about why certain age groups are leaving churches. Apparently, there is a current trend of negativity among bloggers and religious writers. There appears to be a deluge of harbingers of doom posting warnings of why the church is failing. Okay, they have my attention, but not all churches are failing, not all churches are dangerous, not all are spiritually negative, and people are not leaving in droves from every church. There are strong, positive, healthy churches that Christians are glad to be a part of and that many others are looking for. I know this to be the case, not through any survey or research but by virtue of my experience. I know of such churches. I will refrain from calling them by name, for fear of insulting those I do not mention. I do however, have a list of Seven Signs of a Healthy Church. (I considered the following title – Seven Habits of Highly Effective Churches, but I do not want to violate and copyrights.)
- Classes and Sermons are from the Bible. Until recently I was naïve enough to think that all churches taught the Bible. That is until a lady came by my study and shared an experience concerning the church of her youth and how, after letting adult responsibilities pull her away for many years, she had recently returned. She left disappointed. She described her experience there as going to a show and listening to a motivational speech. She lamented that there was only a passing reference to a passage of scripture. She is hungry for God’s Word and came to us looking for Bible.
- Members are Friendly. When you walk into a healthy congregation, you see that members are talking and laughing, genuinely enjoying each other’s company. You will see them making lunch plans together, or hear them talking about what they did together during the week. They are friends and in each other’s lives on more than just Sundays. Members are also friendly and welcoming to guests. They are quick to greet and meet unfamiliar faces when they come through the doors. I am not talking about the “Greeters,” but other members as well. They will help guests find classes, good seats, the nursery if needed, and other important facilities like the water fountain.
- Generations Mingle. Churches today have Youth Ministries, Children’s Ministries, Senior Ministries, Campus Ministries, Young Adults, Young Families, Empty Nesters, Members with Dog’s Ministries, Members with Cats . . . well maybe not the last two, but you get the point. The thought behind these generational ministries is to provide a support group or community that understands your current situation in life, and that is important. But a healthy congregation recognizes the importance of intergenerational relationships. These can be part of the organized ministries such as an “Adopt-A- Student” or “Adopt-A-Grandparent” efforts, or they can be natural. I love watching children, teens, and college students talking with, sitting with, serving with, interacting with members from other generations. Young people can learn from the wisdom of older Christians’ experience and older Christians can receive encouragement from the energy of youth.
- A Variety of People Serve in Different Roles. Men and women, older and younger, can and should be a part of and participate in various roles in the church. A church that has many people serving in many different roles is a strong church. There is a reason Paul calls us the Body of Christ. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph 4:11-14).
- Leaders Get Along with Each Other. I know leaders will disagree with each other occasionally, but do they get along? Are the Elders each other’s friends? Do the deacons and ministry treat each other as brothers? Do the ministers and staff enjoy each other’s company? When leaders love like God loves, the atmosphere of the church is healthy, positive, and strong.
- Matthew 22:36-40 Describes the Focus of the Congregation. You know this passage as the First and Second Greatest Commands. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” A strong, healthy, and positive church lives this love on a consistent day in and day out basis. You know their love for God in the way they are obedient to His Word. You see this love in the way they are compassionate to their family, friends, and neighbors. You witness this love when they are at work and at play.
- Prayer is a Vital Part of Ministry. Strong churches believe not in the power of prayer, but in the power of God Who answers prayer. Prayer is a part of worship. They pray at hospitals. They begin ministry meetings and outreach efforts with prayer. Prayers begin or end Bible classes. Members are comfortable privately and publically asking for prayers, not just for forgiveness, but for strength, courage, and understanding.
Ultimately a strong, healthy, positive church that attracts and keeps people has individual members who are strong, healthy, and positive in their relationship with God through Christ.. Go! Make the church you are a part of healthy!