For those of us who are in and around pastoral ministry the question of the health of churches comes up naturally. For those of us who attend church but do not have a leading voice in what happens in a Sunday meeting the question is just as pressing. What makes a healthy church?
This matters a lot because we (laypeople and leaders alike) should only desire to be in churches that are “healthy.” Therefore how one goes about defining the word “healthy” matters because this then determines where we will spend not only Sundays; it determines what local body of believers we will gives our lives to.
So what makes a healthy church?
As you can imagine there are as many answers to this question as there are church leaders and members. Is it music, Deacons, Elders, the Pastor(s), the atmosphere, teaching, location, denomination or belief, social justice, serving the lost and soul seeking? The fundamental question behind the question of healthy churches is this: how is God glorified in a local church? Has God laid down the standard of a healthy church in His Word? Or are we just given principles to see throughout Scripture? What are the key ingredients that make up a healthy church? Is it a few key things or many? Can we know this at all?
Well yes we can know it, and the Word of God tells us the answer to it. Through church history people have largely answered this question by giving two key things that they saw present in every New Testament church example in Scripture: a healthy church will be a place that preaches the Word of God, and rightly administers the sacraments. That’s it. Today the list has seemed to grow and though I don’t think it’s wrong to have more than 2 items on this list (it’s quite simple and straight forward that way I think), I do believe further clarification is needed to answer this question well in our day due to the many people who deny the viability and necessity of “the Church” at all. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and founder of 9Marks ministries, has written a book called “The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church” and I have loved it for some time now. What are his 9 marks?
Preaching, Biblical Theology, The Gospel, Conversion, Evangelism, Membership, Discipline, Discipleship, & Leadership
It is not only these things as they exist, but a healthy church will have these marks in existence in the right manner, or, as they are in truth. What are they then and how should we rightly define them? Welcome to my new series on the blog: The Marks of a Healthy Church. Tomorrow I’ll begin with explaining the first of these, preaching.
See you soon!