Last 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 3)
May 29, 2016 02:24AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
We continue this week with one more installment of a three-part series on healthy Christian churches. The goal of this series is not population growth in a church but to give our churches a “check-up” to see if they are healthy or suffering from dysfunction: toxic dynamics, wrong teaching, or unbalanced leadership.
The first 10 signs can be found at 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church and 5 More Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 2).
11. People’s lives are being changed both inside and outside the church as a result of its ministry.
Are people growing and changing for the better inside the church and outwardly bearing fruit?
Galatians 5:22-26, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Church growth is not about numbers of people in and out of its doors. Churches can remain a certain size based on population and/or may go through seasons of more or fewer people.
To know if a church is healthy, see how its leadership and congregants are outside the walls. Do they reach out to their communities, love their neighbors, care for the poor and widowed? Are its members personally and corporately becoming more like Christ? Would the community consider the church to have a positive and loving impact?
James 2:14-17, ESV, James, brother of Jesus, writing
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
12. The church is committed to prayer.
In many ways, this particular point could have been among the first. It often gets overlooked. A church must be dedicated to regular prayer: individually, in small groups, and corporately.
A church body (and leadership) that doesn’t talk with God and consult Him not only in its decisions but also in caring for its people is powerless. It cannot effect change as a church or as individuals if a conversational relationship with God is not encouraged, actively mentored, and practiced in every sub-ministry.Here are some ways to find out if your church is a praying church:
- Do Sunday School teachers pray for or with their students?
- Does leadership begin and end its financial and planning meetings with prayer?
- Does the pastor ask for God’s blessing and anointing before speaking each week?
- Do intercessors meet to pray for the pastor, leadership, and the church body regularly?
- Are Bible studies or small groups actively praying?
- Is prayer available during the service for individuals?
- Are people encouraged to pray for each other (and people in their spheres of influence) outside of church?
Colossians 4:2, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What good is a church that doesn't invite God in? Christ is the head of the church. A church that holds service without Him is missing its leader and the author of the Book being read.
Colossians 1:16-18, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
13. God’s Word is preached and supports every idea put forth from the pulpit.
Some pastors, priests, and preachers are fantastic orators. They have the gift of speaking and delivering a message. This does not necessarily mean that the message is legitimate.
Pastors who are preaching from God’s Word have prayed about what they speak and are following the Holy Spirit. If this is the case, they are able to support every statement with God’s own words in the Holy Bible.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
If a pastor speaks something that contradicts God’s own Word, be cautious and pray about confronting that. If it happens consistently, perhaps it’s time to find a more solid church. It is all too easy for someone with a microphone and podium to speak his own agenda without accountability.
Acts 17:10-11, ESV, Luke the Physician writing
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so [emphasis mine].
1 Corinthians 4:6, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another [emphasis mine].
If it doesn’t match what the Author of our faith said, it is not biblical teaching. This is why it is so important we read the Bible ourselves.
Hebrews 12:2, ESV, Anonymous author
…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
14. The church teaches that heaven and hell are real places.
A Christian church recognizes the reality of eternal life and judgment. If the church professes that heaven “might” be a place or hell is “just a myth,” it is not a Christ-preaching church.
Heaven is identified in many places throughout scripture as a real location.
1 Peter 3:21-22, ESV, Apostle Peter writing
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
John 13:36, ESV, Apostle John writing
Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
Likewise, eternal punishment is found in the Bible.
Matthew 25:44-46, ESV, Apostle Matthew writing
Then they also will answer, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?"
Then he will answer them, saying, "Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me."
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Revelation 21:7-8, ESV, Apostle John writing
"The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
15. There is freedom to leave if necessary (in other words, threats about leaving are not made from the pulpit).
If you constantly hear from the pulpit or leadership that your church is the only church people should attend, you might be in a cultic—or at the very least, controlling—environment. That is passive-aggressive manipulation and not healthy.
Churches preaching Christ as the way to salvation are all the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is not a building but the fellowship of believers.
1 Corinthians 12:27, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of
People come and go in congregations for various reasons. If your church can’t let people go easily (chases them down) or shames its members, it is slipping away from the entire mission of Christ.
Galatians 5:1, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
**BONUS: The Holy Spirit is welcomed in your church.
A church that speaks only of God the Father and Jesus the Son is missing a huge part of the relationship with and personhood and deity of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:19, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
Do not quench the Spirit.
From the very beginning, the Trinity has existed.
Genesis 1:1-2, ESV, Moses narrating
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Matthew 28:18-19, ESV, Apostle Matthew narrating
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 13:14, ESV, Apostle Paul writing
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
How is your church doing?
Would you add anything to this list?
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.