When Terrie and I came to Lancaster in the summer of 1986, our goal was not to build a large church but to reach people for Christ. Over the past thirty-two years, the Lord has done more than we ever could have dreamed, and we praise Him for that.
But our goal has not changed. We still want to reach people for Christ and to invest ourselves in Christ’s church.
After all, the church doesn’t belong to us; it is the Lord’s. He is the owner (Acts 20:28), corner stone (Ephesians 2:20), and foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11).
I often remind our church family that the Lord is more concerned with the health of our church than its size.
A healthy church is not simply a church wrapped up in continual introspection and self-purification. It is a church wholly in love with Christ and fully committed to His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). It isn’t a church where members are consumed with their own feelings and preferences, but a church where members are growing individually and as a church family.
What is a healthy church? Here are ten indicators of solid, spiritual health:
Obedience to the Lord is more important than the exercise of religious ceremony. It doesn’t matter how we feel about our church or our worship if we are not obeying the Lord.
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?—Luke 6:46
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: herby know we that we are in him.—1 John 2:5
A healthy church isn’t wrapped up in preoccupation over its merit or worthiness. It is filled with members who willingly serve the Lord and one another.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.—Philippians 2:3–4
Biblical love is not an emotion; it is an act of sacrifice. Love is meeting needs of others.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.—1 John 3:16–18
4. A Servant’s Heart
From the earliest days of the local church, there have been opportunities to serve others (see Acts 6.) Sometimes people new to a church look at all that is already taking place and think that they are not needed. The truth is that every church has needs and that when God adds someone to the church, He is fitting them into a body that He knows needs them. When each member cultivates their spiritual gifts and grows in service, they add to the health of the church body.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.—Romans 12:4–5
Cultivating a servant’s heart is more than holding a conviction that God has given you a place in the body and a spiritual gift. It is being sensitive to the needs around you and serving others.
Joy is our response to God’s work in our heart, soul, and mind. We all deal with heartache and suffering, but God desires to give us His ongoing, continual joy.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.—Philippians 4:4
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.—Romans 14:17
Talk about a sign of health—giving thanks is a powerful and healing decision. A church full of people who give thanks to God for who He is, what He has given, and how He is working, is a healthy church.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.—1 Thessalonians 5:18
In a healthy church, members are concerned for one another. They recognize that the church is a body and that God designed us to be accountable, not only to Him, but also to one another for spiritual growth, health, and help in times of struggle.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:1–2
The church cannot survive without forgiveness. Why? Because we are not perfect people, and relationships are messy. There are no real relationships without both the need for and the giving of forgiveness.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.—Matthew 6:12
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:32
A healthy church maintains an attitude of hope for the future. Indeed, death comes when memories of the past supersede vision for the future. We need a sense of vision for our own growth in grace and for the growth of our church outreach.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen—2 Peter 3:18
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.—1 Thessalonians 1:8
When it comes to fulfilling the mission of the church, the question is not, “How much does it cost?” but, “Who can we reach with the gospel?” A godly vision is worthy of sacrifice.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.—Matthew 6:19–21