How to Spot a Healthy Church
By Jonathan Bond
Are you familiar with being asked the question “how many baptisms have you had in the last three years?”
Have you sat with a fellow pastor or filled in a questionnaire when that question came up (as well-meaning as it is) and felt your heart sink as you reflected on the answer you were about to give?
Often it makes us feel that we are failing in our ministry, that the Lord isn’t blessing it, or that we are ministering in the wrong place.
Of course, if there have been conversions, it is something to rejoice in and praise God for – we should all long to see men, women, boys, and girls coming to faith in the Lord Jesus. But is that the only way that a local church grows or experiences God’s grace upon its ministry?
Is that the only way for a local church’s ministry to be a blessed ministry? Is that the only way that a church leader should be encouraged in his calling?
Love over works
I am sure that when the Lord looks at his people, he is more interested in their love for him, their love for each other, and their character (the way they model him) than their works and the cumulative conversion count they have experienced in their ministry.
Of course, all Christian ministry is important; but it ought to flow from an ever-developing and growing Christian character.
“Our call is to model Jesus and to trust him in his word.”
Let me suggest a few things that perhaps aren’t given the right priority when discussing church growth:
- The love of Jesus shown by each believer to all others. This is a sign of a church that is experiencing God’s grace upon it and is indeed knowing true spiritual growth within it.
- A sincere, church-wide desire to grow in Christlikeness, where believers in their hearts and deeds strive to allow the Spirit of God to transform them to become more like Jesus.
- The priority of the word of God and prayer – not just for the pastor and church leaders but for the whole fellowship.
- A prayerful dependence upon the Lord, that is outward-looking in attitude and practice, to share the good news of Jesus.
- A desire to make the building, welcome, services, and other activities culturally appropriate as well as gospel-orientated.
Jesus’ priority and ours
My summary is simple: if it’s a priority for the Lord Jesus, then it must be a priority for us as individuals and as local churches. Our call is to model Jesus and to trust him in his word.
Jesus’ priority was to model the Father’s heart and to do his will in everything he did. We won’t go wrong if they are our priorities also.
If they are, we will – by God’s grace – know spiritual growth and the smile of the sovereign of the universe upon us and our churches. We will be part of a local church that is truly blessed.
Jonathan Bond is the FIEC Director for Smaller Churches.