Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Marks of a Healthy Church

Recently I read that Cuyahoga Valley Church in south suburban Cleveland, Ohio is getting ready to launch a new church in the spring of 2008 called Church of the Hills. Rick Duncan who serves as lead pastor and teacher at CVC says, “we anticipate questions about the kind of church we are seeking to start."

As a church planter people have already asked me what kind of church Journey Church is going to be. Is it going to be contemporary or traditional? Seeker driven or for the saints? Topical or expositional? Will it appeal to baby boomers or busters? Etc. . .

Rather than define the church in these terms Rick suggests you look for a church that is first God-honoring and healthy. To help he gives six signs of a healthy church that I hope will in the end be true of Journey Church. Read them and let me know what you think. Also to learn more about Cuyahoga Valley Church and their church plant check out Pastor Rick’s blog at joy@heart.

A healthy church glorifies God

Scripture says, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31b). To glorify God means to draw attention to His greatness. The local church is the focal point of God's plan for displaying His glory to the nations. This is the primary purpose of the church and of individual Christians.

Ask yourself, “Do I sense that the leaders of this church really are seeking to glorify God? Or are they somehow wanting to get attention for themselves? Is the worship of God in spirit and in truth a top priority for this church?”

A healthy church is Bible-based and Christ-centered

The early church emphasized Christ-centered biblical teaching. Teaching should explain what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the people. Solid, consistent teaching from God’s Word helps us grow to be like Jesus in several ways. It matures and stabilizes our faith in times of testing. It increases our ability to detect and confront error. It gives us wisdom. Solid teaching should also be coupled with compassionate application. A Bible-based church produces people who are not just hearers of the word, but also doers who live like Christ and who have a commitment to know God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Ask yourself, “Do I see the leaders of this church challenging people to learn the Word of God and to live out the Word of God in practical ways? Are they giving people practical opportunities to apply the Word – to love the Lord, serve each other, and be a blessing to the world?”

A healthy church is led by accountable servant leaders

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:43). In a healthy church, the staff and leaders should serve in a context of loving, supportive accountability to God and each other. Since the best predictor of future performance is past behavior, it’s important to find others who have already served on a team with the leaders and to ask them questions about the leaders’ approach to ministry.

Ask yourself, “Do the leaders of this church have good track records as servant leaders? Does the structure of the church insure that the leaders are accountable spiritually and financially? Do I sense that the leaders are passionate about serving others rather than being served?”

A healthy church helps people grow

God gives leaders to the church to prepare God’s people for works of service so they will “grow up in every way” (Ephesians 4:15). Healthy churches provide various tools and so people in differing stages of the Christian life can grow. New believers, maturing Christians, as well as passionate followers all find positive encouragement to keep growing in Christ.

Ask yourself, “Does the church have a passion for helping people grow to spiritual maturity? Do the people sense that their leaders are growing in their walk with Christ? Are personal spiritual growth plans encouraged?”

A healthy church exudes warmth

Not only was the early church caught up in worship, individual devotion to the Lord, and instruction from the Word, but “they were continually devoting themselves… to fellowship” (Acts 2:42). They cared for one another. Members of the church should reflect a true commitment to the life of the church through attendance, giving, prayer and service. The leaders must be concerned not only with growing numbers, but with growing members.

Ask yourself, “Do the leaders of this church encourage people to be in authentic community with one another? Do the leaders and people in this church really care about each other? Do they have a plan to help attenders get connected with others believers? Are the leaders themselves connected to others in their church body?”

A healthy church reaches out to others

First-century Christians took their concern a step further and shared what they knew about Jesus with others. When they ventured beyond their walls, lives were changed: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). A healthy church helps people appropriately express their faith where they live or work.

Ask yourself, “Does this church have a genuine passion to fulfill the Great Commission? Do the leaders and people care about making more and better disciples? Will I be challenged to reach my circle of influence for Christ? Is compassionate service to others in need a part of the ministry of this church and is it exemplified?”

A healthy church has a contagious style

Like a magnet, a church with a contagious style draws people to its doors. Four features comprise this style: 1) It is biblical in content. Messages are based on the Word of God, not on the opinions or interest of the leaders. 2) It is authentic in nature. This is a church that believes what it says. 3) It is gracious in attitude. The church sees itself as a family, not as a corporation. 4) It is relevant in approach. This church shows how God’s Word applies to today’s needs, issues, and concerns.

Ask yourself, “Do the people of this church freely invite others into the church family and fellowship? Would I want to invite my friends, neighbors, and co-workers to visit my church and to join our fellowship?”

Whether you are a new or long time follower of Christ or just someone on the journey to finding out who Christ is I hope you will consider Journey Church. Journey Church won’t be a place for perfect people. It will hopefully be a place that glorifies God, is Bible-based and Christ-centered, is led by accountable servant leaders, helps people grow, exudes warmth, reaches out to others, and has a contagious style.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Denny - I know your heart. I also know that Journey Church will be all of those things because they align with your heart. They align with your heart because as long as I have known you, you have had a heart for Christ and are seeking to live as Christ for those who don't know him. Great post. Great truth. May God richly bless Journey Church and those that attend.