Today I want to talk about the health of a local church. Are there ways we can know that a church is healthy or a way we can know it’s unhealthy? And this comes from a question I received from somebody who’s been watching these videos. Let me read the question.
I’m curious to know how you might go about evaluating the spiritual health of the congregation? Here’s the key; are there objective ways of identifying whether a congregation is growing or stagnant and is there a clear set of biblical markers or indicators that you would use to assess whether the congregation is spiritually healthy? Great question. We’ll roll the intro and then I’ll try to give it an answer.
So the heart of the question is, are there objective ways to measure the health, the strength of a local church? I think the answer is no. I know we like to have objective ways of measuring things. I think that’s a very modern way of looking at the world, maybe a very western way of looking at the world. It’s also very contemporary, right. Everything has a star rating. I mean, I don’t even know how to buy socks anymore without going on Amazon and seeing how many stars they have. And of course, I’m not going to buy four-star socks when I could buy four and a half star socks, right. So, we’re very used to having everything measured, everything given some sort of clear indication, here’s the quality as judged by an expert, or even better, as judged by our peers.
Church doesn’t work that way. The health, the strength of a local church, it just can’t be measured in those easy ways. It doesn’t mean people haven’t tried. And I think some of the standards people try to use that would be more on the objective side would be of course the size of the church, we love to talk about whether our church is large or small, really, we just want to talk about how big our church is. Maybe the number of baptisms, the number of members, the amount of giving. Oh man, people love to talk about what the budget of their church is, how much people are giving. Maybe the number of small groups. So, all these ways we can quantify the church. I still don’t think those really get us to the heart of the question, which is, how do we know if our church is healthy? And I think that’s really where we have to go to measures that are more subjective. Allow the Bible to point us to what the bible values, what God values, and then say, is our church matching that?
So, let me talk about a few of the ways that you might think about your church to ask, is this a healthy congregation? How about this? Are you seeing people come to faith from outside of the church? Right, because there’s a lot of churches that have a ton of internal growth but very very little external growth. And I mean, praise God for internal growth, for children coming to faith, but, we do want to be a church that’s fulfilling the great commission, that’s going out into the community and seeing people come to Christ. So, are you seeing that?
Are you also seeing people come to faith from the inside? Because there are some churches that are so outward focused that their own children are being neglected, not coming to Christ. So, are we seeing people from the outside and people from the inside repenting, coming to faith, being added to the membership, being baptized into the church?
Here’s a third one. Does your church generally resemble a community it’s within? So, I think what we often see is wealthy churches in poor areas of the city, or poor churches in wealthy areas of the city, or white churches in black parts of the city, black churches in white parts of the city, that kind of a thing. I think one of our ideals as Christians is that, if possible, in so much as it depends on us, we would want our churches to reflect our community. Why? Because that shows we’re reaching out to the people around us. God has put us in geographical locations, hopefully, we’re reaching out to the people around us. That’s our most natural mission field. To be clear, it’s a little different in a small town than a big city, right. A small town, you’re probably drawing from a fairly narrow area. In a city, community is different. People may drive half an hour and think nothing of it and that could still be part of that church’s community. But just in general, does your church look like the people around and about? I’d say that’s a good marker of health if it does have that resemblance.
How about this? Does your church love the Word of God and obey the Word of God? When they have to think about life, when they have to think about doctrine, are they thinking, what does the Bible say? How can I live according to the Word of God? Are they applying themselves to Bible study, are they coming and hearing the preaching of the Word? Is it their deep desire, week by week, we’re coming to gather together so we can hear the Word of God preached to us, so we can live according to the Word of God. I think that’s a great measure of a church’s health.
Is your church united, and united in mission? Like, maybe very simply, do the people in your church like to be together? If they don’t, it probably means there’s real disunity, there’s real fighting, a real lack of health. A healthy church is a church that enjoys being together, right. We’re members of the same body. A body doesn’t want to be disjointed, it doesn’t want to be torn apart, it wants to be together. So, is there joy and peace and unity as your church gathers week by week?
Does your church love to worship? And I don’t just mean to jump around and wave hands in the air. I mean, worship, that’s great if that’s part of your church’s worship, but do they like to be together so they can engage in the worship, the community worship of God? If people are coming reluctantly, if they’re coming out of obligation, that would concern me. But if people are coming because they love to worship, they long to worship, they understand the responsibility and the joy of worshipping God. I would say that’s a mark of health.
And then maybe this. Does your church love to pray? We need praying churches and I fear we have so few praying churches. So, is your church praying as individuals? Are they praying through the week? But maybe even more so, is your church gathering to pray? Is prayer instrumental rather than supplemental to what your church does? Do you really believe in the power of prayer together and are you coming together to pray, to seek God together? That is such a key marker of health in a church and one that I fear is far too rare.
So, can you quantify the church’s health? I mean, can you come up with a star rating? You can Google your church, probably some people left reviews. Maybe you’re a four-star church, maybe you’re a five-star church. I don’t think God is looking at the Google ratings for your church. Are people coming to faith, from outside and inside? Does your church look like the community? So, are you drawing the people God has placed around it? Does your church love the Word and love to hear the Word so it can obey the Word? Is your church united, and united especially in the mission of reaching the lost and discipling the saved? Does your church love to worship? Does your church love to pray? Is your church praying? Maybe some of those are markers you can look to to say, this is a healthy church, or this is a church where we see a significant lack of health, we need to seek God, we need to seek God’s favor on our church. Hope you find that at least a little bit helpful.