“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” Ephesians 4:16
There used to be a charismatic church in South Africa that had a number of homeless people living in shanties around the church. But the people of the church ignored the folk camping out on their property. Week in and week out when the believers arrived on Sunday morning they would step over the homeless people as they made their way into the sanctuary.
The irony of the situation is that this church believed they were experiencing a Holy Ghost revival. There was great singing, speaking in tongues, laughing, people slain in the Spirit, clapping of hands, healings, and dancing in the aisles. Yet no one in the church offered the homeless people any support or encouragement. Nothing was done to alleviate the distress of the poor.
The church is no longer in existence. I’m not surprised. Even though folk may have thought that the church looked healthy from the inside, it wasn’t. For they had the potential for revival right around them, but they failed to recognize it.
Healthy looking churches can be sick and sick looking churches can be healthy. A church can have all the right signs; good numbers, quality music, a substantial bank balance, a multi-gifted pastor, creative use of technology, buildings in excellent condition, and numerous groups and programs yet amount to little more than a once a week sacred concert. In contrast, a church may be deficient in all of the above and yet be right on track with what matters most to God.
So how can you tell if your church is healthy?
To begin, you should ask, “What are the things that matter most to God?” If the primary reason for gathering together is selfishness, then the church is unhealthy. If the church exists because the seniors want to keep the church going long enough for their funerals to take place in the building, then the priorities are all wrong. If the number one concern is flying the denominational flag, maintaining tradition, being a place of respite from the daily grind, or avoiding the shame of closing down, then church has become an end in itself – an idol that has displaced a genuine love for God.
Biblically speaking, a church is healthy when “each part does its work” Ephesians 4:16. You can take your church’s pulse by simply analyzing whether or not the members are 24/7 believers. If every member in your church is using their God given gift’s twenty-four-hours a day, seven days a week, then your church is healthy. For the health of a church isn’t primarily linked to what the pastor does or the programs the church offers, the health of a church is determined by whether or not each part is playing its part.
By these criteria, many churches are actually in poor health. Outward signs can be misleading. If only 20% of a congregation are actively engaged in daily worship, witness and work for the extension of God’s kingdom then the church is sick even if it looks healthy.
In case I haven’t been clear, I’m not talking about believers being committed to worshipping, witnessing, and working in the many programs run by the church. That’s only part of it. The health of a church isn’t entirely linked to its ability to staff the youth ministry, the Sunday school, the seniors group, and so on. A church can have all its programs running smoothly and still be in maintenance mode, still be sick while appearing to be healthy. For God isn’t primarily concerned with staffing programs. He’s concerned with seeing every believer worshipping, witnessing, and working in a ministry He has chosen for that person regardless of whether it corresponds with ministries already in place within the church.
In other words, a healthy church isn’t a church in maintenance mode, it’s a church in missionary mode. It’s a church in which every believer is living out the reality of the Great Commission. A church in which each one is reaching one and teaching one. A church in which every believer is faithfully engaged as a “missionary” in his or her daily sphere of influence. A church in which every believer is putting their feet in gear and going and making disciples of all nations. A church in which every believer is using their mouth to teach someone else about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And it’s a church in which every believer discovers and invests their lives in what God wants to do, in and through them, in a wide range of circumstances both inside and outside the church.