There are many thoughts and ideas concerning what makes a healthy church. It is important that the church seeks sustained health rather than extreme growth spurts. Let me explain. Considering numbers is important. The main reason to consider numbers is that every number represents a soul. Therefore, it is important to work to increase the number of people in the church. However, the consideration of numbers should be kept in the right perspective. Just because you have large crowds it does not mean that your church is healthy. As a matter of fact, in our day and time, large crowds may prove to be the opposite of a healthy church. Numbers will go up and down, people will come and go; the real question is how the church fairs through the ups and downs. Do we maintain proper church health or do we flow with the ever changing tides just to attract more people? So, what is the measure of a healthy church? How can a local church have lasting and sustaining health? I’d like to suggest 4 basic areas along 1 other ‘extra’ area that the church must maintain in order to have sustained health.
Prayer is the obvious foundation of church health. A church that is not a praying church will soon cease to be a church. Prayer is the power that drives the engine of the church. Nothing can work apart from prayer. The church should be taught what prayer is and how they should pray. An emphasis on praying together is vital to the sustaining health of the church. A healthy church is one that has purposeful and meaningful opportunities for people to gather together for concentrated purposeful prayer. A healthy church will think outside the box in order to provide opportunities for the church family to pray together. A healthy church will do whatever is needed to promote and encourage prayer amongst its people. Simply having a weekly prayer meeting on the schedule is not enough. Is that weekly prayer time purposefully? Does it involve a time of deep soul yearning and passionate prayer? There are many ways to encourage the church to pray together, however, a church that does not strive to maintain an atmosphere and a culture of prayer will soon die.
2. Bible/Christian Education
In order to have sustained health for the church, there must be a focus on the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Unfortunately, this is something that does not draw big crowds. Yet, we are to preach the Bible in season and out of season. We are to preach the truth when it is popular and when it is not popular. I believe that a healthy church is one that is filled with passionate expository preaching along with multiple opportunities for small group Bible studies. All teaching must come from a literal view of scripture. We must preach ‘thus says the Lord.’ A church that compromises on scripture will soon find itself drowning in worldliness. A healthy church will protect the teaching and preaching ministry and will not allow anything to replace it or minimize it.
3. Development of Leadership
If a church has the same leaders for many years with no room for adding new leaders, the church will fade away. There must be a strategy of developing leaders. Current leadership should prayerfully seek out potential leaders from amongst the congregation in order to mentor them and train them. Current leaders should be teachable, willing to learn and develop their leadership skills. Opportunity should be given for people to discover and develop their spiritual gifts. A healthy church will see the need to develop leaders and will do something about it.
4. Outward Focus
This to me is a no-brainer. The church must be outward focused. We are called to carry the light of the Gospel to the world. A healthy church is one that takes that calling seriously. A healthy church will be actively involved in its community for the purpose of reaching as many people to Christ as possible.
Extra: Emphasis on Youth Ministry
I listed this as an extra area that the church should have to sustain its health because it is basically one of many outflows of the four basic areas. However, I believe that it should be noted that a healthy church will have an emphasis on ministry to children and teens. The reason for such an emphasis is the simple fact that most people who come to Christ will do so in their childhood. The older someone gets, the less likely it will be that they will come to faith in Christ. It is important to teach children the Word of God while they are young. A healthy church will work hard to train up the next generation of Godly men and women who will carry the torch of the Gospel.
Such a strategy for the sustained health of the church is not one that will draw big crowds. It’s purpose is not to build a ‘kingdom’ in this age, The purpose is to assure the continual and ongoing influence of the church in its community. Maintaining good health is the key to lasting stability. It is also the key to assuring that the church will continue to be a lighthouse of the Gospel for years to come.