He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. Colossians 1:17-18a NIV
I believe in the local church because healthy churches are the key to vibrant Christianity.
Healthy churches motivate believers towards maturity and provide an opportunity for individual Christians to make a meaningful contribution to their world. Healthy churches help people to understand and see Scripture from a richer perspective. A good church fosters an atmosphere where love, forgiveness, moral accountability and practical support become standard operating procedure. There is simply nothing better or more beneficial to the world than a healthy, life-giving church because a healthy church reflects all the attributes of Jesus. Conversely, there is little more spiritually and morally destructive than a truly sick church. Following are seven tell-tale indicators a church has systematic problems.
Staff members tend to be absent outside of church services –
The Bible refers to a church as a body (1st Corinthians 12:12-27, Romans 12:3-5, Ephesians 4:1-6). One part of a body cannot avoid other parts of the body and still maintain overall health. This is especially true of members who hold leadership positions. Leaders lead through their example. In a church setting, leaders should be leading others towards participation in healthy community and into deeper relationships with other Christians. This cannot happen if the pastors and staff members are always the last to show up at events and the first to leave.
The preaching is one-note-
Church is supposed to be the place the Bible is explained and expounded on. In the hands of a skilled preacher or teacher the Bible will comfort, encourage and support the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:2-4). However, the Bible is not all rainbows and lollipops. The Bible describes itself as being sharper than a two-edged sword. If the Bible is taught properly it penetrates our souls and casts judgment on our bad behavior, sinful thoughts the rotten attitudes we harbor in our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). If the preaching in your church rarely or never leaves you feeling convicted about the things that need changing in your life, there is a problem.
People are the means not the end-
Healthy church leaders know that people are the reason we do church. People are not the means to some other end like building a big building, having a gazillion followers or being the church with a ton of campuses where all the cool people attend. People are the primary reason churches do what they do and if they are not then the leaders of that church have lost sight of the mission of the church. The church was established by God to promote spiritual growth, train individuals to do the work of ministry and reflect the heart of Jesus to the unsaved world (Luke 6:40, Matthew 28:19-20, Matthew 25:31-46, Ephesians 4:11-13, Galatians 2:20). Anytime a church forgets the original point of church it’s a sick church.
Sunday morning is all there is-
There are 168 hours in a week. Most folks spend 52 of those hours sleeping, 40ish hours a week working, 30 hours watching television, 22 hours a week messing around on their phone and only one or two perhaps three measly hours of any given week immersed in any kind of spiritual activity. We need more spiritual food than that to process through all the spiritual and emotional junk we encounter in all those other activities in a given week (Hebrews 10:24-25). If a church does not routinely provide a means for people to connect outside of the Sunday morning service (small groups, Sunday school classes, midweek services, prayer groups) it’s not a healthy church (Acts 2:46-47).
There is only one kind of people in the church-
The early church was insanely diverse. The rich socialized freely with the poor. The old and the young were equally valued (1st Timothy 4:12, 1st Timothy 5:1-2). Slaves were sometimes the spiritual leaders of their masters and women and men worshiped together with individuals of all races (Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:27-29). A healthy church has a mixture of age groups, races and people from all sorts socio-economic circumstances. If a church is mostly millennials or mostly old people or mostly white people, or mostly black people or mostly rich people, something is probably not right.
There is no replication-
Healthy organisms reproduce (Acts 6:7). If a church isn’t planting other churches and the attendees are not leading people to Jesus, there is a problem.
Finding a church is about more than simply finding a place that matches our particular doctrinal or musical preference. Nor is it about finding a place “we feel comfortable”. Finding a healthy life-giving church is about finding a place where we routinely feel spiritually uncomfortable and yet deeply loved and valued for who we are. When we find that we have a place to grow and bring others.