Today’s post is the sixth in our series entitled “Ten Marks of a Healthy Church.”
When it comes to evaluating church health, we have the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians to help us see the things that are praiseworthy in a church. Paul identifies ten marks of a healthy church.
“You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”1 THessalonians 1:6, esv
The sixth mark of a healthy church is “joyous new life.” During holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, people gather with their families all over the nation to spend precious time together. In my experience, the focus of most celebrations is the children. A few years ago during one of our family get-togethers, when my sister informed us that both my niece and my nephew’s wife were expecting, my mother’s face brighten and she smiled. There is joy when a child is born; they bring new life into a family.
The same is true for churches. Reproduction is a sign of good health. Notice what Paul said again in verse 6: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”
I have been in churches big and small, rich and poor, traditional and contemporary, quiet and loud, with drums and guitars and without . . . sometimes because the decision-makers think that it will “enliven” the worship services. But what really brings joy to a church is newborn believers. When a church is experiencing people becoming followers of Christ, there is a joy that can come no other way. And that joy breeds more joy. The most exciting event in a worship service for me is not the music, and really it’s not the preaching – although these can be exciting. But these can in no way compare to baptism. When someone goes under the water to signify that they have been transformed by the power of Christ, wow! That’s pure joy! Paul here is talking about three things: becoming an imitator (a type or imprint of Christ), receiving the word, and having the joy of the Holy Spirit. These all in various places in the New Testament are related to being born again, saved, or converted.
Last year, Touro Infirmary of New Orleans resurrected a cute ad campaign they ran some years ago. The TV commercials have children either asking or being asked, “Where do babies come from?” The answer, of course, was “Babies come from Touro!” But where do baby Christians come from? Paul wrote in Romans 1 that God’s righteousness is revealed from “faith to faith.” That simply means from one person’s faith in Jesus inspiring another person’s newfound faith in Jesus.
Healthy churches are sharing that faith-to-faith gospel plan following these basics:
- Healthy churches develop a gospel-centered church mentality. That means they tie everything down to the anchor of the gospel. Churches are not country clubs or service organizations. They are lighthouses, sending out the light of God’s truth, beckoning those on the seas of life to avoid the rocks of sin and the perils of hell.
- Healthy churches foster a spiritually healthy and nurturing environment. Have you ever heard or used the phrase “like father, like son”? Some of you observe your children and say, where did you pick that up? Progressive insurance has a series of commercials on what they call Parentomorphosis. Grown children turning into their parents is funny in a creepy sort of way. Their tagline is “Progressive can’t protect you from becoming your parents, but we can protect your home and auto.” They are simply recognizing a universal truth: we imitate what we see. New Christians imitate existing Christians. If a church exhibits a community of Christians who are godly and mature, good. But if a church is worldly and sinful, they will reproduce in like kind.
- Healthy churches notice prospects from family, friends, and acquaintances. The most potential reach a church has is within their own contacts. You can lead strangers to Christ, but the likelihood of them being involved in your church is pretty low, unless they are in your community vicinity. Going to church is not like going to the store. It is more like going to someone’s family reunion. So it’s uncomfortable for outsiders. Less so for someone with a connection. They say we are all separated by only six degrees or seven. That means that if we can reach one person within our direct sphere and they reach one beyond that, and that happens six times, we could potential reach anyone in the world. Every heard the phrase, “Small world”?
- Healthy churches open the front door. Front doors have welcome mats. Getting someone to come into the church is significant. Why? Because the first time is the hardest. It gets easier and easier. That’s why churches need to offer “front door opportunities.” Fellowships, special events, luncheons, community programs, and the like. They are effective because it is an easy invitation to give and receive.
- Healthy churches connect with people through calls, cards, and personal visits. As connected as this world of the internet is, people still crave the personal touch. All the more so in light of the plastic and fake social media outlets.
- Healthy churches redeem every opportunity to share the gospel. The point of all of this is to share the gospel. To tell someone how they can be made right with God through the risen Lord Jesus. When those opportunities present themselves, church members must act. Paul wrote, “Redeem the time, for the days are evil.” Healthy churches attempt to tell everybody about Jesus!
A healthy church is made up of spiritually healthy members. Those members are seeking to reach those around them with the good news of Jesus Christ.