I believe a healthy church begins with a clear understanding of its mission. Jesus said, “Go and make disicples.” This means they have an outward focus. They are willing to sacrifice, change, and adapt (not compromise) to their culture to reach people for Christ and help them grow spiritually. When I evaluate a church’s health I like to look at ten things (these are not in any particular order):
- Are they communicating God’s Word? A healthy church has a high commitment to God’s Word as the final authority for the church and their personal lives. This commitment is very evident in the leadership of the church and they are also dedicated to communicating God’s Word in creative and relevant ways believing God’s truth is the key to transformed lives. They have a high commitment to exalting Christ through the Scriptures. (Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12)
- Do they promote continuous prayer? A healthy church is full of prayer warriors who are praying in the name of Christ and for the glory of Christ (2 Thess. 1:11). They believe God answers prayer and love to talk to Him whether alone or with others. In a healthy church it is common to hear someone say, “Let’s pray about that right now.” (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 10:1; Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:3)
- Are they courageous in their outreach? Do they have a missionary mentality? A healthy church loves lost people and engages with them at different levels with the goal of sharing the gospel of Christ with them. They want to see people come to Christ and they are willing to adjust their lives to share the gospel. They are not only concerned about their immediate context, but also have a heart for the world. They are involved in evangelism and missions on the local, state, national, and international level. (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 2:1-4)
- Are they experiencing authentic relationships? People are designed for relationships and God made us in such a way where we need each other to become more like Christ. A healthy church is not afraid of real conversations about tough issues and personal matters. People are encouraged and feel safe to be real, authentic and at times raw with one another. They attend church services together, live life together and enjoy each other’s fellowship outside of church. (Prov. 27:5; 17:17; John 15:15; Matt. 22:39)
- Are they expressing life-style worship? A healthy church experiences vibrant worship when they gather and it is alive with anticipation of what God will do in their midst. Also, many of the members have a mentality of worship as they work, play, go to school, and when they are at home. A healthy church sees worship as a 24-7 experience expressed in many ways throughout the week. (Psalm 22:3; 8:1; John 4:21-23; Rom. 12:1)
- Is spiritual growth a priority? Are people spiritually maturing? Are lives being transformed? A healthy church helps the believers connect God’s Word to their minds, emotions, and decisions. They intentionally disciple believers to think from a Biblical worldview (mind), to submit their emotions to the Spirit (angry and sin not, don’t be anxious, etc.), and make decision based on a Biblically-based and God-honoring foundation. (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 Thess. 5:23)
- Are they family oriented? A healthy church thinks in terms of children, students, parents, and grand-parents. They have a clear heart for families to function well and in such a way as to honor Christ. You will find husbands and wives who love and respect each other; children trained to respect and obey their parents; and where the single, divorced, and widowed are loved like family. This doesn’t mean the church has perfect families, but they provide teaching, experiences, and examples for families to grow together. (Eph. 5:25-33; 1 Pet. 3:7; Eph. 6:1-4; Deut. 6:5; Col. 3:21)
- Do they have diligent leadership? A healthy church has godly leadership at different levels of influence. Leaders are allowed to lead. Potential leaders are being training and developed. By definition, leadership is always about movement, change, direction, and forward thinking. This is so significant to the church that God gave some the spiritual gift of leadership and gave specific instructions to church leadership in order to protect the doctrine, direction, and health of the church. (Rom. 12:8; Matt. 20:25; 1 Pet. 5:1-5; Heb. 13:7, 17; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17)
- Do they sacrificially serve God and others? A healthy church looks after one another and the needs of those around them. They have a servant’s heart. In this regard the church is outward focused, thinking about how to love, bless, and help those around them. They care enough to give up their own conveniences to minister to others. (Matt. 29:28; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:5; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:12; 1 Pet. 4:10; 5:2)
- Is there an atmosphere of grace? A healthy church emphasizes God’s unconditional acceptance and full forgiveness through Jesus Christ, allowing people to be who God called them to be through love and thankfulness rather than guilt, shame and duty. In a vibrant church, you don’t have to be perfect but you are expected to be real and gracious with others who are not like you. (Col. 3:12; Matt. 9:36; Philip. 2:3; 1 Pet. 3:15; Prov. 19:11; John 1:14, 16)
I could have included things like humility, hope, faith, and love as separate markers but I think those elements are included in the mix mentioned above. If a local church had those ten markers at the core of who they are then you would have a strong and vibrant church.
Questions to consider: Which one of the above core values do you think the church needs to focus on during this season of the church’s history? How do you help or hinder the church from being healthy and vibrant?