Saturday, March 1, 2014

Signs of A Healthy Church

                I have had people ask me over the years what they should look for in a church. Most of the people that ask me this have either had a bad experience in church or have never been to church. We have all found ourselves in this situation, looking for a church to attend, to become a part of a body. As Christians, it is a natural response to want to go to church. Unfortunately, there are some churches out there that seek to fleece us, to control us, and to destroy us, rather than stir us up to good works.

                Most of us when we hear the word “Church” automatically think of a building where we sing songs, listen to God’s word being taught, a place we serve as well as a place where we find fellowship. But there is so much more to Church, than what we are currently experiencing. So what then do you look for in a church? How do we know the difference between a Spirit- led church and one that is man led?
                First of all we look for two specific ministries within the church. The first ministry is the Word of God. Is it being taught? When I go to church, I want to be taught, I want to be convicted, and I want to be stirred up in my spirit so much that I leave feeling full. If the word of God is being taught then you will be full when you leave the building. It is kind of like when you go to your favorite restaurant, you keep going back because you love the food and you are always full at the end of the meal. When the word of God is being taught, you will be fed, you will be filled and you will want to come back for more.
                The second ministry is in regards to the people who attend the church. Are their needs getting met? A healthy church will strive to meet the physical needs of the body as well as the spiritual needs of the body. In the book of Acts, Peter and the other Apostles come across a complaint from the members in the body. There were widows whose needs were not being met, so they went to Peter and the Apostles and told them what is happening. Peter and the Apostles, knowing that a healthy church must meet the needs of its people call for seven men to be chosen so that these needs can be met.
                “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4
                This body of believers was suffering because the needs of the people were not being met. Because of this, the twelve Apostles had to address it. They could have shrugged it off and focused only on the word, but they understood that a healthy church meets the needs of its people. Their wisdom in this not only stopped any division that might have arisen, but it also grew the church. “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)
                This is the next thing we are to look for when we are looking for a healthy church. Is the church growing? I am not talking about the mega churches today that are more focused on promoting themselves than they are Jesus. Any church that promotes itself is not a church you want to be involved in. A church that wants to give you fluff and tickle your ears is not a healthy church. Does the Pastor teach the word, or does he dance around it? Beware of this in any church. If you don’t see the pastor reading the Bible to you, then you might want to reconsider attending. So many churches today are focused on the lights, the cameras, and the music that they have left their first love- Jesus. Is the church in love with Jesus? Is the pastor in love with Jesus? If he is, then you will see it not only in his life, but in the way he teaches. Take some time to schedule a meeting with the Pastor, get to know him, talk to the other members of the body. This will help you determine whether or not this is the place for you.
                The sign of a healthy church is growth. Is the church growing? I am not talking about new people coming for a few weeks, a few months and then leaving- but are there people coming and staying? Are they planting roots within the body? The bible tells us that in the book of Acts many believers were added to the church and the church grew. These believers did not come for a few weeks, then leave to go to another church. They found what they were looking for and they put down roots. They began to serve within the body, they began to love one another and they became connected to the body. The church you are considering- is the Lord adding to this church? Or are the people coming and going?

                Growth within a healthy church is not just about people being added. A healthy church will also grow godly leaders. Men and women within the body will begin to grow and mature; they will leave the milk and desire the meat. If all we are given is milk, our spiritual bodies will become malnourished and we will wither away. Acts 6 shows us that the church was growing in number and in leaders. Men were being brought up to do the works that the Apostles needed to let go of. These men were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. They reeked of Jesus. A healthy church will have godly leaders that reek of Jesus. If you don’t see that, then reconsider choosing that church.
                Lastly, a healthy church will grow within the community. I am not referring to the growth of the church, but the growth and the impact this church has on the community around them. A healthy church will be reaching out to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of the community. They will seek to know and understand the community which they have been placed in and there will be ministries that are designed to meet these needs. One ministry that has recently been added to the church I attend is an addiction ministry. They saw a need for people struggling with addictions, and they have started a ministry to reach out to these people. This has resulted in great growth and the Lord is adding people each week. The church I attend is also a church that believes in missions, home and abroad. A healthy church will extend farther into the community and will use the body to reach the lost. If the church you are considering seems to be more closed knit and focused on their own needs, then maybe you should reconsider that church.
                A healthy church will be focused on the Word of God, through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit; they will seek to meet the physical as well as spiritual needs of the body, the community as well as the needs of others in distant lands. A healthy church will have godly leaders that reek of Jesus and will strive to stir you up in the faith so that you can become the servants of God, the ambassadors for Christ that God has called us to be. A healthy church will make you want more of God and less of the world.

                I do also want to point out that the church is not designed to save. The purpose of the church is to give you a place where you can grow spiritually, serve God, serve others and go out to preach the gospel to a lost and broken world. Church should not be the only place we seek God, we should be seeking God in our daily lives. A healthy church will always encourage you to seek God for yourself and will always point you to Jesus. If you are looking for a church, I pray that you would go before the Lord Jesus and ask for His guidance as you seek to find a place to call home. Keep your ears open for the Word, and your eyes open for the works. When you find a healthy church- plant yourself there and let the Lord Jesus Christ establish you so that you may become the Church He always intended you to be. In Jesus Name, to Him be glory, honor and praise, amen and amen.