Three Ways to Identify a Healthy Church
The church is a safe place because there is an atmosphere of grace.
The leaders stick and stay because they are intentional in loving one another in ways that protect weaknesses and release strengths.
Discipleship is valued, layered, and relational.
In a healthy church, what followers of Christ think about one another, their expectations of one another, the promises of Scripture they believe enough to live out in the messiness of life—this is your “brand”. It's easy to imagine that more people and more money is the way to measure success, but church growth is only of maximum value when people are actually growing in the grace of God and making disciples to Christ Jesus, and they usually get that from others in the community, not directly from the pastor. However, none of this happens if people know they have to hide their weaknesses, failures, doubts, and fears.
It's logical, then, that leaders will be modeling this dynamic about how life-transforming community is formed. But it's risky, I know from experience, to decide that it's worth spending the emotional and spiritual capital to pursue personal reconciliation by giving up our rights and revealing who we really are, to consistently do the messy work to make the collective impact of the whole better than any individual. Oh, and this has to begin at the top. If you’re a leader looking to build your platform or grow your church in ways that cause you to trend on social media or talk about your church at a pastors conference, this isn’t for you. .
There is one indispensable value: The most important priority in every member’s life — pastor, elder, staff, leaders, and everyday members — is to establish multiple disciple making relationships. This is the unbeliever being invited to look into the Book of John, the new believer learning how to take baby steps toward following Jesus including baptism, the hurting being loved through the pain, the fallen being restored through tough love, and the excited being spurned on toward greater works — all in the context of trusted relationships. Jesus said to make disciples, not to grow a church. Jesus said to love one another, not to implement your vision or get your way You never get a second chance to disciple someone through what they’re going through today, but what most Christians do is wait for some leader to put together a program.
The problem with programs is that often the ones who need the community the most fall through the spreadsheet cracks.
As the pace of life makes it more and more difficult for people to connect and disingenuous and hurtful leaders make it almost impossible to earn trust, the single best strategy seems to follow Jesus’ simple instructions to love one another as we make disciples to Him rather than the next superstar pastor.
I’m sadly aware that the church I just described is hard to find. That's not the way it’s supposed to be but it's certainly true. However, there are two options available to every follower of Christ:.
You can ask God to lead you to such a church, or you can begin living out these three distinctive in your own life and see what God does with your trust and obedience. .