During a Q&A time in our Every Nation Churches & Ministries Nashville staff meeting this morning, after I listed all the new churches we are in the process of planting around the world, someone asked if we had a checklist to see if the churches we plant are healthy. Good question. Here’s a summary of my make-it-up-as-you-go answer to the healthy church question.
1. Sound Doctrine. Being spiritually healthy begins with what we believe. If we want to lead healthy churches, then we must read, study, preach, teach and live the Bible. If we don’t believe right, then we will not live right. The starting point of a healthy church is a deep passion for God’s Word.
2. Christ-centered. It is common for churches to be preacher-centered, program-centered, vision-centered, doctrine-centered, experience-centered or cause-centered. While it is certainly important to have preachers, programs, visions, doctrine, spiritual experiences and godly causes – Jesus must remain the center if a church is to be healthy. After all, Jesus is the head of the body, the church…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
3. Healthy Relationships.Once a church is doctrinally sound and Christ-centered, the next sign of health I look for is healthy relationships. Are people in church actually friends? There are two weird extremes when it comes to church relationships. On one hand are the cult-like communal people who are a spiritual throwback to free-love hippie communes. They do everything together to the point that they have no relationships with people who are not church members. On the other hand is the superficial hand-shaking, back-slapping, awkward-hugging charismatic before-the-service love-bomb – a brotherhood that only lasts for the duration of the Sunday service. There is no relationship Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday we are family. Somewhere in the middle is healthy authentic spiritual community.
4. Evangelism. When Jesus told his followers to go and make disciples, He was not telling them to start a 6 week discipleship class to help Christians be better church members. Rather, He was telling them to help lost people know and follow Him. Sadly, many churches see discipleship as a program for believers rather than a lifestyle that engages the lost and helps them find and follow Jesus. Healthy churches are not “members only” clubs. In healthy churches, lost people matter. Do you do life and church as if lost people matter?
(List of new Every Nation churches currently being planted can be found on “the accidental missionary” blog posted on March 8 called “Every Nation in our Generation”.)