We enter this new year with a question of enormous importance, “What is a healthy church?” I find it interesting that we begin this year discussing the health of the church, considering the current pandemic afflicting the entire globe.
More than ever, human beings are concerned with health, and rightly so. Given the importance of a healthy lifestyle, both for the present and the future, human beings should be concerned about their physical health. The Christian, more than others, knows that the Scriptures describe their bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 6:19, NIV) In the context, Paul is addressing sexual immorality, but no doubt this temple-body motif embraces physical well-being.
The fitness, supplement, and general health industries are booming with business. In particular, as we are at the beginning of January, many individuals have made resolutions to do things differently. These resolutions are often tied to physical health.
“What does this have to do with the church?” you may ask. While physical health is important and should be protected (see Ex. 20:13 for God’s estimation of the value of life), we must not neglect the health of our churches.
Our churches need to be healthy. We should, as Christians, be concerned about the health and wellbeing of our church as much as (or more) our physical health. The question is, “What is a healthy church?” This implies that there are unhealthy churches. Perhaps a contrast will help provide a better context in which to discuss a healthy church.
An unhealthy church is a church that is not reflecting the image of the Savior. This can be observed in a variety of ways. Authoritarian leadership, careless members, unregenerate membership, failure to preach and teach the Scriptures, any abuse (sexual, physical, or spiritual), are all manifestations of unhealthy churches. We could list many more, unfortunately. One of the reasons churches are unhealthy, and perhaps the main reason is due to the fact that the church is made up of sinners. We often forget this, but it's true. However, another factor to consider, and one that will make up the majority of this series of posts, is that the church is unhealthy because she has largely neglected the Scriptures.
As scientists learn more about the human body and a healthy lifestyle, they are increasingly discovering that the basics are vitally important. These foundational aspects include a proper diet and exercise routine, 7-8 hours of sleep, and mental health. This provides us with a wonderful physical representation of spiritual truth. There are basics to being a healthy church.
In the following posts, we will look at these basics of a healthy church, what has historically been referred to as “marks.” Mark Dever, a historian and pastor, has written a book entitled 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. This book will serve as our guide discussing what a healthy church looks like. If you are able to, I would encourage you to pick up a copy. While it may be deeper than some of you are familiar with, I think it will help form a biblical view of the church. This will, then, enable us to be a healthier church, and this is all for the glory of God (see 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 1:3-14).