Marks of a Healthy Church
This past year I sat in on a meeting as a consultant for a church that was considering the possibility of closing for the purpose of a "church replant". I met with the leadership of that church and delegates of another much larger and "successful" church from outside the area interested in assuming control and thereby establishing a replant. The delegation came with great motives and a genuine desire to reach people for Jesus. They walked us through their impressive church planting/replanting manual and asked us to prayerfully consider them as partners for the establising of a new church.
As a guest, and since I was in a consultant mode, I kept quiet, simply taking in the presentation. Eventually, however, when the delegation had gone, I was asked to evaluate the meeting and I confess that I had a mouthful to say. Sadly, this delegation was so in love with their own personal DNA they were under the delusion that simply injecting it into a new facility in a new context was all that was necessary. They boasted that they would provide a vibrant and exciting worship experience, an atmosphere of complete acceptance that was free from any legalism, a context of authenticity where people would be real and would not be preachy, and the energy needed to reach that region and bring in new attendees quickly - even suggesting that there would likely be at least 200-400 on the first Sunday. (There was more that they said, but I will leave it at that)
So, when I responded to my friends question about my evaluation of the meeting I simply said the following. "Did you notice that the only reference to the Bible and the preaching of the Word was when they said in passing that they were a "biblical" church? And, did you notice that there was no mention of the power of the Gospel and the need for it, Jesus and the cross to be central to what they wanted to do.?"
Honestly, I was shocked at their presentation. It was all about the bells and whistles of a Church Growth mentality that has gone the way of marketing and has abandoned the central truths of biblical Christianity. What they proposed may have brought people in, and those people may be brought to a form of the gospel, but friends, what they were proposing was not what Scripture describes as a healthy church. It was lacking in significant core ingredients that are absolutely necessary.
But, who am I to say what a healthy church should look like? You might be saying, "Who died and made you the judge and jury of church life? Isn't it arrogant to accuse another ministry of falling short of what it means to be a healthy church?" And friend, the honest answer to the last question is simply and humbly, a resounding "yes". I don't want to be the one making that kind of judgement in my own thinking. However, I am confident that God has something to say about it. In fact, His Word is very clear on many key DNA issues of church life, and He calls me (and us) to be discerning so as to understand what He has to say and then to apply it to our lives and our church.
So, to that end and simply focusing on the one church that I (we) are responsible for, Gateway Bible Church, it will be a good exercise for us to identify and discuss some of the "Marks of a Healthy Church", and in so doing seek to be the kind of church God is calling us to be.
We have already determined that "we exist to glorify God by building a community of beleivers who are actively committed to knowing, applying and proclaiming the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ." However, as we seek to implement that vision we will also need to be reminded of some of the core ingredients or marks of a healthy church.
Here is where we will be headed:
- Mark 1: Expository Preaching
- Mark 2: Biblical Theology
- Mark 3: The Gospel
- Mark 4: A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
- Mark 5: A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
- Mark 6: A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
- Mark 7: Biblical Church Discipline
- Mark 8: A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
- Mark 9: Biblical Church Leadership
- Mark 10: Practicing Strategic Hospitality
- Mark 11: Investing in the Next Generation
Now, let me say up front that I am going to be leaning on the wisdom of Mark Dever and the 9Marks that he determined. There are some key ingredients that are not on the list, i.e. Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Giving, etc. that are also extremly important, but the ones he and I am selecting are especially necessary to point out as there has been a neglect in these areas in our American Christian church culture.
So, I invite you to join me to study these Marks with vigor and to dialogue on what we find and their implications on our lives and ministry.
I ask for your prayers that God would guide me by His Spirit in His Word so as to be faithful to expose to you what He says and not what is simply Rod's opinion.
May this be a loving and healthy foundation for God's church, Gateway Bible Church.