Is my church healthy? Can the church in general in America today be considered healthy? What percentage of the population would need to contract a disease or infection before the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declares an epidemic? While it is not clear to find a specific number, the reality is in many cases less than one percent of a given portion of a localized population.
With 65- 85% of our churches plateaued or declining in North America today, we are well beyond epidemic proportions. Certainly, we could find indicators of poor health in declining churches, but are there indicators of positive health in a church? Yes! The following are some of the indicators of a healthy, effective church.
Enthusiasm for Kingdom results – Many churches today have bought into the idea that action and busyness are evidence of kingdom work. Too often the focus is on what we are giving away; oil changes for single mothers, food and candy at fall festivals, bounce house fun, free water at a parade. These may be good intentions, yet they are not indicators of kingdom advancement or fulfilling the Great Commission.
Healthy churches focus on engagement in the community resulting in kingdom results. Rather than providing clean oil for a single mother’s car, healthy churches are making inroads with that mother to receive a clean heart from God. Instead of handing out free candy and hotdogs at block parties and fall festivals, the members of healthy churches are focused on feeding the starving souls of their neighbors and co-workers.
Outward Focus– As early as 6-8 years in a church’s existence, the natural tendency is to turn inward, focusing more on what ‘we’ can do for and with each other. Not realizing it, this often comes at the exclusion of the surrounding community. The farther a church falls into decline, the more in-turned the church becomes to the point of maintaining facilities and remaining members.
Healthy, effective churches focus on the outside world, reaching out to the community, seven days a week. The focus is being intentionally engaged with the daily struggles and trials of the people God places around them, with an intent to help those in need spiritually.
Jesus always met people at the point of need. He never told anyone to go clean yourself up and then come back to see me. Healthy churches move believers from spectator to engagement. Millions of people watch the Super Bowl each year, yet less than 100 are actually engaged in playing in the Super Bowl. Healthy, effective churches have learned to move people to be intentionally engaged in God’s kingdom work.
Starting New Units – It is said that the one common denominator of all healthy growing churches around the globe is starting new units, new Bible study classes, and new churches. Healthy churches plan ahead for the next new units. You cannot wait until you need another class. You must continually pray, plan and prepare for the next new Bible study classes. In healthy churches, this is part of their make-up. Every teacher and leader knows his/her responsibility is to train people to go out and be part of some new work, a new class.
Capture Principles – In many of our churches, we attempt to copy models. We see or hear of some good thing another church did, and we try to do it at our church expecting fantastic results. A copy is never as good as the original. Healthy churches understand the importance of capturing principles. Instead of focusing on what kind of food to give away or how many bounce houses to have at their next event, healthy churches focus on touching the heart and soul of those who will attend and how to engage them following the event.
Purposeful, renewed, compelling vision – The missed opportunity in most churches today is there either is no vision in front of the congregation or the vision has no compelling component. In other words, there is no part of the vision that compels the church to get out of their seats and be the church God has called them to be. Healthy churches have a compelling image of an achievable future in front of their people at all times. Find out more about vision in Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.
This is only a brief descriptor of five indicators found in healthy churches and is not an all-inclusive list of healthy church indicators. However, these are critical for churches to become and remain healthy, fulfilling the God-given purpose for each church.
George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.