The Church is essential for the Christian life and ideally, we all want to find and remain in a healthy church. We say “ideally” because not all churches will be healthy.
So, how can you tell that a church is healthy? The list can go on and on to exhaustively answer this question. But we’ll be focusing on five definitive characteristics that can help you recognize if a church is healthy or not.
What is a healthy church?
Simply put, a healthy church is a congregation that understands its main purpose of being a community for the believers of Jesus Christ and accordingly carries out this purpose in its leadership and treatment of all people (members and non-members).
To be regarded as healthy, the church should be Bible-based, be centered on Christ, have a clear shared vision, value everyone equally, and have healthy leadership. These are the five definitive characteristics we’ll be taking a closer look at below.
Why is it important to recognize when a church is healthy?
The church matters greatly to every Christian. As such, church health is of utmost importance when considering joining, remaining, or leaving a church.
If you cannot recognize when a church is healthy, then you might unknowingly remain in a church that does little to no good for your spiritual growth. Worse yet, if you realize too late that you’re in an unhealthy church, you might end up scarred and abandoning the congregation (or the concept of joining a church) altogether.
With that, take your time going through the characteristics we’ll be talking about to make sure you’ll have a keen eye for recognizing when a church is healthy.
5 Definitive Characteristics Of A Healthy Church
Church health is not determined by how many members it has, how big its budget is, or the “successes” it has garnered. It can even be said that these three are the focus of unhealthy churches. When the church seems to focus more on its monetary bottom line than its spiritual bottom line, alarm bells should be ringing in your head.
Healthy churches focus more on—arguably the most important part of being a religious organization—the spiritual aspects such as fellowship, communion, evangelism, and discipleship, as you’ll see in the characteristics listed below.
The church is Bible-based.
Healthy churches have God’s word as the foundation for their existence and operations. That means having biblical discipleship, evangelism, teaching and preaching, doctrines and ordinances, fellowship, leadership, etc. Nothing is done without a thorough consultation with the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Along with being Bible-based, a healthy church must not stop at simply listening and stating the word of God. They must also do as it says; walk the talk.
James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
The church is centered on Christ.
The Lord Christ Jesus is the number one role model for all Christians. As such, a healthy church will be Christ-centered. This is especially important considering that the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18, 24).
Just in a worship service, you’ll find that every part—the sermon, prayer, psalms, and even the announcements—will have Christ at the center. More so in the ministry of making disciples, as the Lord Jesus commissioned us to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).
The church has a clear shared vision.
A clear shared vision among the members of a church (from the church leaders to the smallest regular member) is important for church health.
Proverbs 29:18 (MKJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he who keeps the law, he is blessed.
Reading deeper into this verse will tell us that the “vision” pertained to here is the teaching of the word of God through prophets (in the Old Testament) or pastors (in our time). However, we can also apply this to the need for a vision for any organization.
A vision is what the church and its members strive to embody. Successful ministry cannot be possible if there is no clear shared vision in the congregation. Each member can work and work in their church ministry. But without a sure goal to focus on, all their hard work can end up wasted.
The church values everyone equally.
As you could probably picture, a church that is Bible-based, Christ-centered, and has a clear shared vision (that is based on the first two characteristics) will value everyone equally. No matter if they are members of the congregation or not, whatever their social standing, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, or gender (1 Corinthians 12:13), they are valued by the church.
The church has healthy leadership.
The aforementioned four characteristics all remain relevant to the last characteristic we’ll be talking about: healthy leadership. Leadership that is Bible-based, Christ-centered, driven by a clear vision, and values everyone equally makes it robust.
In this kind of leadership, leaders are:
- honest with themselves and those around them about their faults and weaknesses;
- empathetic; they consider the feelings and experiences of others with compassion; and,
- active in correcting their wrongs.
We can also look to the early church in what constitutes church leaders in this kind of leadership. In Titus 1:7-14, the apostles gave Titus directions about whom he should ordain (and whom he shouldn’t). The matters expanded here are what leaders in the congregation must strive to become.
What if the church you’re in isn’t healthy?
Leaving shouldn’t be the number one choice you’re considering when you realize that you’re not in a healthy church. Remember that each member, like you and me, makes up the church. If anyone can make a change in unhealthy churches, those will be the members.
However, if it has gotten to a point that you no longer feel motivated to serve, or worse, you no longer feel safe, it’s time to leave the church and go in search of healthy churches.
We all deserve to be in a healthy church. Hopefully, this article helped you re-evaluate the church you are in or helped you in your journey of finding the local church where you can truly belong in.