A Healthy Church
What makes for a healthy church? or a healthy family? If someone were to ask you to answer these two questions, what would you say? (QUICK, JOT DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS BEFORE YOU READ FURTHER.) Since the church is a kind of family, it seems to me that churches and families might become healthy by sharing the same traits. What might those traits be? Below I will reflect upon traits that reflect a healthy church and family. An assumption I make is that we can choose to shape and mold our families and the church as well. There are always obstacles. The largest obstacle is our own inertia, our tendency to keep moving in the same direction and resisting change. It’s hard to change the way we have always done things; but it’s not impossible. Another obstacle is the inertia of others. If you have ever tried to change others, or effect change in others, you know what I mean. It’s not easy. In this instance I think it is most helpful to concentrate on changes within ourselves. So, let’s begin to think together about what makes a healthy church and family.
First, a healthy church is committed to glorifying God. The Westminster Confession of Faith Shorter Catechism begins with this question: What is the chief end of humanity? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. In I Corinthians 10:31, we are enjoined ,”Whatever you do , do all to the glory of God.” If this is God’s purpose for us, then it makes sense that churches and families who seek to glorify God in thought, word and deed, are living as we are created to live. If we were to ask ourselves before we speak or act within the church or our families, will what I am about to say or do glorify God, can you imagine how we might be healthier in our relationships? We would also be committed to worshiping God on the Sabbath and throughout the week. How might this affect the larger church body and your personal family?
Second, a healthy church and family would seek to balance Biblical instruction with personal application of the Scriptures. What if you were absolutely committed to growing in your knowledge, understanding and application of God’s Word? Acts 2:42 says the early Christian church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”, much of which became our New Testament. Growing in God’s Word does at least three good things for us: it matures and stabilizes our faith in times of testing; it increases our ability to detect and confront error; it gives us wisdom(which, in Hebrew tradition, was the ability to see life and the world as God sees it). Chuck Swindoll once said that biblical teaching that remains theoretical can breed indifference or arrogance. It does not change lives. Preaching that fails to balance instruction with love and grace may reflect intolerance. And when biblical knowledge becomes an end in itself, it comes dangerously close to idolatry—worshiping the Bible above God. These principles build up a family, whether the one in your home or the larger church family.
Third, a healthy church and family exudes warmth and care for one another. Acts 2:42 also says the early church, meeting in homes at that time, “devoted themselves to fellowship.” They truly cared for one another. They took time to know each other, to see each others’ needs. This is important within our homes and within the larger church. How do you take time to get to know one another within your family? I mean really get to know each other at a deeper emotional level. Do you know each others’ hopes, dreams and goals in life and faith? Do you know the burdens the others are carrying? What fears they harbor? Within the larger church, we can’t know everyone, but we can make sure we getting to know someone or some smaller group.
Fourth, a healthy church and family reaches out to others. Caring for one another is important and good for us. It helps us love and feel loved. Enlarging our love for others outside our families and church not only gives away our love to others; it is also good for us; it makes us healthier. For one, it strengthens our purpose in life. It also gives us perspective regarding our own problems. We realize we are not alone in our own struggles when we get involved in the lives of others. We see that others may be struggling at a deeper level than we are. A family that is solely focused on itself is not preparing itself for the time when children will spread their wings and fly. Likewise, a church that is solely focused on itself is not preparing for the future; it is missing out on those who might bring new ideas and life into your church.
As we move into the future I hope we will develop a heart to grow healthier as a church and within our own families (whether immediate or extended). Consider what it would look like to nurture these traits within Covenant and within your own family. May we continue to be good for one another.
In Christ’s Service,