Healthy churches

Farmville Enterprise August 23, 2017

During the month of July, Rocky and I got to attend worship services at four different churches, since he was on a Sabbatical. It was fascinating how quickly certain strengths of each became apparent. Two of them were particularly strong in teaching while one stood out for its worship music and another for its obvious sense of community. At two of the larger churches there were friendly greeters at the doors but no one came up to speak to us personally. At the smallest church at least ten people approached us and introduced themselves with a warm welcome.

Of course, every church has its strengths and weaknesses. It is helpful when we can identify where we excel and where we could improve as congregations.  Pastor and author Rick Warren described the five dimensions he noticed in healthy churches. These were explained in his book entitled “The Purpose Driven Church.” Warren wrote the following: “Churches grow warmer through fellowship. Churches grow deeper through discipleship. Churches grow stronger through worship. Churches grow broader through ministry. Churches grow larger through evangelism.”

Some of our congregations are known for being particularly personable and genuinely caring. Others do exceptionally well with Bible teaching or music or serving the community. We are not all naturally drawn to the same types of strengths. One of my friends prefers a larger congregation where she can slip in without a lot of fuss while others would be offended if their attendance were not noticed by at least a few people. Warren’s point was that each church needed to continue with what they did well but also to evaluate ways to improve the weaker areas. In his mind, fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry and evangelism were equally important, as evidenced in the second chapter of Acts. That fellowship of believers, the early church, embodied these five aspects of a healthy congregation. The results were amazing. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let them use it in proportion to their faith. If it is serving, let them serve; if it is teaching, let them teach; if it is encouraging, let them encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let them give generously; if it is leadership, let them govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let them do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8) Let us celebrate the unique characteristics and gifts of the sisters and brothers around us and join with them in the service of God.


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