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Shifting Towards Healthy Church

One of the roles I have within my church is to create systems that will help the church to function better. One of these areas is church growth. The growth of my church has been on my heart for some time now and the implementation of some systems to help facilitate this were badly needed.

After hours of research and many months of hard work behind the scenes, some of these systems are beginning to emerge and be put to use. Many need fine tuning, whilst others need to be changed completely – until we get something that fits and works for us within our context and community.

I know church is more than a ‘numbers game’. And I am not one to strive to ‘get bums on seats’ but with this focus and desire for the church to grow I must admit that I have subconsciously started measuring the success of the church and my ministry within it based on numbers.

I read this blog post recently by Rick Warren (Saddleback Church) ‘Forget Church Growth, Aim for Church Health’ where he suggest that focusing on ‘growth’ will invariably lead to an over emphasis on certain things such as evangelism or mission at the cost of other valuable attributes of what makes up the church. He says we should rather focus on building healthy churches, ones that have a good balance of the markers that make a church ‘healthy’. He cites the five-fold ministry as mentioned in the book of Acts, which I think is a good place to start:

“In Acts 2:42-47 these five facets of health are mentioned: They fellowshipped, edified each other, worshipped, ministered, and evangelized. As a result, verse 47 (NIV) says, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The Five Dimensions of a Healthy Church:
  • 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.

Church growth is the natural result of church health. But church health can only occur when our message is biblical and our mission is balanced. Each of the five New Testament purposes of the church must be in equilibrium with the others for health to occur.

Now this is important: Because we are imperfect beings, balance in a church does not occur naturally. In fact, we must continually correct imbalance! It’s human nature to overemphasize the aspect or purpose of the church we feel most passionate about.”

 I love the idea that by focusing on HEALTH that GROWTH will be a natural bi-product. This has brought the way I measure success in ministry into perspective – actually the only thing that ultimately matters is – Did I do what God asked me to do? If so, I am successful. Whether this resulted in increased numbers or not!

I acknowledge that all growing churches may not be healthy ones – I think of the recent collapse of Mars Hill church as an example of a growing church that was not exhibiting health within. But healthy churches will grow – numerically and in spiritual maturity!

This has led me in recent days to be praying about and thinking about which areas of the 5-fold ministry our church is weaker in or not focused on enough so that an imbalance has been created. I have identified a couple of areas we can purposefully work towards bringing back into balance – without over-egging the custard!

I have also come across the 9Marks ministry that is also aimed at improving church health and I will be buying a couple of their resources to let me see if it will be of benefit.

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