Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Three Marks of a Healthy Church

by Tim Yates

Church health is extremely important. However, I wonder if we really know how to evaluate the spiritual well-being of a Bible-believing Church. Things can appear healthy on the outside, but the inside can be sick, broken, and unhealthy. For example, the Church at Laodicea looked great cosmetically (Rev. 3:14-22). They were “rich, wealthy” and “had need of nothing” (v. 17), but when Jesus took their spiritual temperature, He said, they were “lukewarm.” Then, He said to them, “I will vomit you out of My mouth” (v. 16). Jesus exposed the sickness of the Church at Laodicea.

How do you diagnose spirituality?  John MacArthur said, “In a day when a church is most likely evaluated on her cosmetics, it’s vital to know how to assess her true health.” In good humor, MacArthur reminds us, “They put cosmetics on corpses!”1 Truth! Most of the makeup is applied to make us look attractive, but the basic components of spiritual health are sometimes overlooked.

My heart goes out to church leaders because we live in an age of rage and outrage.2 It’s not easy to lead in the 21st century. Unity is difficult (Eph. 4:1-3). Think about it. Our Pastor is pulled in three different directions every week of his life. The traditional crowd pulls him to the right. The contemporary crowd pulls him to the left. And the consumer crowd pulls him toward their personal preferences.3 Ministry is a lifetime of tug-of-war (spiritual warfare). When you’re pulled in different directions, how do you keep a church Bible-centered, healthy and on mission? Today, for the sake of brevity I want to examine “Three Marks of a Healthy Church.”

The first mark of a healthy church is authentic worship. Thankfully, the Bible is a handbook on worship. Worship begins with understanding who God is. Isaiah proclaimed the greatness and awesomeness of God. He said, “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” Then he declared, “all things” were made by “My hand” and by My hand “all those things exist” (Isa. 66:1-2). When I begin to comprehend the vastness of God and become overwhelmed by His unlimited power, authentic worship flows from my heart to His. The healthy church will equip believers to worship in private and in public.

The strong church will equip the believer for private worship. Dallas Willard uses the expression, “practicing the presence of God.”4 Nonetheless, we must teach believers the importance of a daily, private worship alone with God. Some call it a “quiet time.” Others call it “solace and solitude.” I like the expression, “prayer.” On August 26, 2006, MacArthur preached a sermon entitled, “Prayer: The Highest Form of Worship.”5 I agree. Prayer is the highest form of worship but unfortunately prayer is the least practiced of all the spiritual disciplines. A healthy church will train and equip believers to worship privately.  

Furthermore, the healthy church will promote the importance of public worship. Gathering with other believers is extremely important. Worship that is God focused, Christocentric and Spirit-filled. Believers singing together, praying together, hearing the Word together. Holding each other accountable. Loving one another. Sharing life together. The healthy church will place a great emphasis on private and public worship. Why? Because worship is eternal. It’s something we do corporately together on earth and corporately together in Heaven. Worship is not a feeling, a worked-up emotion or goose bumps on your arms. Worship is Bible-driven, doctrinally rich, faith building, and Scripture based. Paul insisted, “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Worship is faith, not feeling. Furthermore, worship is not entertainment, a particular style, or a popular song. Worship is being ushered into the presence of God, enjoying who His is, seeing how big He is while understanding how small we are. The healthy church will promote public worship as a Bible/faith encounter with God.

On the other hand, the neglect of private and public worship ALWAYS leads to idolatry. Beware! When we minimize, reduce, or abandon private and public worship we naturally turn to “the things of this life” and the “things of this life” are temporal. Therefore, the healthy church will constantly proclaim the importance of private and public worship. I’m thankful for a Pastor and church that value worship.

The second mark of a healthy church is a steady diet of Biblical preaching. When a church is nourished with Bible exposition that church will be a healthy church. The Bible is spiritual food for the believer. Job said, “I have esteemed your word more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). In the same way that you need physical food to stay healthy, you need spiritual food to stay healthy. We need the bread of God’s Word (Matt. 4:4).
A balanced diet of biblical preaching will produce spiritual growth. Peter tells us, “like newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). The milk of the word produces growth, and growing Christians are healthy Christians. On the other hand, when we eat the world’s junk food, our spiritual health will decline, and our growth will be underdeveloped. We must go to the fountain of living water to find nourishment (Jer. 2:13). We can’t eat from the garbage dump of this life and expect to grow. In fact, just the opposite happens. Our spiritual life will shrink, shrivel, and wither.

The preaching of the Word will build you up. Paul said, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32). The Word has the ability (dunamai) or power to build godly qualities into your life. Thank God for biblical preaching. Stop and think. For almost 40 years, Pastor Lemming has preached the unsearchable riches of Christ to the members of Lewis Memorial Baptist Church. Week after week, he studies for hours. Yes! I said, “for hours.” We don’t eat fast food. He digs into the Word and prepares Bible-based sermons. He examines the historical setting. He explains the meaning of the Biblical text. He outlines, makes notes, jots down his thoughts, looks for appropriate illustrations, and then makes deep application. He consistently gives us a healthy portion of God’s Word. We eat well at Lewis Memorial. I listen to sermons every single day. I have yet to hear a better Bible preacher than Pastor Lemming. If you’re not careful, you will take him for granted, and you might even forget to pray for him. Pray for him to finish well. The spiritual health of Lewis Memorial is at stake. Thank you, Pastor, for feeding us the Word of God every week.

The third and final mark of a healthy church is biblical evangelism. The church has been entrusted with the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 2:4). We’re commanded to carry this gospel “into all the world” and proclaim the good news “to every creature” (Mark 1:15). We have one mission, and the healthy church will never stray from that mission. On the other hand, as the consumer mentality permeates American culture, many churches take on a “country club mentality.” As a result, the gospel is minimized and eventually forsaken.

Jesus had His hand on the pulse of the church of Sardis. They were sick. He said, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). Everything looked good on the outside, but Jesus diagnosed them as “dead.” Unfortunately, churches are dying every day. Years of gospel neglect and ignoring the Great Commission have taken a toll on spiritual health. No one has been saved in years. No spiritual babies are being born again, no sign of gospel life is evident, and those churches are pronounced dead for all intents and purposes. An autopsy would reveal “no gospel life.” I was thankful last Sunday that we saw four souls come to Christ in the services of Lewis Memorial. How do we keep Lewis Memorial healthy? How do we keep evangelism and gospel witness alive? Let me give you four healthy habits:
   
Healthy Habit #1: Invite. Constantly invite your family and friends to church. The statistics are staggering. More people come to Christ simply because a friend invited them to church than any other way. I was saved because someone invited me to church. Pastor Lemming was saved because a Youth Pastor invited him to church. Invite people to your small group. Invite people to study Revelation with us on Sunday night. Invite people to VBS. Invite people on special days (like family Sunday). Develop the healthy habit of “invite.”  

Healthy Habit #2: Prayer. Evangelistic praying is a great way to reach people for Christ (Rom. 10:1; 1 Tim. 2:1-8). God promises prayer works, but we must do the work of prayer. Pray for your unchurched family, neighbors, and co-workers. Prayer keeps me gospel-focused and mission-minded. I am greatly encouraged when I look at my prayer list and see highlighted names with a yellow highlighter and a date beside their name. God answers prayer, and God gets all the glory. Develop the habit of evangelistic prayer.

Healthy Habit #3: Stewardship. Invest your money in souls, missions, and faith promise. Thank God Lewis Memorial is a mission-minded church. Pastor Lemming has intentionally led us to be about foreign missions. Together (as a church body), we can support and send missionaries around the world. World missions have purposefully been woven into the DNA of our Church from day one of Pastor Lemming’s ministry. In just a few weeks, we will have our annual Missions Celebration (October 3-6). It’s the highlight of the calendar year. Faith Promise is good stewardship and a great investment in souls (Matt. 6:21). Our focus is not to be the best church in the world but to be the best church “FOR” the world. A healthy church is a giving church, and we are all about good stewardship.

Healthy Habit #4: Be friendly. The combination of friendliness and evangelism are ALWAYS blended in the healthy church.  Paul insisted, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Rom. 15:7). Wow! What would happen if we obeyed that one verse? Be intentional. Make it your goal to meet one new person at church every week. Write their name down. Pray for them. Remember their name and greet them by name the following Sunday. Names are a big thing to God and a big deal to people. If we’re not concerned about the unsaved inside the church, we will NEVER be concerned about the unsaved outside the church. God’s business is reaching people, and reaching people is why we exist. We must get better before we grow bigger. If we are not laser-focused on taking care of the ones God sends us, He will NOT send us more. We get better when we are people-focused. Always remember the healthy Church is an evangelistic Church. Constantly inviting, faithfully praying, biblical generosity, and over-the-top friendliness are healthy habits we must develop.

How important is the health of our church? We can look good on the outside, but are we healthy on the inside? Let’s determine to be a people about authentic worship both privately and publicly. May we all eagerly receive a healthy portion of biblical preaching from our Pastor every Sunday. And finally, may we all be about biblical evangelism. Let’s always be inviting our friends, praying for the unchurched, giving to missions, and being a friendly people for the glory of God. The health and vitality of our church are at stake, the eternal destiny of souls hang in the balance, and the glory of God is our ambition. Be intentional! Be a healthy Church!

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