In recent travels visiting GCI conferences and congregations around the world, I’ve been addressing our vision for Healthy Church. A key aspect of realizing that vision is having in place within each of our congregations what we call the “faith, hope & love venues”—places where, by the Spirit, church health emerges. Below is a “church hack” (click to enlarge) followed by explanatory text that looks at each venue. I ask that you prayerfully study this material and discuss it with your leaders. —Greg Williams
[From the GCI Ministry Toolbox at Resources.gci.org/toolbox]
When all three venues are in place and operating well, the members of the congregation, experiencing deep relationships with Christ and each other, will be active missional participants in what Christ, by the Holy Spirit, is doing both within the congregation and out to the world (for a diagram in the GCI Ministry Toolbox that defines what we mean by missional, click here). Let’s look at each venue in a discipleship pathway sequence:
The Love Venue
This aspect of healthy church has to do with incarnational connections forged between the congregation and the community that surrounds its place of meeting. The love venue is about lovingly engaging the community through acts of service that demonstrate God’s unconditional, extravagant love for all people, unbelievers included. A healthy church has well-developed, balanced programs by which they help unchurched people within their congregation’s target community experience the truth of the gospel. The love venue in a healthy church has these key elements:
- A target community: a healthy church has identified its target community —unchurched people who live near where the congregation meets. The target community is well-matched to the gifts/resources of the congregation. Some congregations will decide to move and relaunch in order to meet in the midst of their target community that they are able to connect with and therefore serve well. (For more about identifying and connecting with a target community, click here).
- Regular outreach: the congregation actively serves the target community by holding regular outreach events that always have a clear, intentional connection back to the life of the congregation.
- Aligned programming: the congregation aligns all its programs with its disciple-making vision (related to its target community) lived out through a clearly-defined discipleship pathway strategy. That vision and strategy is undergirded by the congregation’s actual (not merely aspirational) values.
The Hope Venue
This aspect of healthy church has to do with the congregation’s Sunday worship service, which by being inclusive, engenders hope for all participants—regular attenders and guests; young and old. With this goal in mind, the congregation provides an environment within the weekly worship service that focuses primarily on inspiration (with a focus on Jesus), not mere information. This environment results from the following key elements:
- Warm hospitality: a healthy church has a hospitality team (including greeters and ushers) that welcomes guests and points them to steps they can take on the congregation’s discipleship pathway (see the love venue). This element also includes a children’s ministry, new member classes, etc. (For more about implementing a greeter ministry, click here).
- Dynamic preaching: inspiring, Christ-centered preaching that connects the gospel to the lives of members and guests from the target community. (For the distinction between teaching and preaching, click here).
- Inspirational, gospel-focused worship that stirs the affections of both members and guests, pointing them toward the triune God through Scripture reading, singing, praying, receiving of offerings, and sharing the Lord’s Supper. (For a recommended order of service that fulfills these goals, click here, for instructions concerning the offering, click here).
The Faith Venue
This aspect of healthy church has to do with the congregation’s small groups where intentional discipleship occurs. In these small groups, both believers and seekers are nurtured in the faith and thus helped to grow spiritually, including being equipped for participation in the disciple-making work of the church.
The faith venue in a healthy church has these key elements:
- Regular, relationally-focused meetings: places where members and interested guests can meet regularly to build relationships and grow spiritually. (For more about small groups, click here and see the small group facilitator training videos at FaithTalk Equipper).
- Small in size: the groups are small enough that relational bonding and life-on-life discipling can occur.
- Provision of personal services: the faith venue includes providing various “one-anothering” services to members and guests including counseling and personal visits.