Relationships, teachability and investment are three more measurables for a healthy church.
By Danny Zachariah, Regional Director, India-subcontinent and church pastor Hyderabad, India
Occasionally on a morning walk, I cross paths with a neighbour, a retired Air Force officer. Knowing that I pastor a church, he never forgets to ask me, “Is your church growing?” I know that his question is intending to ask if it is growing numerically, but I invariably respond, “Yes sir, it is, spiritually!” For most, growth in numbers is the only defining measurable for a healthy church. The reason for this is because the real metrics for a healthy church are hard to measure.
Addressing this dilemma, Mike Bonem states, “The things that matter the most—transformed lives, ministry effectiveness, spiritual growth—are the hardest to measure. So we settle for metrics that are easier to obtain but much less meaningful.” He further opines that wise church leaders must pay attention to meaningful metrics and “prune” the less relevant ones to strengthen the church. “They know that even if the numbers don’t meet their expectations, God can still be at work in powerful ways” (Measuring What Matters, Christianity Today). [i]
Undoubtedly, numerical growth and sizable offerings have their place in the long-term viability of a church. Biblically, though, there is more to a church that is healthy than just pews filled and the size of its balance sheet. President Greg Williams, in a recent update[ii], listed a few vital signs for a church. The three measurables that he listed were a church that makes disciples to grow the community of the church, the church that is doing good to all and a church that serves the needy. Let us look at three more measurables that align with Scripture.
Loving relationships that give rise to authentic communion within the congregation
A healthy church is one that nurtures loving relationships that results in, not only a growing community, but a loving one. Wanting his disciples to recognize the fullness of his love, Jesus gives them a tall order by saying:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Jesus seems to indicate that the perfect love that he has for them should reach its fullness by them sharing it with one another. A church that is recognized by others as being a loving community manifesting it in dynamic harmony—remaining united within all its diversity and experiencing peace that rises above earthly strife—would emphatically be a hallmark to health. It would be unfortunate if someone said of us, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ” as was famously commented by Mahatma Gandhi.
A teachable spirit that remains open to change
A healthy Christian is a growing Christian. Growing Christians are ultimately those who contribute to a healthy church. A growing Christian is one who is moving into maturity through intentional spiritual formation. That requires the courage to change when it is necessary. Healthy churches are those that are providing avenues for every member to experience such transformation. Peter recognized the importance of this discipline within the church.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Investing in genuine worship that impacts worshippers.
Healthy churches are regularly providing avenues for genuine, corporate worship. Worship isn’t something Christians do to get a weekly “fix.” It is to celebrate our precious Savior. Worship should be transformative, not just to experience a temporary “high.” The Psalmist reminds us that we tend to become like the one or things we ascribe worshipful trust (Psalm 115:4-8). Then, it should be all the more a reason for us to participate in true worship so that we may conform to the image of Jesus Christ. Richard Tan states:
The more we comprehend the beauty of God’s nature in worship, the more worship will transform us into the likeness of His divine nature. This transformation not only changes us, but this change will positively impact the way we relate and interact with those around us. In other words, God is not only blessed by our worship, but others are blessed because we worship God.[iii]
May every congregation in our denomination consider these measurables and strive to bring glory to our loving triune God.
[ii] GCI Update, Sep 20, 2021
[iii] “The Impact of True Worship,” Richard Tan, https://www.firstlightchurch.com.au/the-impact-of-true-worship/