What Does A Healthy Church Look Like?
It has been said (A.W. Tozer) that our view of God is the most important thing about us, and I agree with that, but a close second in terms of our eternal impact is how we view the local church. Our view of the church is the second most important thing about us, show me how a church leader views the local church and I will show you their eternal impact, and joy in their service of Jesus.
If the world, the flesh and the demonic realm attack our view of God and seek to diminish His glory, they also attack our view of the church and seek to have us see her as a business or building rather than the body of Christ.
The true Church is a part of the eternal plan of God, that He is growing this Body to accomplish His mission for His glory, and this through local churches.
Mark Dever has displayed well that the local church is representation of the universal Church and that the Bible often uses these terms interchangeably (in his book, The Church). Others have shown that the Reformation doctrine of the local church defines a local church as one that has: Biblical Preaching, Biblical Practice of Ordinances (including church discipleship and church discipline), and Biblical Leadership. Assuming these two foundations, how should we view the local church, and what does a healthy church culture look like?
In our British Columbia Christians, often the church is seen as a business, or a building.
Wrong View #1: Business: Competitors
If we see the church as a business, we are competitors seeking to build a healthy business. How we operate is to compete with others for the business of those who claim to be Christians.
If pastors or church leaders see the church as a business, we see success as the number of people we have in seats, the financial statement, and excellence of programs we run. We will evaluate our own calling on the size of church we build and the salary we receive. We will compare ourselves with other churches and seek approval through measuring our market share. Some of these measuring tools can help us quantify what is going on around us, but the church is not a business! We can learn much from the business world, but should never see the church as a business.
Wrong View #2: Building: Consumers
If we see the local church as a building, then people are consumers, or judges, seeing what fits their preferences best, or what delights them. In this view the church exists to do a good job of religion, and if it doesn’t meet my preferences I will go somewhere else and give somewhere else. We mark what church we go to be its physical address, and the church we serve as leaders by the salary or votes we have received.
The pastor becomes the server of religion, seeking satisfied customers, and is to be evaluated for his service as if the attenders were judges on American Idol. The church leader in this view sees their role as pleasing the customer and is a professional not a minister.
If our view of the local church is as a business or building we will not serve her as we should, nor will her mission be accomplished. Leaders will leave when the going gets tough, or the customers are restless. Long term sacrificial ministry is only possible if we have a Biblical view of the church.
One of the key metaphors that the Bible uses to describe the local church is the BODY OF CHRIST (Romans 12:5, 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:27; 4:12; Ephesians 4:12; 5:23; Colossians 1:24).
Church leaders who understand this metaphor will live out three passions: Unified Submission, Unified Service, Unified Sacrifice.
Unified Submission: This picture shows that we are unified in Christ as our head, and one another as fellow parts (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:11-16). This means that the Body of Christ will do what the head demands, the Body of Christ will obey the Word of Christ.
There is a unity that is found here, as together we pursue the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), and this mind will yield a unity of following our Head (Romans 15:5-6) and His pathway.
Leader who grasp this will lead in way that follows Jesus as their head and that yields a unity of submission to Him and His Word modelled and mandated.
Unified Service: When the church is seen as the Body of Christ, the members of the Body will see themselves, together as representatives of Him in the world, on mission for Him.
This is not only to build up the Body (Ephesians 4:12), but also to live on mission for Him as those who do His work in the world (Matthew 28:16-20).
We will see ourselves as individuals serving Jesus by serving as a church, each part functioning to accomplish the mission of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:4-31). We will ask what we can do to serve, what gifts we have to give, how we can help the church pursue health, healing and unity. We will see our health in the local church as a unified pursuit (Ephesians 4:11-16) as each part does its work.
Unified Sacrifice: We are called to a radical life (Luke 9:23; Philippians 1:21), to live as servants, willing to build up the Body even at intense personal cost (Colossians 1:28-29; Galatians 4:19), we must see the Body as what it is, united in Christ.
If we learn to see the local church as God’s chosen family to accomplish His work, we will commit our lives to her, and live our lives for her beautification. This will mean that salary and the simple life will be sacrificed for as servants of Jesus where necessary.
Sadly, too often we as church leaders focus on the local church as a business or as a building rather than what we know to be true, it is HIS BODY. My prayer is that we would grasp again the value of the local church, and treat her as the treasure she is, serve her as the gift she is, and commit ourselves to long term self-sacrificial ministry to body building for the glory of God.
We are privileged to give our lives to the local church so that the glory of Christ is seen on display to the community around her, and around the world. We will give ourselves to the local church, when we see her for who she is, the Body of Christ, and she has potential to change eternity. In the coming newsletters we will discuss different facets of a healthy church culture, but foundationally we must see her as our Saviour does, He is the HEAD, and the local church representative of the Church, is her body!