Sunday, August 30, 2015
I recently wrote about Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling “Purpose Driven Life," and his saying of how ‘Healthy things grow”. My article on Healthy Churches identified that church health was related more to the growth in maturity of the members and attendees than the numerical metrics like attendance and giving.
Just as every pastor should be concerned about church health, every true believer should be interested as well in how to be a ‘Healthy Church Member.' As we focused on the local church in the last article, I thought I would address the topic as well from a local church perspective.
Partnership rather than Membership
A few years ago I had the privilege of being the pastor of a church that had decided to intentionally discontinue talking about ‘membership’ in favor of encouraging those that were attending to become ‘partners’ in the church ministry. I found that while there was some misgiving about the change, the idea of partnering in the particular ministry calling with the local pastor and paid staff was refreshing for many as well as challenging.
While ‘membership’ suggests a sense of benefits, ‘partnership’ connotes a supportive relationship that includes responsibilities and obligations. Each neighborhood church is the unique expression of the local ministry of Jesus Christ and varies in its particular calling and ministry. While there are unique differences, every local church has a responsibility to make disciples just as each pastor has the responsibility to lead, teach, equip, protect and admonish the congregation.
No pastor can successfully lead the church without committed Christ-like disciples that come alongside him or her and take on the responsibilities, ministries and assignments that God has uniquely gifted each one. In Chapter 12 of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes first the gifts and then the offices of the church. While these are all unique and distributed through the will of God to individuals, they are for the benefit of all as all function collectively as one Body of Christ.
The Great Commandment and Great Commission
To be a ‘healthy’ part of the local church each individual needs to first understand their relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They then begin to grow through weekly preaching and the daily reading of the Word of God. The bible describes this as our 'spiritual food' and necessary for spiritual development. In time, each healthy church member understands that the Great Commandment (to love one another) and the Great Commission (to make disciples) was not given to the few, but to all believers. Each healthy church member shares this responsibility knowing that God provides opportunities for us to minister individually as well as corporately.
Sharing in the responsibility by participating financially, being faithful in attendance, volunteering in ministry, leading where appropriate and supporting the local pastor in his or her unique calling is the best way for both the individual as well as the local church to grow.
Healthy church members create and grow healthy churches!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling “Purpose Driven Life”, is often quoted as saying, ‘Healthy things grow”. As the pastor of one of the largest and most influential mega-churches at the time, many pastors used Pastor Warren’s quote to push for numerical growth.
I confess I’m a fan of numerical growth. The Kingdom of God is for ‘whosoever’ and there are literally millions of people that pass by our local churches every week that could benefit from not just church attendance but the remarkable life change that accompanies any movement towards God and his Son, Jesus Christ.
However, Rick Warren has said that he is often misquoted in the ‘Healthy things grow” as he was referring as much to church heath, not church growth, as being a primary indicator and primary concern. I agree whole heartedly with Pastor Warren.
Church health should be the concern of every pastor in every church. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines, health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In the church, our focus is on the person of Jesus Christ. A healthy church embraces the truth of Jesus as the Christ, practices and then celebrates the teachings and disciplines (i.e. discipleship) of the faith including the essentials of the faith.
In these essentials, a local church will find that they not only have unity with the rest of the Body of Christ, regardless of denominational or doctrinal traditions, but will also find revival.
Growth is also process that leads ultimately to maturity. In this process, the Apostle Paul encouraged us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-2)
In this way, the Apostle Paul equates spiritual maturity with unity. This is why we are to walk in ‘humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love’. All too often many church leaders walk in arrogance and embrace their theology, morality or practices as being superior to others. This is exactly how the church becomes divided and weak.
When we embrace the fact that our theology is at the best somewhat flawed and that the Holy Spirit is not bound by our doctrines and traditions we can begin to humble ourselves. In humility we pray and believe that it is Jesus that is truly the head of the church and that any growth we see, either numerical or in spiritual health, is hopefully a result of the work of the Holy Spirit through His humble servants.
This work of the Holy Spirit can be found in the early church as recorded in Acts 2:42-47 where the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” When these early believers embraced the essential faith and found themselves having all things in common, the Lord “added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Spiritual health is definitely a precursor for numerical growth
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