Monday, January 22, 2007

What does a healthy Church look like?

Some interesting conversations are happening all across the blogosphere which lead me to this post. Discussions of Leadership, Consumerism, Slavery Preference and more have sparked a great deal of interest in me. Depending on who you talk to you'll get a variety of answers to this question: What does a healthy Church look like? I'm not going to pretend that I can be exhaustive on this issue but what I'm going to share will lend a great deal to the question.

Every pastor wants to lead a healthy, successful church that is engaged in doing the real work of God's Kingdom. I'm no different. We want to work with a church, not work for a church. There is a HUGE difference between the two. When a pastor feels like he is working for the church, he's just a hired hand that comes to church to share 3 points and a poem, makes people feel real good about themselves and disconnects until the next time. If the pastor feels he is working with the church, then he's enthusiastic about the participation level of others getting involved in what the work of the Kingdom really is.

Let's not forget what the real work of the Kingdom is: Reaching The Lost...that may not be too postmodern but it's what it is. :) Those that don't know Jesus. That's the real work of the Kingdom! Connecting people with Jesus Christ! If we're not doing that, what are we doing? Well, we're probably conducting nothing more that a social club with a sense of entitlement as it's over arching theme. Everyone feels they're entitled to this and that so they give their money and time to ensure that someone is there to give them what they are so rightfully entitled to. This is not indicative of a healthy church!

What does it take to become a healthy church?

In part, it takes a church of Thirds. Yes, Thirds. Not Turds. :=)

A healthy church should be made up of thirds.

If you have a pie and slice it into thirds, you obviously have 3 equal slices. No slice is greater than the other but they are all equal.

The Church in Thirds.

1/3 = Mature Jesus-Followers

1/3 = New Jesus-Followers

1/3 = Non-Followers. (This group is investigating what it's all about)

Every group has a place in the church (community) that is as important as the next. The mature followers are no more important that the non-followers. No one group stands alone in it's own identity but rather each group fits together with the whole to make 1 identity, the identity of the "church". Yes, the church must have "non-followers" in order to be whole. The church must be an all inclusive body. No one is left out and no one is over looked because everyone is needed to bring wholeness.

What does a church look like that is made up entirely of the first 1/3?
DEAD!! That's what. They're not duplicating themselves. They're not impacting their community or world. They are a candlestick that needs to be removed.

Revelation 2:5
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

What does a church look like that is made up entirely of the second 1/3?
Disorder!! No one is at a level of maturity to know what to do. Everyone is at the milk stage. None are ready to take on the meat. This group needs the first group to lead them into maturity. It's not the Pastor's solo act! It takes everyone to edify and built up new Jesus-Followers.

What does a church look like that is made up entirely of the final 1/3?
Hooters!! This group is not following Jesus. They're asking questions and their exploring the possibilities of following but they need time to digest some things. This group doesn't pretend to be perfect, they know they have hurts, habits and hangups, but at least they're honest about it. I mean, who among us doesn't have the 3 H's? Hurts, Habits and Hangups? This group may sit in our churches for a year or more before every taking the next step and you know what? It's OK.

I think in many modern churches today it's all about getting people down to an altar just 1 time. Somehow we've come to think that if we can get someone to the altar that their lives will magically improve with no more effort on our part to lead them and disciple them. I'm a fan of the altar and we have 2, one on each side of our sanctuary and at the end of every sermon, I give an opportunity to respond to the message. What I don't do is put all my chips on the altar. I know God is at work whether or not any come. I don't draaaag the service out waiting on someone to "make" a move. But the opportunity to make a public decision is always presented and never forced.

If a church has a good mix of these three groups, it is well on the way to becoming a healthy church. A church that is not so inward focused that they forget their is an outward importance. This kind of church is open and accepting of everyone that comes. There are no big I's and little U's in this Church. Everyone is equal and everyone is part of the family and we all help one another get a little further down the road on our journey of following Jesus!

This is the kind of church I want to be part of!


Michael said...

What about the Church Glorifying God? Weather they are New Christians or Mature Christians? I don't see how "non-followers" can be considered part of the "Church" being that the "Church" is the body of Christ, and the Body of Christ cannot contain unbelievers. I say, the church is made up of sinners glorifying God.

God Bless!

Shannon said...

Hi Michael,

The church I refer to here is the "local" church, community or congregation. Not the Universal Church of all that are born again. My point is that if our churches, communities or congregations do not have "seekers" or non-followers in them, we're not doing something right. After all, Christ died for the sinner. I believe a healthy church is a church that opens it's doors and hearts to those that are not yet "saved" and allows them participation in the hopes that they too will decide to follow Jesus.

Rick Meigs said...


I like the idea that a healthy faith community is going to have attending people who are at different points alone their faith journey -- from the not-yet-Christian to the mature.

Could we also say that a faith community made up of only "mature" Jesus followers, demonstrates that, by the lack of any other type, it is not very mature?

Shannon said...

Rick said, "Could we also say that a faith community made up of only "mature" Jesus followers, demonstrates that, by the lack of any other type, it is not very mature?"

Spot on! I would totally agree with that.

Thanks for stopping by man :)