Healthy churches will grow. Unhealthy churches can grow as well. Healthy bodies will grow taller and stronger. Unhealthy bodies will grow wider around the waste and weaker. Healthy cells multiply and divide. Cancer cells multiply and divide. This is very important to remember in church revitalization. The goal is a healthy church not church growth. The healthy church will grow in time, and the growth will be God glorifying and sustainable. A church may grow like a cancer cell, but this growth will be plagued by the lack of health within the church body and will not be sustainable, ultimately bringing shame and reproach upon the name of Christ.
In beginning any endeavor, we must begin with the end in mind. What does success look like for the local church? Is the goal to fill the pews? Is the goal bigger buildings? Unfortunately when these things are the goals the church can become very unhealthy. The end will determine the means to that end. Many churches and pastors are so desperate for “success” that they jeopardize the long term health of the church to obtain a quick growth in attendance.
A significant number of churches in America are declining and dying; this is simply because they are unhealthy. They have developed theologies, methods, and practices that are toxic to the health of the church. They have become stagnant and weak. As a Christian who loves the church, your goal should be to see your local church become healthy. It will grow if it is healthy.
What is a healthy church? A church that is conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is a healthy church. A church that truly lives out what Jesus taught and functions as His body on this earth is a healthy church. A church that overflows with the self-sacrificing love of Christ for one another and a lost world is a healthy church. A healthy church is one that is constantly bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Such a church cannot help but grow. Indeed, the very gates of hell cannot stop such a church.
If the church you are attending is slowly declining it is unhealthy. It needs change. Not change for the sake of change. Not change to attract a crowd. Change to become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Change to become healthy. Change to glorify God.
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking further at many of the unhealthy practices of the local church and the Gospel remedy to each one. However, we must begin with the end in mind. The goal is a healthy church that is conformed to the image of Jesus Christ for His glory.