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August 26, 2012 / nickpark

Vital Signs of Church Health: Part One

On Saturday the 25th of August 2012 I taught a Seminar on ‘Cross Cultural Ministry and Church Growth’  at the Annual Conference of the Solid Rock Church of God in Dublin.  Our question and answer sessions ran longer than expected, and I promised the delegates at the Seminar that I would post some added material about Church Health online.  So, for those delegates, and anyone else who is interested, here are Eleven Vital Signs of Church Health.  Some of these have been adapted from the writings of C. Peter Wagner.
INTRODUCTION

Sometimes we get all worked up about Church Growth, when we should more properly be concentrating on Church Health.  Things that are healthy grow without even trying!  Think about our children.  We don’t worry about how to make them grow.  They grow naturally.  In fact, sometimes when we’re having to buy them clothes we wonder how they can grow quite so fast!  But if a child wasn’t growing at all then we’d take them to see the doctor.  We understand, when it comes to children, that non-growth is an indication of a health problem.  We need to apply that same understanding to churches.

One of the first thing a doctor will do, is to check your vital signs.  He’ll check your pulse, your temperature, your blood pressure.  Note that all of these are essential – just getting half of them right won’t cut it!  You don’t say, “Hey, my temperature is OK even if I have no heartbeat – so I’m not doing so bad!”  In the same way, every church needs to make sure they’re cutting it when it comes to the Vital Signs of Church Health.

1.  RESPECT FOR THE WORD OF GOD

Having a strong emphasis on the Word of God and Scriptural Authority doesn’t guarantee growth – but a lack of it will guarantee decline!  Church History demonstrates that churches and denominations that take a liberal approach to Scripture always experience numerical decline.  Don’t preach ‘Christianity Lite’ – give people the Word!

2.  PRAYER

A church that lacks prayer will never have the spiritual power to change lives – and without changed lives there can be no growth.  There is no one way or style to pray.  Let a multitude of prayer ministries and meetings become part and parcel of the life of the Church.

3.  A SERVANT LEADER

Growing churches always have strong leadership – and that means a team led by one strong leader.  Committee-led churches don’t build the vision that is necessary for growth.  But neither can a one-man-band grow strong Christians.

Leadership should not be domineering or tyrannical.  We must follow the example of Jesus who said, “If you want to be great in God’s Kingdom – learn to be the servant of all.”

4.  MOBILISED MEMBERSHIP

In Ephesians 4 we see that the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist and Pastor/Teacher are to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.  One of the biggest contemporary barriers to Church Health and Church Growth is the unbiblical divide between clergy and laity.

Healthy growing churches release as many members as possible into ministering to each other.

5.  CELL, CONGREGATION & CELEBRATION

Human beings crave fellowship with each other, and we find this fellowsip in different sized gatherings.

a) The Cell is a small group where people get to know each other and share intimacy, trust and their problems.  In traditional society people found this in their extended families, but in today’s geographical dislocation (with people migrating all over the globe) mean that this small-group experience is more often found in the church.

b) The Congregation is a larger group.  It lacks the intimacy of the Cell, but is still small enough for everyone to know everyone else’s name.  Some people seek this experience in a pub or a bar.

c) The Celebration is a big event – where we become part of a crowd.  It produces an energy and dynamism that meets a deep need in the human psyche.  We can get this at a rock concert, a crowd at a sports event, or a big worship event.

Growing healthy churches will seek to provide their members with different worship and fellowship experiences – including the Cell, the Congregation and the Cell.  Sometimes it will be necessary to cooperate with other churches in order to do this.

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