"Time of death? Five minutes after the morning worship service started."
How does a church know when it isn't healthy? When its vital signs barely register. It's not a matter of numbers. Some very large churches aren't healthy by biblical standards. They're houses of entertainment with a thin veneer of Christianity.
But if numbers didn't matter at all, why would it have been important to the Lord to include in His Word the stirring account from the book of Acts telling us, "Peter said, 'Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of of you, in the name of Jesus Christ...He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over...That day about three thousand took God at His Word" (Acts 2:38-42, The Message).
God cared about numbers when people came to Christ through the ministry of the church. He was also pleased, we read later, over the small house churches scattered throughout the area--those that met in the homes of people like Priscilla and Acquila, Nympha, and others.
So, if size alone isn't an accurate reflection of church health, what is?
Interestingly, the vital signs of a vigorous, God-pleasing church are much the same as those of a vigorous, God-pleasing individual, and--for this blog's purposes--a vigorous, God-pleasing writing career...sometimes despite the numbers or pending contracts.
- Does it embrace, celebrate, and honor God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? (John 3:34)
- Does it reflect a clear understanding of our need for faith in Christ alone? (Acts 4:12)
- Is there evidence that providing hope rather than seeking fame is top priority? (Luke 19:10)
- Is there deep respect for and devotion to God's Word? (Matthew 15:6-9)
- Is there a consciousness of the goal of eternity in the midst of the present? (II Corinthians 5:1-2, I Thessalonians 4:16-18)
- Is there clear evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in interpersonal relationships? (Galatians 5:22)
- Is there corporate and personal bowing to the needs of others within the parameters of adherence to the teachings of Scripture? For instance, am I willing to forego my personal comfort in order to reach, bless, and teach others in a way that will draw them into a deeper relationship with the Lord?
- Are those who struggle with sin and maturity issues banned and shunned or gently restored, as the Bible teaches?
- In the eyes of the watching community, is it a lighthouse or a neon-sign flashing "Keep Out"?