11. An Emphasis on Numerical Growth
There are some Christians who think numbers should never be looked at. But the reality is a healthy church is growing numerically. This is not the article to debate the mage-church model versus the church-planting model. The point being made here is that a healthy church will be working to reach more and more people. Focusing on the numbers only becomes a sign of an unhealthy church when this focus usurps every other focus.
Notice I said a healthy church is growing numerically. This does not mean that a church growing numerically is always healthy. A church can grow for unhealthy, inflated reasons like advertisements, gimmicks, musical talent, entertainment, and other strategies that do nothing but bring people through the doors. A healthy church grows the right way, which is through its people growing spiritually and reaching out to other people.
Numerical growth is not everything, but a super healthy church will be growing numerically. If your pastor makes you feel guilty for not inviting people to hear his amazing sermons, that’s unhealthy. But if your pastor never challenges you to invite your unbelieving friends to church, that’s an unhealthy sign too. There’s not a rigid formula here. But you’ll feel it if your church is too focused on numerical growth.
12. An Emphasis on Spiritual Growth
A healthy church knows that numerical growth will directly correspond to its existing members’ spiritual growth. If the current attenders of the church are totally apathetic towards inviting their friends to church, it’s probably because they don’t see the value their church is offering. But when someone feels like their church is really investing into their spiritual growth, they are going to be motivated to invite others to experience the same.
A healthy church doesn’t just want to take pictures of a full sanctuary on Sunday morning to post on social media. A healthy church wants to know its members are growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and one sign of spiritual growth will be numerical growth. These two are definitely connected for super healthy churches.
13. A Thoughtful Approach to the Use of Modern Tools, Techniques, and Technology
There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about overhead projectors, flannel graph, paneled walls, or orange carpet. And there’s nothing holy about HD quality projectors, intelligent lighting, and the latest tech. But a healthy church wants to use whatever will aid them in communicating the gospel most clearly to the people they’ve been commissioned to serve. If you live in a culture where technology is a part of the normal way of life, a healthy church will factor that into their strategy.
Some churches will feel it’s best to be simplistic because of the over-saturated technology driven culture in which it finds itself. Other churches will try to speak the language of the people they are trying to reach, which means they will speak the language of tech. A healthy church, however, will be thoughtful and intentional about how they use (or don’t use) every tool available to them.
An unhealthy church wants be cool for coolness sake. Usually they fail miserably and end up looking like a dad overreaching to connect with his teenage children through trying to be hip. An unhealthy church wants to be boring because it fears change. When you step into a church like this, it feels like you got time-warped backwards twenty years. A healthy church embraces what’s helpful, isn’t afraid to change with the times, and uses everything it can to best proclaim the unchanging truth of God’s word.
14. A Healthy Church Doesn’t Turn Everything Into a Silly Joke
A super healthy church will be full of people and leaders who don’t take themselves too seriously. But a super healthy church also attacks their mission of reaching the lost and growing God’s people with intensity, focus, and seriousness. A healthy church knows there’s no time to play church games.
On the flip side, if the people at church never take a break to play a game and fellowship, that’s not healthy either. Basketball, volleyball, and even board games have been used as olive branches, bringing in unreached people and connecting Christians through common interests. With that said, a healthy church will use fun for very serious reasons.
If the pastor gets on stage after a reverent song and cracks a silly joke, it probably means he’s uncomfortable with holiness. A healthy church is serious for all the right reasons and knows how to have fun for the right reasons too. An unhealthy church just wants to be silly so it can attract people and be liked. They want to be relevant for relevancy sake, not for redemption purposes.
15. Healthy Church Discipline Actually Happens
A healthy church tries to model itself after instructions given to New Testament churches. Throughout the Bible, God has instructed his leaders to lovingly correct and discipline the flock when they start to turn from him. If a church never disciplines anyone, it is a sign that it is afraid of the people, don’t really know what its people are doing, or it just doesn’t understand the role the church should have in a Christian’s life.
If a member of the church is sleeping around, getting drunk, being disrespectful, and never repents when they do blatant sins like these, it is the church’s job to lovingly discipline this person. The church should not be a sin-Nazi, but when a sin is clearly defined as such in the Bible and a member of the church is living in it, a healthy church loves this person by confronting them.
16. The Church Is Led By a Body of Elders, Not a Captivating Speaker
Americans love us some celebrities. Unfortunately celebrity culture often times makes its way into the church. But a healthy church is not run by an individual. The New Testament is very clear that a church should be led by a group of elders. While it’s not unhealthy for a church to experience growth through the gift of a captivating preacher, when this person is idolized it is only a matter of time before other signs of an unhealthy church will begin to emerge. This pastor will eventually crumble under the pressure, take too many liberties because of his feelings of entitlement, or the church will eventually reject him since all idols are revealed for what they are in due time.
A healthy church is not sustained through the personality and drive of one person. These unhealthy churches grow fast and die even faster.
17. Communion and Baptism Are Done Regularly
While communion and baptism may seem liturgical, these are clear commands in Scripture that are to be done by healthy churches. In fact, administrating these two biblical sacraments is one of the indicators of what makes a church a church (along with preaching, the fellowship of the saints, and church discipline).
Baptism is God’s way of publicly identifying his people. If a church doesn’t baptize people regularly, it either has limited converts or doesn’t value public declarations for Jesus – both of which are signs of an unhealthy church.
Communion is to be done as a way of regularly remembering the saving, cleansing, and regenerating work of Jesus Christ. When a church forgets about communion, a church will forget about what Christ has accomplished for her through the cross and resurrection. Communion is also a built in time for people to examine themselves before the Lord. A regular time of group confession and repentance of sin as a church is a very healthy sign.
18. Original Sin and Personal Sin Are Attacked From the Pulpit
When I say “attacked” I don’t mean people are shamed for their sin. A healthy church submits to the word of God, and the Bible says that all have been born with a sinful nature and that all sin on a regular bases. If the church never talks about the biblical solutions to the problems caused by both original sin and ongoing personal sin, it probably means the church is there to motivate you to embrace yourself, to believe in yourself, and to do other things that are unbiblical and rooted in a postmodern society.
If the church never paints a picture of how bad the situation has gotten, they will never be able to proclaim how bright the light of Christ really is. If you don’t understand the problem, you can’t possibly value the solution. And Jesus Christ is always the solution.
19. Financial Transparency and Integrity
A healthy church owns its financial decisions. Whether they pay their pastor above the congregational average or well below the average, a healthy church has no shame when it comes to its use of money. There are valid arguments on both sides when it comes to making public the pastor’s salary. I personally believe a church can be extremely financially transparent without putting a pastor and his family through uncomfortable situations most people never have to deal with.
This topic relates directly to having a group of elders. A healthy church makes financial decisions based upon a group of leaders who include the congregation’s support. An unhealthy church will be run by just one person who does whatever he wants. Every dollar should be accounted for in a healthy church, and members of the church should have a clear understanding of how tithe dollars are spent.
Each church will handle this differently, but if you ask about finances and your church gets mad at you, you are definitely at an unhealthy church. A healthy church delights to give an account for its use of money because it should be an easy checkmark, proving it indeed is a healthy church. If you’re getting the cold shoulder when you ask about money, that’s always an unhealthy sign.