Healthy Local Churches Focus on God
My last post focused upon the necessity for pastors to preach the full counsel of God’s Word and proclaim the truth for His glory. Today, I want to focus on the beauty of a local church centered upon God by specifically locking in on three biblical qualities which are found in healthy local congregations. First of all, strong churches maintain a powerful focus on God. Longing to know more of Him, they seek diligently for the Word. Look at the desire of David in Psalm 27:4:
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
This quality of passionately desiring to know more of God is indicative of a healthy believer. Mature Christians do not become complacent with their current spiritual diet. Instead, they long to go deeper, enjoying the heavier and deeper truths of God. 1 Peter 2:2 also touches on this particular truth:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation -1 Peter 2:2
Again we see this clear truth Christians must long to grow spiritually. They should long for the pure milk of the truth of God found in His Word. Applying this concept to the local church, a healthy body of believers will have a profound burning for the Word. If a local church focuses on hearing jokes and stories in a sermon, it is not a sign of health. A healthy church should long to grow up in the Lord, which means they will want doctrinally rich sermons which dive into the Bible. It is not that every sermon should sound like a seminary lecture, that is why the term sermon is used instead of lecture, but if a pastor is not preaching doctrinally, it is not a sermon he is delivering but a motivational speech. Solid congregations will be marked by congregants growing from newborn babes in Christ to maturity. There should be a constant progression that is visibly evident in the life of the saints.
Healthy Local Churches Love One Another
The Spiritual growth which takes place in the life of the church should also impact the way members treat one another and everyone else. Loving one another is a constant refrain in the New Testament epistles. For example, Romans 12:10 states:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
-Romans 12:10 (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, etc.)
It is very intriguing to note Paul literally asks the believers to outdo one another in how they treat each other. This point shows the depths of love which should exist in the local church. Believers should constantly strive to show greater love and affection with all purity towards the local church in Christ. All of this flows from a sound understanding of God’s truth and obedience to it. 1 Peter 1:22 states:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart -1 Peter 1:22
Because Christians have been saved by the truth of God, the Gospel, they seek obedience to all of His commands. The overflow of love in the Christian life is the result of God’s work in the person. Our love is founded in the fact He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Tying all these truths to the local church, love for one another must be a hallmark of a healthy congregation. Believers should be sacrificially giving of time, possessions, talents, and abilities for the benefit of others. The true preaching of God’s Word and the actuality of having truly converted members leads the saints to increasingly grow in this area because of Christ’s sanctifying work. If love is missing, or limited to a select few, then there is a strong chance either the preaching has gone astray or fake profession instead of true conversion is the issue, likely it is something of both. Joy in Christ should lead to love for others. It is a natural overflow of knowing the Lord that we would seek to serve our fellow brothers and sisters for whom He died. It is not only physical service, but spiritual. Older men and women investing in younger individuals should be a common occurrence. An eagerness to disciple other Christians will be seen in a healthy church.
Healthy Local Churches Practice Organic Evangelism
By “Organic Evangelism” I mean that members of a healthy local church increasingly grow in evangelistic activity simply as a normal occurrence. To be clear, I am not writing against organized evangelistic activities like street preaching (yay for Ray Comfort). However, what I am saying is that spiritual health should lead people to share the Gospel more and more naturally throughout their life. It should be something they find themselves doing because they have a passion for Christ and His Gospel. The co-workers of believers should be evangelistic encounters. Classmates who need Christ are prayed for, and opportunities to share the Gospel are taken. These actions happen organically as Christians mature. Once again, I am all for organized missions and evangelistic endeavors in the local church (i.e. Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts). Yet, many members of the local church will not be called to go overseas and plant the flag of the Gospel in an unreached people group’s location (they should support those who are). What they are called to do is to evangelize those around them and seek out opportunities to proclaim Christ’s truth. These actions should flow more and more as spiritual maturity increases. Proclaiming the Gospel is a call for every believer, and sharing the Gospel is something each church member must take the initiative to do in their life.
These are three marks of a healthy local church. Certainly, this list is in no way all-inclusive. What marks of the local church would you identify? Are there any aspects of the local church you would like for me to expand on at some point in the future? If so, shoot me a message and let me know!