I sure hope you were able to attend the revival services this past week. Brother Todd Stinnett, Pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church in Talbot, TN. did an outstanding job bring us God’s Word. He challenged us, the church with the words the Lord gave to the Churches of the Revelation. My heart was stirred and I have been revived. I hope you have been.
But the question remains, We had revival meetings now what? Well the answer is not to let the fires of revival fade. We need to look forward to the next steps of deeper faith and walk with our Lord. God has blessed us, so now we should live for Him.
In the coming two weeks we are going to share a brief series of sermons (2) on Chasing Light. I am looking forward to what the Lord has for us there. The pastors Pen for the next two weeks will have listening points and “Think About It” questions to ponder and discuss throughout your week.
Also we want to continue the thoughts Todd started in our heart this past week. We want to contrast briefly the characteristics of a Healthy Church vs a Unhealthy Church. I want to begin by sharing some insight from David Platt’s book “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.” Let’s look at some of these insights.
What are Platt’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church? 1. Expositional Preaching; 2. Biblical Theology; 3. The Gospel; 4. Biblical understanding of Conversion; 5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism; 6. Biblical understanding of Church Membership; 7. Biblical Church Discipline; 8. A Concern for Discipleship & Growth; and 9. Biblical Church Leadership. Though the list seems short, this is a tall order.
Perhaps never before has the church tried so hard to be relevant to a culture and become less relevant in doing so. Part of the problem is that too many writers are challenging us to be in the world to reach the world while our calling of God is to reach the world and not be of the world. I say, The church is not less relevant to our culture, our culture just treats it as such and the bible tells us this will be the case. “The love of many will wax cold.” “There shall be a great falling away.” By trying to reach the world by looking like the world we have compromised our calling and sacrificed our holiness to draw crowds at the expense of developing disciples. Postmodern America is awash with spirituality but not with authentic Christianity. And God’s call to change the direction is to the church. Let the reformation and transformation begin in the house of God.
It is astonishing that the apostle Paul describes the local congregation, gathering of Christians as the church of God, which was bought with His own blood. (Acts 20:28) This raises the stakes of church life, health and mission about as high as it can be. We are not dealing a man-made institution. We are dealing with a blood-bought body of people. I do not want human ideas here, I want what God’s Word says.
To my shame, I use to sleep through discussions of ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church. I would think to myself, “Does all this really matter?” Unfortunately, I don’t think I was alone. All around our world and culture, we as Christians are prone to cheapen the church in different ways. In our independence we ignore the church. We in our pragmatism pollute the church. Even in our mission, we will all the best intentions and in ignorance we minimize the church. And we far too often cheapen the church when we elevate our traditions over God’s truth and instruction. Much of how we do church today is based on how we have always done it instead of upon God’s Word.
We need to ask God what He values in His church not only because we desire his glory, but because we adore His Son and we treasure His Spirit.
As we look back at the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church let’s consider the Nine Marks of an Unhealthy Church. In one sense, the nine marks of an unhealthy church could simply be the opposite of all that makes for a healthy church, so that unhealthy churches ignore membership and discipline and expository preaching and all the rest. But the signs of church sickness are not always so obvious. It’s possible for your church to teach and understand all the right things and still be a terribly unhealthy place. No doubt, there are dozens of indicators that a church has become dysfunctional and diseased. But let’s limit ourselves to nine.
- The more peripheral the sermon topic, the more excited the people become.
- The church staff does not enjoy coming to work. Every job has its ups and downs. Every office will have tension from time to time. But lay leaders should take note when staff members seem sullen, unhappy and have to drag themselves to church every day. Do the members of your church staff like to be around each other? Do they ever talk to each other as friends in the fellowship hall? Do you ever see them laughing together?
- The pastor and his wife do not get along. I’m not talking about the regular tiffs and periodic tough times every couple endures. I’m talking about a marriage that has grown cold and loveless, a relationship that is perfunctory and lacking in passion. Let me put your minds at ease, this is not Becky and me. I love my wife more today than ever.
- Almost no one knows where the money goes. When it comes to finances, erring on the side of transparency is rarely a bad idea.
- The leadership team never changes or always changes. Both are warning signs. On the one hand, churches become ingrown when there is never any new blood among the leaders. If your elders, deacons, trustees, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, VBS coordinators and worship team members are the same now as they were during the Reagan administration, you have a problem.
- No one is ever raised up from the church for pastoral ministry or sent from the church into missionary service.
- There is a bottle neck in decision making. This may be the congregation’s fault. Some church members insist on approving every decision, from staff hiring to the time of the worship service to the proverbial color of the carpet. If everyone has to vote on every decision, your church will never be bigger than the number of people who can knowledgeably vote on every decision (which is pretty small).
- The preaching has become erratic. This may take on many forms. Maybe the pastor no longer shares the pulpit with other staff members and the occasional outside guest. Maybe the opposite is taking place and the pastor seems to be calling in the reserves more often than not. Maybe the preaching has become more vitriolic, or always hammers away at the same theme, or shows signs of little preparation. Maybe you’ve noticed that the preacher is relying more on video clips or prepackaged sermon outlines, or constantly reuses sermon material from a few years ago. No one wants the preaching to be dull. Some variation is to be expected and welcomed. But take a closer look if the preacher seems doctrinally unstable, irritable or exhausted.
- There are issues everyone knows about but no one talks about openly. Unhealthy churches often have one major unwritten rule: The person who mentions our problems is the one with the problem. To be sure, many matters should be dealt with privately and quietly, but this is no excuse for turning a blind eye to what everyone can plainly see. Naming what everyone knows is often the first step in robbing the problem of its crippling power.
Let’s continue to examine ourselves and continue to move toward health. Praise the Lord for the great things He did during our Revival Services.
In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,