Healthy Congregation

I enjoy being the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church. I love being able to share the good news of Jesus Christ. It is a blessing to be part of a community where God is building His kingdom, and I marvel at how we are being used by God to connect people to Jesus, to each other, and to opportunities to serve. I consistently witness the people of this congregation being gathered by God’s Word and in that Holy Word equipped to do great things in the name of Jesus.

I have been considering recently how to understand our health as a congregation. There have been several books written on the subject of congregation health and through these books I have found different ways congregation health is evaluated. Michael Dever has written a book about healthy congregations, and he comments, “A healthy church is less about a place that looks a certain way, and more about a people who love in the right way.”

Charles Swindoll, in “How to Recognize a Healthy Church,” points out that a healthy congregation is not just a way station for the sick, a town square for gathering everyone in celebration, a fire station with trucks prepared to douse the community’s problems, a family center raising children for busy parents, or a theater providing entertainment. All of these activities happen in some respect in a congregation. These activities are valuable, but they do not make a congregation healthy. A healthy congregation understands its primary purpose in reflecting the character of God.

We could evaluate if we are a healthy congregation through the lens of the Holy Trinity, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We exalt the work of our heavenly Father creating us each for unique purposes in this amazing world. We lift up in praise the work of Jesus Christ to rescue us with His own precious blood. We seek the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us through the Holy Word of God. As the Trinity reveals an internal relationship between the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity also reveals the outflowing nature of God towards the world. As a healthy congregation we need strong internal relationships, and we need to extend this joy to others.

Healthy Church 4Another author has used the themes of Acts 2:42 to evaluate the local congregation. Healthy congregations are communities of believers in Jesus Christ who are devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). As a healthy congregation we are listening to God’s Word. We are gathered together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We share in communion and prayer.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, has sought to move the scorecard for measuring healthy churches away from merely looking at “bodies, buildings, and budgets.” His suggestion is to look at how a church is making disciples. No matter what tool is used to evaluate our congregation health, I know that our relationship to Jesus Christ is central to any understanding of our health. This month I will distribute a survey for people in our congregation to fill out that will attempt to determine our congregation health in the areas of vibrant leadership, community, prayerful dependence, worship, relationships, and our mission mindset. Ed Stetzer has identified these areas to be important for churches to be transformational communities.

Assessments of church health can help us reveal where we are in areas that matter most. I know that I enjoy being the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church. I have confidence that the Holy Spirit is guiding us in our ministry. I also know that in a congregation problems can evade detection, and so occasionally we need to ask questions and seek honest answers.

If you receive a St. Paul Health Assessment Survey, please fill it out and provide honest answers.

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