We’re very focused on physical health at the moment, and for good reason too, but when was the last time you checked the spiritual health of your church?
Mr Peter Mayrick, Co-Director of the Centre for Ministry Development, believes we should all stop and ask whether our church is as healthy as it could be. He helps churches assess how spiritually healthy they are and identify areas of improvement.
“A healthy church understands what church is, and seeks to express that in all they do,” he says. “A healthy church will align with the mission of Christ and will look for fruit to that extent. Are people growing in their love for Jesus and God? Is the kingdom growing?”
“A healthy church will align with the mission of Christ…”
Having strong and healthy churches is vital if we long to see God glorified and his kingdom grow. “God has entrusted his mission to his church,” says Mr Mayrick. “God has entrusted the job of reaching the nations to us and to each generation. We have an opportunity to serve him in this generation and to make sure the next generation can pass on [the faith] as well. There is no greater privilege than to be invited to serve the living God in his plans, which is to redeem the world in Christ.”
Sadly, it’s common for churches to slip from focusing on God’s mission and become inward looking. Mr Mayrick says we want to avoid becoming more like a country club, which happens when our efforts are focused on pleasing the members of the congregation rather than the Lord. “Does the church exist to satisfy members who pay for the service?” he asks.
Give your church a spiritual check up
Here are some simple indicators of spiritual health that every parishioner can look for.
1. The treatment of God’s word
“How do we treat God’s word?” Mr Mayrick asks. “Do we treat it well, with respect and authority?” The attitude to the Word of God and the authority of Scripture can reveal a lot about a church’s hearts.
2. The approach to prayer and thankfulness
“Do we recognise that we are praying to the Almighty? Do we only pray a laundry list of requests or do we crave that the kingdom would grow? Or crave that God would be honoured?” asks Mr Mayrick.
3. The inclusion of outsiders
“How many people are inviting friends to church? Are you comfortable inviting a friend here?” he asks. “A healthy church wants to see conversions. Whether they do or not is God’s work, but we want to see people coming to know Jesus. That protects us from being a country club in some ways.” In their experience, the Centre for Ministry Development notes that it only takes a small number of people (for example, five per cent of church members) to be actively welcoming for a church to become a welcoming church. A small number of intentional lay people make an extraordinary difference to helping visitors feel welcome.
4. The concern for spiritual growth
A healthy church cares how each person is growing. “A great question to ask is ‘What is God teaching you from his word?’ or ‘How are you growing in your faith?’,” says Mr Mayrick. “That would show they actually care for a person as a member of the body rather than just caring for them as a friend. Every person who is a disciple is called to be a discipler, to encourage people in their journey.”
5. The stewardship of resources
A church’s focus impacts how they use their time and resources. “We have to use our resources well,” Mr Mayrick says. “Not to be the best, but to do [God’s mission] well and be pleasing to him.”
My church seems sick - what can I do?
The actions of one person can go a long way in helping a church grow healthy and strong. “It’s amazing how infectious health is,” says Mr Mayrick. “When one is on fire for the Lord, I’ve seen whole growth groups change.”
Small actions can have a big impact. Begin by asking people about their faith. Seek to encourage others spiritually. Pray for one another. Cultivate thankfulness by asking how God has worked in their lives lately. When mingling after church resumes, be willing to spend time with visitors. Show care and love to people practically as well as spiritually.
Trying to initiate change is not always easy. It’s important your faith is firmly anchored. “I’m first a disciple before I’m a discipler. We know that burnout in ministry starts where people… become so busy that they stop their spiritual formation, their personal prayer and time in God’s word,” Mr Mayrick warns. “It’s so important that service is anchored in an understanding of why we’re serving. The last thing we want to do is overburden people and cause people to suffer because they’re overcommitted. We want to encourage wisdom as well as faithfulness.”
“When one is on fire for the Lord, I’ve seen whole growth groups change...”
“We are all part of the body, we all have a role, and it’s a privileged role at that,” says Mr Mayrick, drawing on passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. “An unhealthy church has a few people doing all of the work. Ephesians 4 encourages pastors to equip the saints for works of service. It doesn’t say we should put money in for the pastors to do all the work. I think it starts with us.”