Written by graduate, Lucas Hattenberger
What should a person look for in a good and healthy church? This is a hard question to ask, and there are several things that one must consider in order to come to that conclusion. The first thing that one must have is a biblical understanding of what a church looks like. There are several things that Paul discusses in his letters about a biblical church. There is the familial aspect of the church, meaning the church should be a family. How do you feel when you go to a church? Do you see genuine relationships and people serving one another? That is the sign of a biblical church (cf. Philippians 2:1-10; Eph 4). Also a church should be welcoming to outsiders. All too often people do not feel welcomed when they visit a local church, and as a result they do not come back. Paul says that he becomes all things to all men in order to win them over for the sake of the gospel (cf. 1 Cor 9:19-23).
While looking for a family-centered church with a welcoming atmosphere is very important, many people look for those things over and above essential things that a church must have in order to be biblical. First and foremost, a biblical church is pastor/elder led. Paul, Peter and the rest of the apostles alike give ample evidence that a healthy church will be a church that is led by a plurality of elders (cf. 1 Tim 3, Acts 6:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-5, Titus 1:5-9). Why must there be many pastors? There must a plurality for several reasons. A pastor that works alone over a congregation will not receive the support that he needs to pastor effectively (cf. Acts 6:1-7). A plurality of pastors also allows accountability to be set into place that no man may exalt himself and shepherd in a domineering manner (1 Peter 5:3). A biblical ecclesiology is essential to a healthy church.
Another thing to look for is the preaching of the gospel. The souls of sheep do not need good advice, but rather good news. Grace-centered biblical teaching about the good news of Christ must be preached on a regular basis. Non-believers and believers alike need to encouragement of grace to shower over them every Sunday. Paul says in the beginning of the book of Romans that “he was eager to preach the gospel to those also who were in Rome” (italics added, Romans 1:15). Paul was eager to preach the gospel over a body of believers. Why would Paul want to do this? Paul knew that believers needed grace poured over them regularly to have a vibrant and ever-growing relationship with God (cf. Eph 3:14-21).
Lastly, in looking for a healthy church, one must understand that service is not an option. Too many people are focused on what they can receive rather than what they can give. People plug into churches that simply feed them, thinking that it is a healthy and biblical church. In the New Testament, a healthy church is encouraging and exhorting others to serve (cf. 1 Cor 12; Eph 4; Rom 12). A healthy church is one that pulls others in to serve and to give of their time, and not simply to receive. Do not enter a church asking, “What can I receive?”, but rather be asking “where can I serve?”. A church that does no encourage this is not thriving.
In closing, a healthy church is family-centered, has proper ecclesiology, preaches the gospel over its congregation, and encourages service. For more information and “marks” of a healthy church, click the link to read about the “9 Marks of a Healthy Church”. http://www.9marks.org/what-are-the-9marks/
2 Peter 1:2
Grace and Peace