Get your Church Healthy and Keep it That Way
Get Your Church Healthy and Keep it That Way
Did your church have its annual parish meeting recently? I always had ours the Sunday between the NFL Championship games and the Super Bowl because people wouldn’t be tempted to skip out for football. I mean who really cares about watching the Pro Bowl! Regardless of football schedules, many of our diocesan congregations have them around this time of year. It makes sense as annual meetings are a time to reflect on how things went last year, approve the budget for the new year, and generally think about and cast the vision for the church moving forward.
This is also often the time of year that many churches have Vestry Retreats where new members can be welcomed to the team and the new vestry and clergy can review and make goals for the new year.
As this is a good time of year to be reflecting on these matters, may I suggest that, as you do, part of your vision and goal setting include focusing on how to get and/or keep your church healthy? As you know, the church is the Body of Christ. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT), “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” The church is a body, not a business. It’s an organism, not just an organization. It’s the living body of Christ, and living things (if healthy) naturally grow as God designed them to. You can’t make a plant grow by telling it to grow. Rather, by keeping a plant healthy it naturally grows. Your local church will grow if you focus on, and keep focusing on over time, keeping it healthy.
So how can you focus on being healthy this year? By focusing on simply doing the things Jesus instructed the church to do. And, what did he tell the church to do? Although you can find the answers to that question throughout the Bible, like in the description of the first local church in Acts 2:42-47, Jesus was kind enough to summarize it for us in two key scriptures: The Great Commandment and The Great Commission.
The Great Commandment says,
And he said to him, ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)
The Great Commission says,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
In these two scriptures we find the five vital areas that every church must put into practice if it wants to be healthy and grow. We cannot just do them to check off a list. They have to be done in a balanced way so that they all work together. Now, here’s some good news: your church already does all five vital things in some ways! The problem is that often congregations focus on one or two of them and neglect the others. This is common but unhealthy, and unhealthy churches don’t grow. As I said, you must do all five well and in a balanced way. For example, in our diocese as well as across the ACNA, churches tend to be healthier in the areas of worship and fellowship and weaker in local evangelism and making mature disciples
In my full time role as Director of Anglican Revitalization Ministries of the American Anglican Council, I have described these vital areas using the acrostic VITAL. It makes it easy to remember them and that they are vitally important. They are:
Vision for Mission/Evangelism
(from The Great Commission) — “Go…”)
This means both personal evangelism and the church having a missional strategy to non-believers in your community.
(from the Great Commandment — “You shall love the Lord your God…”)
This means as you gather to express your love to God in worship, you do so keeping in mind how a non-believer visiting would experience every aspect of before, during, and after your worship service.
Transformation to Christlikeness [Discipleship]
(from the Great Commission) — “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
This means having a spiritual formation process in place that moves people from unchurched to a fully mature missional follower of Jesus. In other words, have a plan to “make disciples.”
Authentic Community [Fellowship]
(from the Great Commission — “baptizing them…”)
This means bringing people into a genuine “life on life” community of believers where they can both belong and be loved.
Lay Mobilzation [Ministry]
(from The Great Commandment — “You shall love your neighbor…”)
This means having a plan to help every member discover who God made them to be so they can fulfill what God made them to do for him and his Kingdom both in and outside of the church.
As I said, your church is already doing all five of these (except maybe Evangelism, which we are all at least talking about!). The question for now and this year is, how is our church doing in all five of these VITAL areas? Are we doing them all? If so, are we doing them well? If not, what can we do this year to address the areas we’ve been neglecting? Are our efforts in all five areas working together to see lives being transformed into Christlikeness?
I plan to start having regular articles in the Communiqué around these vital areas as well as general principles of church health and growth. Hopefully they are helpful to you. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like help getting and keeping your church healthy and growing, please check out www.churchrevive.org or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Luca Bravo on Unsplash.
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