Anyone interested in seeing a church become spiritually healthy must aim at seeing that body increasingly become everything that God's Word calls a church to be. Mark Dever has helpfully defined a healthy church as one that "increasingly reflects God's character as his character has been revealed in his Word." The most important thing a local church can do is to fulfill its calling to be the church.
As the bride of Christ, the body of Christ and the house of God the church is to live in such a way that puts the goodness and greatness of the living God on display. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 3 when he describes the purpose of Gospel preaching as enabling the "manifold wisdom of God" to be put on display "by the church" (10). The way that Christ's people live together in covenanted devotion to their Lord and each other makes a statement to the watching world about the character of our God and Savior.
When a church is filled with unconverted or spiritually apathetic members, it lies about Jesus Christ. When it is marked by dissension and open immorality it misrepresents the the God who is three in one and holy, holy, holy. When it is self-consumed and unconcerned about the unconverted it projects a perverted picture of the God who sent His Son into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. When it is happily ignorant of Bible doctrine it sends false messages about the God of truth.
The pursuit of spiritual health will not allow such misrepresentations of the Lord to go unaddressed. The goal is to see Christ honored among His people as they become increasingly motivated and empowered by His gospel to live out His will on earth.
What does all this mean practically? Several things, chief among them being:
- To see the Word of God become preiminent and foundational to the life of the church. We should desire that our collective attitude in the church should be, "wherever the Scripture leads, we will go; whatever it teaches, we will believe...whatever the costs or the consequences."
- To see the membership reflect reality. It is tragically commonplace today for churches to have far more paper members than real ones. Our statistics lie. Here is a simple formula to use to help gauge the spiritual health of your church: If your membership exceeds your attendance then you have a problem. The more that it exceeds it, the greater the problem is. In Baptist life we have historically stated it like this: We believe in a regenerate church membership. A local church ought to reflect that belief.
- To see the worship gatherings of the church marked by God-centered, Gospel-saturated, passionate intensity where Jesus Christ is recognized as supremely glorious.
- To see the lives of the members marked by evangelistic compassion that results in intentional efforts to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
- To see a humble, servant-hearted commitment to minister after the pattern of Christ characterize the culture of the church.