More Ways to Spot a Healthy Church Tim Dinkins | Faith and values
The subject of healthy churches concerns all believers in Jesus Christ. The Christian does not exist independently of other believers. At a minimum, every Christian should come together with others to hear the preaching of the word of God, to pray and share the love of Christ, and to participate in fellowship and baptism. Accordingly, all churches must provide the opportunity for these things to happen. We would applaud churches that do these things, but if the church family is to be a healthy church, it will need to foster other areas of service to God as well.
This week I am continuing a series on the 9 marks of a healthy church. They are taken from the book of the same name by Pastor Mark Dever. Last week we looked at the need for: 1) exhibit preaching, 2) biblical theology, and 3) gospel. This week we will be looking at the next three marks of a healthy church: 1) conversion, 2) evangelism, and 3) church membership.
1. CONVERSION: Healthy churches must provide a clear teaching on conversion because if they don’t, the church will be full of those who have not understood what it means to be a committed disciple of Christ. Mark Dever explains the biblical teaching on conversion in terms of God making a dramatic change in someone’s life. Conversion is a work of God that brings someone to a place where they see the holiness of God and the reality of their sin. Every Christian must accept that God needs to change them by cleansing them of their sin and bringing them out of spiritual darkness into spiritual light. Dever emphasizes the description of Paul’s conversion in Ephesians 2: 8: “For by grace you have been saved by faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one can boast.
2. EVANGELIZATION: Evangelism is the hallmark of a healthy church because it is one of the primary means by which Jesus expects the church to pursue its final command to “Make disciples of all nations ”. (Matt. 28: 19-20). Mark Dever defines evangelism as a call to “proclaim … the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory of regeneration and conversion.” All believers should seek to share the good news with others, and they should do so with conviction, with a sense of urgency, with joy, with the Bible, and with prayer. A healthy church family will encourage its members to share the truth of scripture with others, and the church will provide training on how to do this.
3. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: Church membership is the hallmark of a healthy church because it demonstrates that people are committed to the local body of Christ and also helps church leadership oversee a specific group of people. Dever points out that the church is not a building. It is “a local group of people committed to Christ, to meet regularly and have his Word preached and obeyed, including Christ’s commandments to baptize and celebrate the Lord’s Supper”. If people make a commitment to join a church, it helps the health of the church, because it means the church is carefully considering who is admitted to join. This helps maintain the purity of the church and allows the church to eliminate anyone who is persistently opposed to living as God directs. Dever describes belonging to a church in a positive way as “the opportunity to embrace one another in responsibility and love”.
Before I finish this article, I want to let you know that I also wrote a brief review of the first day of the Weekender Church Conference I attended last week. It was a powerful experience that included a good deal of surprising moments and always long meetings (they warned us that we could stay up late the first night). You can read about the conference at christandcommonsense.com.