Perhaps you’ve moved and are unfamiliar with the area. Or you could be a new Christian in need of a place to worship. Or maybe rather than look for a new church, you want to learn how to breathe new life into your present church. Whatever your situation, I want to help you distinguish a healthy church from one that’s not.
Churches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own personality. Of course, I can’t recommend one over the other because the best church for you is one that meets your needs while giving you the opportunity to meet the needs of others.
You’ll discover that some churches are way stations for the wounded; others are town squares, where a herald announces good tidings from the King. Some are hospitals for the sick; others are fire stations, whose trucks rush to douse the community’s problems. Some are family centers that provide a good environment for children; others are theaters, where music and drama are emphasized.
These activities are valuable and necessary, but they are not a church’s primary purpose, nor do they make it healthy. A healthy church is one that reflects six significant qualities — qualities you want to look for.
Before you set a foot out your door, though, I encourage you to ask God to lead you in your search. He desires your worship, especially as part of His body, and He will direct you to the right church for you.
A Healthy Church Glorifies God
Scripture says, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). To glorify God means to magnify, elevate, and draw attention to His radiance. This is the primary purpose of the church and of individual Christians.
Personally, we do this by inviting Him into every segment of our lives, by telling others of His greatness rather than grabbing His glory for ourselves, and by nurturing our relationships with Him. How can we make this happen? By meeting with Him often, admitting to others our struggles with pride, and continually asking ourselves, Will this bring glory to God or to me?
A church that feeds your desire to glorify God is a healthy church.
These people listened to the Word, and through communion and prayer, they interacted with each other and the Lord. When they met, intensity and full-hearted devotion blended with passionate commitment. The Father was exalted, the Son was lifted up, and the Spirit brought fresh expressions of freedom.
This should be a common experience whenever Christians gather, but, sadly, it isn’t always that way. Often, songs are sung, Scripture read, announcements made — yet worship is missing. To determine the health of a church’s worship, ask yourself, Does my soul soar into the presence of the Lord? Do I become lost in wonder and praise worthy of Him?
A church that opens the way for meaningful worship is a healthy church.
Teaching that remains theoretical, however, can breed indifference or arrogance. Also, preaching that fails to balance instruction with love and grace may reflect intolerance. And finally, when biblical knowledge becomes an end in itself, it brushes dangerously close to idolatry — worshiping the Bible above its Author, Jesus Christ.
So, look for worship and instruction coupled with compassionate application; this reveals a healthy church.
A person experiences true fellowship in two ways: when he or she shares something tangible with a person in need, and when he or she shares in something with someone — empathizing with a person’s sorrow or joy.
The healthy church is a community of believers who demonstrate genuine concern for each other.
Churches that reach out in a healthy way focus their church services on the growth of the believer, not on evangelizing the unbeliever. The church uses worship, instruction, and fellowship to equip Christians to then take the message of God’s love to the world. Healthy churches also refrain from using manipulation and coercion in evangelism. Instead, they encourage treating others with respect and dignity, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in His way and time.
A healthy church helps people appropriately express their faith where they live or work.
Whenever you find a church that glorifies the Godhead, fosters a spirit of devotion to the Lord, dispenses the Word of God along with relevant application, generates personal warmth, touches outsiders with the wonderful news of Jesus, and all with a contagious style, you have found a healthy church.
Then it’s time to decide which church personality is right for you. A family center? A way station for the wounded? A fire department poised to rush to the community’s needs? Remember, the best church for you is one that meets your needs while giving you the opportunity to meet the needs of others.
May your search result in a renewed commitment to the Lord as you become one of a truly healthy body of believers.
For further scriptural study regarding these six guidelines, please see Psalm 119:9–16, 97–104; John 4:23–24, 13:34–35; Acts 2; Romans 12; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; 10:17–18; Ephesians 1:22–23; 3:14–21; 1 Thessalonians 2:3–13; Hebrews 13:16.
Although Insight for Living cannot recommend a particular church, you may find Dallas Theological Seminary’s “find a church” Web page a helpful place to begin your search.
For more information and application about God’s purpose for the church, read: Charles R. Swindoll, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal (New York: FaithWords, 2010).
Copyright © 2010 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.