What are two marks of a healthy church?
There are a plethora of voices across the church spectrum that speak to what a healthy church should look like. While no doubt many of these books, articles and blog posts all contain many helpful ideas, I think the book, Future Faith Churches, co-written by Don Posterski and Gary Nelson, is a great place to begin. Why? Because they keep it simple.
Without getting into a detailed review of this book, let me spell out what they say in a few lines.
First, this book is Canadian-based. The authors visited a number of congregations across the country representing different denominational and theological contexts. They looked for signs of health within these churches and summarized their findings using two simple categories.
Secondly, this book was initially published in 1997. I read this book in college and had the privilege to have two classes with Don in seminary. We looked at this book, among others, and reflected more on its findings. It continues to be extremely relevant.
What are the two things the authors found represent the healthiest congregations in Canada across denominational lines?
They were churches that were deeply personal and social.
Their ethos and core values, along with the ministries that filtered through these ideals, offered its members the opportunity to become actively engaged in the missional process.
No magic formulas that, if repeated, would cause a church to grow. Nothing of the sort. The authors were more concerned with health, not numerical growth.
In the end, whether the church was Catholic, mainline Protestant, or Evangelical, the congregations that teemed with good health all shared these two characteristics.
They loved God and they had compassion for people.
The authors categorized this as soul care and social care.
What can we learn from this?
First, keep it simple. The Jesus Creed, as Scot McKnight phrased it, is to love God and neighbour. When we look for ways to see this become a lived reality in each life, reflected in a collective spirituality (inner life) and social service (in a good Samaritan kind of way), good health will be the result.
Soul care and social care. The heart and mind coupled with concrete expressions in service to others. This reflects the emphasis of scripture, the Jesus Creed specifically, and it ought to permeate the church today.
What can you and I do to see this basic focus become the emphasis of our lives personally, as well as the focus of the congregations we call home?
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