Cultivating Church Health
Balancing the purposes of your church.
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Church health is the result of balance. Balance occurs when you have a strategy and a structure to fulfill what I believe are the five New Testament purposes for the church: worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. If you don't have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes of the church, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose the pastor feels most passionate about.
In evangelicalism, we tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear, "The key is seeker services." You go to another and "the key is small groups" or "discipleship" or "expository preaching." The fact is, they're all important. When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalanceit's unhealthy. It stunts a lot of churches.
To keep things balanced, four things must happen. You've got to move people into membership, build them up to maturity, train them for ministry, and send them out on their mission. We use a little baseball diamond to illustrate that. We've got a scorecard to evaluate progress. Just like when you go to a doctor and he checks all your vital signs, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I can measure how many more people are involved in ministry this month than last month.
How you accomplish those four objectives doesn't matter. Some will look at the rapid growth in our church and attribute it to Saddleback's unique style of ministry. People always overemphasize style because it's the first thing they notice. The only important issue regarding style is that it matches the people God has called you to reach. We've planted twenty-six daughter churches, and we gave the pastors of those congregations total freedom in matters of worship style and the materials they use. As long as you are bringing people to Christ, into the fellowship of his family, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, and sending them out in mission, I like the way you are doing ministry.
Health does not mean perfection. When a church focuses on evangelism, it brings in a lot of unhealthy people. My kids are healthy; they're not perfect. There will never be a perfect church this side of heaven because every church is filled with pagans, carnal Christians, and immature believers along with the mature ones.
I've read books that emphasize, "You've got to reinforce the purity of the church." But Jesus said, "Let the tares and the wheat grow together, and one day I'll sort them out." We're not in the sorting business. We're in the harvesting business. We do get a lot of unhealthy people at church because society is getting sicker. But Jesus demonstrated that ministering to hurting people was more important than maintaining purity. When you fish with a big net, you catch all kinds of fish.
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