12 CHARACTERISTICS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH
The following characteristics describe and help us plan for and train toward healthy churches.
Biblical EVANGELISM. People come into the church because they have heard the full biblical message of the gospel and have responded in repentance and faith. They then continue to share the gospel with the lost in a lifestyle of evangelism.
Biblical DISCIPLESHIP. Members of the church intentionally invest in one another’s lives to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ. This discipleship is characterized by transformed hearts, minds, affections, wills, relationships, and purpose, all in keeping with the word of God.
Biblical MEMBERSHIP. The members consist only of people who give credible evidence of repentance from sin, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who have been baptized as believers. Biblical church members are committed to one another, to assemble faithfully together with one another, and to be the body of Christ to one another.
Biblical LEADERSHIP. The Bible recognizes two types of leaders in the church: pastors/elders/overseers and deacons. In the New Testament, the words “pastor,” “elder,” and “overseer” are used interchangeably, and refer to the same office. The qualifications for these leaders are given in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9. They must be examples of faithful discipleship, and they must hold firmly to sound doctrine. They must be gifted by God to teach. According to Scripture, pastors/elders/overseers must be men. Scripture is clear that not everyone is gifted and called to teach and lead in the church, but all gifts are equally honorable and necessary to the church. The consistent pattern in the New Testament is for churches to have a plurality of pastors/ elders/overseers. Deacons are servants of the church whose qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8–13. They are chosen as needed to perform tasks, which free the pastors/ elders/overseers to devote themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer.
Biblical PREACHING AND TEACHING. Such teaching is central to the weekly gatherings of the church, and consists of the exposition and application of Scripture. The church regards the Bible as the supreme, controlling authority over all it believes and does, and faithful Bible teaching saturates the life of a healthy church. A healthy church holds to the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, sufficiency, and clarity of Scripture, and interprets each text of the Bible responsibly in context, according to the norms of grammatical/historical interpretation.
Biblical ORDINANCES of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is immersion in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and it is only administered to those who give credible evidence that they are born-again believers in Jesus Christ. All believers are expected to be baptized. A healthy church regularly celebrates the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the death of Jesus, as a visible sermon of the gospel, and in anticipation of His return.
Biblical WORSHIP. A healthy church offers to God worship that is acceptable to Him according to His word, with reverence, awe, and joy. It sings psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs whose content is saturated with biblical truth. Its worship includes the public reading of Scripture, the testimonies of God’s people, and prayer. As appropriate, it may also include corporate fasting. All of its worship aims to glorify God and edify His people.
Biblical FELLOWSHIP. Members of the church love each other, encourage one another, and build each other up. They care for one another, serve one another, and bear each other’s burdens. They are kind to one another and forgive each other. They teach, admonish, and exhort one another with the word of God. They stir one another up to love and good works. They are involved in one another’s lives and know each other well enough to be fruitfully involved in one another’s discipleship.
Biblical PRAYER. Members of the church pray both privately and corporately. In their prayers, they worship God, confess their sins, thank God for His blessings, intercede for others, and ask God to meet their own needs. A healthy church prays fervently and frequently.
Biblical ACCOUNTABILITY and DISCIPLINE. Members of the church hold one another accountable for their obedience to the word of God, and leaders of the church watch over the flock that has been entrusted to them. When necessary, the church exercises church discipline according to Scriptural instructions, always praying and laboring for restoration of the erring brother or sister.
Biblical GIVING. Members of the church give freely of their resources for the support of those who teach the word, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the advance of the gospel around the world. Healthy churches are financially self-sustaining or moving toward being financially self-sustaining. Experience has consistently shown that foreign financial subsidy damages the health of a church.
Biblical MISSION. Not only is the church organized to share the gospel and make disciples locally, but it is also organized and actively involved in taking the gospel to the nations. Members of a healthy church demonstrate the goodness of God in their works of mercy while declaring the gospel of Christ to the lost.