Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Seven Marks of a Healthy Church

Continuing the exploration of healthy church - Robert Warren's excellent 'Healthy Churches Handbook' contains a number of helpful steps. I've used these headings to provoke discussion amongst leaders in various contexts over the years, also finding them personally useful in my own setting. Whilst Warren writes to provoke life in established Anglican churches that have lost their purpose, his challenge remains relevant and provocative for those of us who consider ourselves to be in more progressive movements.

Understanding Warren's primary target church audience means we are not going to import everything he suggests, but the thinking process involved in his seven 'marks' is well worthwhile. I will simply paraphrase his marks below without comment. As you reflect on your own context, you will find they speak for themselves and leave you making mental notes and adjustments. They may even send you running for the whiteboard with your leadership team! Perhaps I will comment in more details on specific steps in future blogs.

A healthy church demonstrates life and fruitfulness in each of these seven areas.

1/ A healthy church is energised by faith.
Not just keeping going or trying to survive. Expecting in worship for people to experience God's dynamic presence. Motivated by an energy to serve God and each other. Engaging honestly with the scriptures in creative ways that connect to real lives. Nurturing faith in Christ over time, which helps people to grow as well as share their own lives.

2/ A healthy church has an outward focus.
It carries a 'whole life' concern that is so much greater than just church life. Deeply rooted in the local community and working with other believing churches, even business and local networks. This will demonstrate a prophetic stance about peace and justice, connecting faith with regular, daily lives and responding to real needs with acts of compassionate service.

3/ A healthy church seeks to find out what God wants.
Discerning the Spirit's leading rather than trying to please everyone. Asking the questions, who has God called us to be. Developing and communicating a shared sense of where we are called to go, then setting deliberate mission centred goals which help us to get there. Enabling people to make sacrifices in order to bring about this change and living out our faith together.

4/ A healthy church faces the cost of change and growth.
Conversely, an unhealthy church resists change and fears failure. We can embrace the past, but dare to take on new ways of doing things. We are free to take risks when things have not been working, learning from experience, responding creatively to challenges which face the church. A healthy church makes change a positive experience, affirming and building on even small, incremental changes.

5/ A healthy church operates as a community.
We are not functioning as a club or a religious organisation. So relationships that cause people to feel accepted must be nurtured in small groups. Leadership works as a team to demonstrate community in decision making and establishing health and life. In this safe family context, volunteer ministry is valued, and all the gifts are given expression and room to grow.

6/ A healthy church makes room for all.
We are inclusive rather than exclusive. Welcoming to newcomers, from children and young people to adult enquirers. This welcome is evidenced by our deliberate plan to help people belong and to be nurtured in their faith. A healthy church must be diverse - Different social and ethnic backgrounds, mental and physical abilities, all ages - this diversity is seen as a strength.

7/ A healthy church does a few things and does them well.
We are focussed rather than frenetic. We seek to do the basics well such as our public worship, pastoral care, stewardship and administration. Our work and call is good news - So we enjoy what we are called to do, and we remain relaxed about what is not being done. We are clear and coherent in our activities, linking them back into our discovery in mark 3 of the unique calling that God has placed on us in our context.

6 comments:

  1. This post has made me very happy! Ive been saying some of these things for a while. Key points for me is doing a few things well! I would love to see CCC more connected with other churches in Crawley and support one another as brothers and sisters, and with this accept that others do things better than us and we do somethings better than them, lets focus on what we are good at and not try and replicate what other churches in cralwley do well! We are all have the same commission right - together we are stronger!

    The other is the need to be less inward looking, how can we at CCC be more outward focused? For me i feel the church should be looking at how we meet the needs of the communities we serve not the communities we create (make sense in my head)! Times are hard and gov spending cuts are massively effecting the lives of people in our community, look at the youth service for example, been cut double fold so that in crawley it is now so small and insignifcant its failing to meet needs of young people! CCC have a youth group that from all accounts is rocking, lets build on this to reach more young people. Move out of the comfort zone of 'rock solid fridays' and meet with non church kids, pick up where the gov have abandoned young people!

    Everyone i speak to at the moment is jumping on the Steve Alliston change train and its great! Looking forward to seeing CCC grow and develop in a great church that God has planned!

    (after reading this back it sounds like a bit of a rant - sorry about that LOL)

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  2. Hey Stuart, it's not a rant, it's a helpful response. Not so sure about the 'a Steve Alliston Change Train' part, but I appreciate the sentiment!! Pop in for a brew some time when you're not working, always happy to talk it all through some more.

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    1. Ha maybe i should say 'jumping on Gods plan for our church'

      Did you hear Dave Holdens preach on Monday morning at Ashburnham, was on a similar theme to this, worth a listen if not

      Love to pop in for a coffee (or a pint) at some point when my work calms down a bit

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  3. I think all these points are great and can be summed up in one word - VISION. I could take many words to unpack that, but essentially what I believe we need is a God led, people inspiring, church stretching, ministry enabling, mission focusing, faith filled vision. One that is specific, measurable and can only be accomplished with the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit. One that all ministries of the church own and together ensure that they are all working towards.

    I could go on, but I'll leave that for a more appropriate context.

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