We have a call to make sure our hearts are lined up with His. When they are Christ blesses us and our church. We have to be careful that our hearts are after His and not chasing evil or pride or self-willed desires that will get us in trouble. We have a Living God who cares and does not want us to wander off the path because he knows that out-of-bounds area is filled with dangers and ills that will make us sick or even die. It is not worth it when we can have His wonders instead. Sin is deceptive and seems OK to us, when in fact, it will seduce us only to destroy us. It is a bad boss who steals from us and never pays us; we work hard only to get further in debt and get sick doing so. So, why do it?
Research Conducted between 2003 and 2007:
· Churches that have at least 20% percent of their members in small groups or Bible studies are the healthiest.
· Churches that have under 15% of their members in small groups tend to be weak, such as few missionaries, little outreach, dull worship, and ineffective preaching; also, visitors are not welcomed or "do not feel the love."
· Churches that have under 10% of their members in small groups or Bible studies are struggling very much with a drop in membership, and the majority are just there for power and control; there is a lot of conflict, few youth, and little spiritual growth.
· Churches that have less than 5% of church participation in small groups, a discipleship program, or a Bible study are very unhealthy, even disease-ridden!
· Churches that have pastor(s) and leaders participating in a small group or a Bible study are very healthy-growing in mutual faith and usually in numbers too; there are strong missions, outreach, and youth programs! Churches where the pastor(s) and leaders are not in a Bible study or some kind of regular spiritual growth venture have congregations that are dying or are disease ridden! There are few effective youth programs or outreach, and visitors feel shunned.
· Churches where the main pastor has a very charismatic personality and does not teach tend to attract lots of people as compared to churches where the pastor is not charismatic or does not have a magnetic personality. But the magnetic pastors tend not to teach and their leaders do not participate in a small group or a Bible study, or if they do, there is little biblical instruction. These churches look good on the outside, but tend to be very unhealthy, growing in numbers but not in mutual faith. They do not have strong missions or outreach; new members (99.8%) come from other churches and their youth programs are just program shows with no youth discipleship, thus the youth do not come back!
· Churches where the main pastor has a charismatic personality and does teach tend to be healthy. The key to forming a healthy church is not the personality but whether the Person of Christ is lifted up and taught. Although a magnetic personality does significantly help bring in people, they will stay only if the congregation is hospitable and they can get connected. Several people in the church who have magnetic personalities can take up this slack when the pastor is not magnetic, but he shows the care of Christ and teaches with passion and in truth.
· Churches where the pastor(s) and leaders are not growing spiritually are not experiencing any kind of regular spiritual growth.
· Churches where the pastor(s) and leaders are growing spiritually are experiencing significant spiritual growth.Problems observed in unhealthy churches
· Churches that are healthy tend to be committed to discipleship and focused on the things that Jesus focused on.
· Unhealthy churches tend not to be committed to discipleship, and focus on things not focused on by Christ.
· The size of the church has no bearing on its health factor. Some of the most diseased ridden churches are 1,000 plus, and even bigger; some of the healthiest have small congregations under 200, even under 50.
· Unhealthy churches tend to be either overly scholarly, such as liberal, speak over their people's heads, or do the opposite and not teach doctrine at all, or teach it without the love and joy of Christ.
· Pentecostal churches tend to be anti-academic and discourage their pastors and leaders from pursuing higher education and/or fear those who are educated. But they have more faith and passion!
· Many mainline as well as conservative churches over-emphasize education and scholarship, and lack the compassion and passion that Pentecostals have… there must be a balance between good education and passion, and the effectual application of a pastor's and church's faith.
· Numbers do not indicate the health of a church! Many larger churches seem to be healthy on the outside, but most are not so on the inside! The key indicator is if Christ is preached with power, compassion, and in clarity and Truth.
· Churches that have a consumer-oriented mass-marketing approach and water down the gospel may draw more people, but they get "pew-sitters," people who are not involved, who are disgruntled, who have left another church, are just too busy to grow in the faith, or do not want to be convicted to grow deeper in the faith. The "bottom line" is that a church with a purpose on its sign but not in the life of its people does nothing for the Kingdom of God.
· Deep, biblical, theological interpretation and application have been supplemented by "feel good," sensory fulfillment and entertainment, creating empty hearts and minds that are not centered upon Christ as Lord.
· Churches that have just "sermonic sound-bites" such as flashy illustrations, plays, and power-point presentations (nothing wrong with these), along with no biblical teaching can attract more people, but again, create a full church with empty Christians with empty faith.
The more we learn of Christ, the more we can listen to Him and the more we can grow in Him. But, it takes the surrender of our being to His Ultimate Being; we must hear him so His presence is practiced and applied to our daily journey in life. This is what grows our faith, takes us through the stress and torments of life, and encourages and inspires others around us. The problem comes when we tend to only have ears for our plans and ideas or our circumstances, experiences, needs, and strategy, intentionally or unintentionally muting His voice and seeking to compromise our Lord's sovereignty over our personal lives. Remember; what He has for us is far greater and effectual than what we may have or have seen (Ezek. 1:28; 2:1; Phil. 3:1-14).
© 2008, Research from 2003- 2007, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/