Blog Archives

7 signs of a healthy church

ChurchHealthy

Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers

Outreach magazine publishes a list of the 100 largest churches in America and the 100 fastest-growing churches in America.

But when we read about the church in the New Testament, we don’t read Paul reporting to the church that when he left Ephesus they were running 200 in Sunday worship. Instead of talking about numerical growth, he emphasizes spiritual growth. So why don’t we?

Instead of so much emphasis on church growth, we should talk about church health. So what makes a church healthy, anyway? Paul gives us a full description in Ephesians 4:11-16.

1. Leaders who equip

“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11, HCSB)

Healthy churches have leaders who equip their members.
In this verse, the last two leadership gifts are indispensable to local church health. In Greek, the terms go together, “pastor-teacher.”

Pastors (translated “shepherds” in the ESV) bring guidance and comfort to the flock of God.

Teachers instruct the church in correct understanding of the Bible and Christian living.

Notice in verse 12 that these leaders have the purpose of training, or equipping, the church to do their work.

If a church is going to be healthy, it must have a pastor/teacher who is feeding the congregation God’s Word on a consistent basis.

2. Members who serve

“… for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12, HCSB)

Healthy churches have members who serve. Churches that grow rapidly from sensational entertainment often burst like a balloon and wither away. But when members serve, they reproduce healthy growth.

The “saints” are all the believers. “Saint” means a “holy one,” and every believer is called to be holy and set aside for God’s service.

It says the saints are trained by the leaders so that the saints can do the work of the ministry. So all members are called to serve.

3. Unity in the faith

“… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son…” (Ephesians 4:13a, HCSB)

Healthy churches are united. Unhealthy churches are divided. Notice the two ways he says we are to be united: by doctrinal faith (“in the faith”) and by personal faith (“and in the knowledge of God’s Son”).

Remember the lesson from Noah’s Ark. It may stink sometimes, but we have to stay together, because we’re all in the same boat!

4. Growth measured by Christ-likeness

“… growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (Ephesians 4:13b, HCSB)

Too often, churches measure themselves by numerical growth. And it is true that healthy churches should have numerical growth. However, there are churches that have numerical growth but they are not healthy. A tumor can grow, but it isn’t healthy. And some churches explode and then die down. Others grow and grow in numbers, but they are attracting people for entertainment or because their standards are lax, and people are not being discipled.

Notice that verse 13 gives the correct measurement of real growth: “a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” That is our measurement of growth: are we like Christ? If our budget grows but we spend our budget on a bowling alley for church members instead of helping the hurting and sharing the gospel, we may be growing in numbers but not in Christ-likeness.

Healthy churches measure growth by being more like Christ.

5. Teaching that provides stability

“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 5:14, HCSB)

Another great sign of a healthy church is that the Bible is so consistently taught, that the members aren’t tricked by heresy and false teaching.

Years ago, a powerful wind storm blew an oak tree on the youth building of the church where I was pastor. The tree had shallow roots, and when the winds came, it fell. A healthy church that teaches the Bible is like a healthy tree with deep roots. It doesn’t fall under the pressure of false teaching.

6. Honest and loving relationships

“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head– Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, HCSB)

Healthy churches have honest and loving relationships. “Speaking the truth in love” means that we are honest with each other, we speak the truth, but we are also loving when we do it. We don’t just try to please each other. If something’s wrong, we deal with it, but we always seek to deal with it in love. That’s challenging, but it’s vital to having a healthy church.

7. An environment that encourages involvement

“From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:16, HCSB)

Healthy churches create an environment that encourages involvement. “From Him (Jesus) the whole body, fitted and knit together… promotes the growth of the body…”

Many people think that it doesn’t matter if they are involved in the church or not, that the church won’t miss them if they are gone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A healthy church is a church where misfits can fit in. A healthy church is a place where the displaced can find a place.
This world is in desperate need of healthy churches in every community. Christian, are you allowing God’s Spirit to work through you to make and keep your church healthy?

Advertisements

What do you do after Christmas?

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

ChristmasTreeRecycle

What do you do after Christmas? What happens after you take down the tree, put up the lights, and put away all the wrapping? You do as the shepherds and Mary did: promulgate, meditate and celebrate!
1. PROMULGATE. In a previous century, they called missionary-sending organizations a Society for the Promulgation of the Gospel. In this century, the need is as great as ever to spread the good news. “After seeing them, they reported the message… about this child” (Luke 2:17). Ask somebody how their Christmas went, and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you to know Christ as your Savior.
2. MEDITATE. “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” (Luke 2:18). Spend some time quietly reflecting on the miracle of the Virgin Birth, and the Incarnation, God coming in flesh.
3. CELEBRATE.  “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.” (Luke 2:19). You probably went to church before Christmas. Sadly, the Sunday after Christmas is often one of the lowest in attendance of the year at many churches. But the shepherds rejoiced and worshiped AFTER the birth of Christ. So should we.

Guest blog: “Lunch Encounters of a Spiritual Kind”

SherriHall(The guest blog below is a touching story with a practical lesson for believers, written by Biblical Counselor Sherri Edenfield Hall, from Macon, Georgia. You may email her at sj.hall77@gmail.com.)

Her name is Sabrina. I don’t even know her last name. My two children and I were enjoying lunch at a local restaurant, when this attractive, beautifully dressed woman of color entered with her little girl.

Something more than her appearance struck me. Her girl (perhaps 3 years old) tried desperately to capture her mother’s attention, but to no avail. “Something is wrong with this picture,” I thought.

Understanding suffering helps to identify it, perhaps. I recognize it well. So, I began to pray for an opportunity to speak with this lady, whose daughter was now twirling down the aisle in a ruffled dress.

We finished lunch. The kids took my keys and headed to the van to read. My plan was to initiate conversation with this new friend who had spoken to me when I went to the counter. She liked my “Fruit of the Spirit” bracelet. I thanked her, and began to listen to her story.

I learned that Sabrina had flown back home to Georgia for a funeral that very day. One of her parents died years ago. Now the other was gone, too. Then she said, “Two weeks ago, I buried my husband. He committed suicide.”

There was a long silence. Sabrina motioned toward her precious little girl and continued, “She doesn’t even know her daddy’s gone.”

We sat there for what seemed an eternity, saying nothing.

For years I have shared my faith in Christ, and knew countless methods by which to do so. At that moment I felt compelled to simply tell my story.

Although very different, our stories had one thing in common. We both realized that sometimes life comes at you. Before you can catch your breath, the wind is knocked out of you.

Sabrina wanted to hear. So, I shared wave after wave of painful events I experienced as a young person. That was the hard part. Then, I was able to share the good news!

One night in my apartment in Athens, Georgia, I gave my life (and all my hurt) to the Lord. A poem called “Surrender” in a Home Life magazine riveted my heart. Immediately, it was as if my Heavenly Father whispered, “Baby girl, I know all your hurts. You are trying to be strong. Just give up. Rely on Me. Surrender everything to Me.”

The flood gates opened! I got on my knees. I gave Christ control of my life. Running from God was wearing me out, anyway! No longer desiring to lead my own life and make poor decisions, I surrendered my past, present, and future to Christ in a radical abandonment of self.

I told Sabrina that although I knew nothing about living the exchanged life with Christ, as Galatians 2:20 offers, this is exactly what occurred. I have never been the same! There was an unexplainable freedom and joy. Christ overwhelmed me with His love and peace.

I will never forget the hopelessness in her eyes when she asked, “What does it mean to surrender?” I told her about God’s love for us through Christ’s death on the cross and His power over death in His resurrection. To my amazement, I found myself offering my treasured bracelet to Sabrina. Tears filled her eyes as we parted ways.

Sabrina’s question haunted me for days. “What does it mean to surrender?” At that time, I only understood what it meant to me personally. It was a radical abandonment of self to Christ. As I searched Scripture, words like “submit,” “yield,” and “offer up” ourselves took on deeper meaning. Ultimately, surrender is the posture of our heart humbled before Christ’s Lordship.

Because Sabrina was experiencing complicated grief, and was still somewhat in shock, I did not expect her to make a decision to follow Christ immediately. I did, however, envision that she would benefit greatly from our divinely-orchestrated conversation later in her journey.

Although there are many benefits to a “Surrendered life” to Christ, three obvious benefits are:

Healing Begins – We literally change focus from self to Christ, and He sets us free! John Piper says, “The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center. We are all starved for the glory of God, not self.”

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB) encourages to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God… casting all your anxiety (cares) upon Him, because He cares for you.”

In the gospel, we “see and savor the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). This kind of “seeing” is literally the healing of our disordered lives.

Maximizes Study of God’s Word – The attitude and posture of our hearts, a “yieldedness” to Christ through faith, increases our receptivity of God’s Word. When our hearts are receptive, we gain clearer understanding.

In Romans 12: 1-2, we are encouraged to “Offer yourselves to God” first, that we may be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

Overcomes Deceptive Thinking – Truth always trumps deceptive thinking. Jesus, in fact, defines reality! For years I have had a front row seat in the counseling office to witness the truth of God’s Word (when applied to receptive hearts) expose and overcome deceptive thinking.

Submission is a protection against deception. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NASB).

Christ transforms people by exposing the blind spots and disconnects in our lives and relationships. Our goal is not to overcome our issues necessarily, but rather to engage them with a growing knowledge of Christ. It begins by bowing to Christ’s Lordship.

Although we may never meet again here on this earth, I hope to see Sabrina again one day! She’ll probably be wearing the bracelet I gave, or should I say, that I “surrendered,” to her.

Question: How would you have answered Sabrina’s question, “What does it mean to surrender?” Do you remember your own radical abandonment of “self” to Christ’s Lordship?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Sherri Edenfield Hall is a Biblical Counselor with Creative Counseling Solutions for Women, and Inspirational Speaker, who resides in Macon, GA. To inquire for speaking engagements, please email her at sj.hall77@gmail.com.)

Ten Secrets to Successful Missions

Copyright 2013 by Bob RogersEarth boy

Luke 10:1-20 records that Jesus sent out 70 people to go on a mission trip, going in pairs to towns and villages where He was about to go. Apparently it was very successful, because we read in verse 17, “The Seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” And Jesus replied in verse 18, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash.”

What made their mission so successful? And how can our mission work and the missionaries we pray for discover the same power in their ministry?

This passages gives us ten secrets to successful missions. Here they are. Open your Bible to Luke 10, and notice these ten truths:

1. Multiplication. (v. 1) Use everybody, not just professional clergy. The Lord commissioned the 12 apostles in Luke 9:1-6, but here he sends out 70. Multiply your ministry. Use volunteers.

2. Teamwork (v. 1) He sent them in pairs, not alone. We can be so much more effective by working together, and it is a testimony to our unity in Christ to work in teams. Southern Baptists believe in the Cooperative Program as an excellent strategy, as thousands of churches pool their resources to support missionaries.

3. Prayer (v. 2) Before sending them out, He told them to pray for workers for the harvest. When Jerry Rankin was president of the International Mission Board, he spoke at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly and mentioned that the IMB has recently appointed our first missionary to serve openly in Albania. After the service, a woman came up to Dr. Rankin, crying. When she gained her composure, she said that seven years before, she had read that Albania was the most atheistic country in the world, and she called the IMB to ask what we were doing there, only to learn that Albania was completely closed to missionaries. So she went back to her ladies’ group in her church, and asked them to pray for Albania. “For seven years we have been praying for Albania!” she wept, and Dr. Rankin wept tears of joy with her. (Jerry Rankin, To the Ends of the Earth, p. 57-58)

4. Expect opposition (“like lambs among wolves”). (v. 3) A Christian pastor took a group of school children whom he was teaching, for a walk. The Secret Police dogged them at first, but when they went into a zoo, they left them alone. He led them to a lion’s cage and gathered them around so he could speak quietly. He said, “Your forefathers in the Christian faith were thrown to wild beasts like these. They died gladly, because they believed in Jesus. The time may come when you also will be imprisoned, and suffer for being a Christian. Now you must decide whether you are ready to face that day. With tears in their eyes, each in turn said, ‘yes.’ It was the last class he taught before he had to leave his country. (Richard Wurmbrand, God’s Underground. Cited in “The Last Class,” The Voice of the Martyrs, February 2013.)

5. Commitment (v. 4, 7-8) If you care too much about your personal comfort (“money-bag, traveling bag,” “eating what they offer,”) you will become discouraged. If you care too much for sightseeing and socializing (“don’t greet anyone along the road”), you will lose your focus. When William Carey arrived in India, his wife was sick, he face financial hardship, and he was so lonely that he wrote in his journal, “O that I had … an earthly friend to whom I could unbosom my soul!” (Mary Drewery, William Carey, p. 74.) Andrew Baldwin, who ministers to an unreached people group in London, England, says, “This also emphasizes the need to move out in faith and in total dependence on God. Some people insist on having everything in place and being totally prepared – preparation is good, but as the leader who first recruited me to Turkey wisely said, if we waited till we felt completely ready, we’d never go!”

6. Look for a person of peace (v. 5-6). “Shalom” means more than just peace; it means wholeness and health. A person of peace was a person who fully receives the missionary. This is a person living in the culture you are reaching, who welcomes you, receives the message, and can be a bridge between you and your target culture. When Lottie Moon was serving in China, she learned of a village ten miles from where she was, that was open to the gospel. There lived a man named Dan Ho-bang. He had heard from another missionary that Jesus could remove sins from people. Then he learned that Lottie Moon was teaching about Jesus. Mr. Dan sent three people to invite Miss Moon to preach the way of Jesus in his home. She went, and great crowds of people came to the home to listen to the gospel. It became possible, because of Mr. Dan, a man of peace. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 171)

7. Show and tell the gospel (v. 9) In other words, meet their physical needs and also their spiritual needs– by sharing the gospel. While we always have the authority to share the gospel, often they are more receptive to hearing it when we show that we love them in a practical way. But beware: don’t use service or meeting physical needs as an excuse to not share the gospel. James Harvey, who ministers to an unreached people in Nashville, Tennessee, says, “I spent four years of our work among K-people ‘earning the right’ to share the gospel, and I was wrong to do that, because waiting to share the gospel can end up hurting or killing the relationship. It is so much better to begin a relationship with lost people by sharing the gospel with them and starting your friendship on an openness about spiritual conversations and pursuing divine TRUTH together. We are beginning to see fruit through miraculous healings, power encounters, and bold evangelism in the K-community. I have not seen a single Muslim convert become Christian through the servant evangelism movement.” Servant evangelism alone is not a substitute for preaching. Harvey goes on to say, “people use it as an excuse to be lazy and non-strategic in declaring the gospel message up front with people in their first meeting/encounter, whether it’s a waitress at a lunch meeting, a wordly relative at a family reunion, or a lost co-worker they pass by every day.”

8. Don’t take rejection personally (v. 10-12). If they reject you, they are actually rejecting Jesus, not you. You’re only accountable for sharing the gospel; you are not accountable for their response. When Lottie Moon first went to China, the Chinese called her a “devil woman” because she was a foreigner. She patiently responded, “Do not curse me. I am a human like you.” It took time for them to even accept her. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 158.)

9. Celebrate spiritual victories. (v. 17-19) When the 70 returned with joy that the demons submitted, Jesus rejoiced with them that Satan was being defeated. Whether you experience small victories, such as a person listening to the gospel, or great victories, such as a person coming to faith in Jesus, it is always reason to celebrate God’s work.

10. Find your greatest satisfaction in your own salvation (v. 20) Jesus reminded them that the greatest rejoicing was that their own names are written in the Book of Life. If you have been obedient to your call to be on mission, you will always be successful, no matter what numerical results you see in your lifetime.

A famous artist was asked to paint a picture of a dying church. One would expect that he would paint a small congregation in a dilapidated building. Instead, he painted a beautiful edifice with a rich pulpit and magnificent stained glass windows—and near the door, an offering box marked “Missions,” with the contribution slot covered with cobwebs. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, p. 378.)

It’s very true. If the church of Jesus neglects mission, the church will die, for the heart of Christ is a heart for missions. But if a church will follow the words of Christ for missions listed here in Luke 10, that church will be alive.

Which kind of church will we be? What kind of missionary will you be?

Why Men Hate Going to Church

It has always concerned me that there are more women than men in church, which is why I was eager to read Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow.

Murrow says that men like challenge and taking risks, but Christians have made church a place of nurturing and building relationships.

Murrow says that there are three gender gaps in the church: the gap of presence, the gap of participation, and the gap of personality.

The Gap of Presence: He says that in the USA, 61% of the church attendees are women, but only 39% are men. This trend is also found in other nations around the world. Interestingly, nondenominational churches had the smallest gap, while the biggest gap was found in Episcopal Churches.

The Gap of Participation: He says that women are 57% more likely to participate in Sunday School, and 33% more likely to volunteer for a church than men. Christian book sales are 75% to women, and the Christian radio audience is 63% female.

The Gap of Personality: He says that while 62% of the general population has a passive personality, 85% of Christians have passive personalities. There are greater numbers of artistic and homosexual men in church than the general population, but lower numbers of what he calls “risk takers, fun lovers and dangerous men.”

After I read this book a few years ago, I asked readers on a previous blog to tell me why they thought fewer men went to church. I received over 100 comments in one week! Here are the top reasons they gave:

1) Failure to let men lead. This may be controversial, but it was the most-often mentioned reason, both from men and women who commented. Many blamed women who would not let men be leaders in church. Others, especially men, blamed the men for not taking their leadership role.

2) Overemphasis on relationships. Women are social beings who cherish relationships; men not so much. It is interesting that this was the most common answer given by women who shared why their husbands did not come, but it was also mentioned by several men. Telling men they need a “personal relationship” with Jesus and “fall in love with Jesus” does not appeal to men as much as it does to women.

3) Overemphasis on sensitivity. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and “sharing what’s on your heart” may make a man feel like he is stripped of his masculinity.

4) Not enough action. Most men want to be active; they don’t want to just sit and listen to a long sermon. They want to do things. David Murrow says, “men learn side by side, women learn face to face.” That’s why he recommends women have a conference to learn together, but men go fishing or hiking or build something together.

5) Men lack spirituality. Several who gave comments, mostly men, seem to blame men for lacking spirituality.

6) Need a challenge. This answer came almost exclusively from men. Several men mentioned that men need to be challenged.

7) Music is too feminine. This was another answer given by men themselves. They feel that too many songs are about “loving Jesus” in ways that are very feminine and the lyrics are words men would never say to another man.

So what do you think? Leave me a comment and join the conversation.

What is a healthy church?

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Recently, Outreach magazine published its list of the 100 largest churches in America and the 100 fastest-growing churches in America.

But when we read about the church in the New Testament, we do not find a list of fastest-growing churches. Not many numerical reports are even given, other than the 3,000 baptized at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and the fact that the number had grown to 5,000 a little while later (Acts 4:4). After that, numbers are rarely given. We don’t read Paul reporting to the church that when he left Ephesus they were running 200 in Sunday worship. Instead of talking about numerical growth, he emphasizes spiritual growth. So why don’t we?

It’s time to change our terminology. Instead of so much emphasis on church growth, we should talk about church health. So what makes a church healthy, anyway? Paul gives us a full description in Ephesians 4:11-16.

1. Leaders who equip

“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11, HCSB)

Healthy churches have leaders who equip their members. The best test of the leader is that he has followers who learn from his teaching and example. Healthy churches have leadership that inspires the overall congregation to follow Christ and serve their community.
In this verse, the last two leadership gifts are indispensable to local church health. In Greek, the terms go together, “pastor-teacher.”

Pastors (translated “shepherds” in the ESV) bring guidance and comfort to the flock of God.

Teachers instruct the church in correct understanding of the Bible and Christian living.

Notice in verse 12 that these leaders have the purpose of training, or equipping, the church to do their work.

If a church is going to be healthy, it must have a pastor/teacher who is feeding the congregation God’s Word on a consistent basis.

2. Members who serve

“… for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12, HCSB)

Healthy churches have members who serve. Don’t join this church to sit back and be entertained. If that’s what you are looking for, please go somewhere else. We need members who serve.

The “saints” are all the believers. “Saint” means a “holy one,” and every believer is called to be holy and set aside for God’s service.

It says the saints are trained by the leaders so that the saints can do the work of the ministry. So all members are called to serve.
Rick Warren asks, “If you are not involved in service or ministry, what excuse have you been using?
Abraham was old; Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive; Joseph was abused; Moses stuttered. Gideon was poor; Samson was codependent; Rahab was immoral; David had an affair; Elijah was suicidal; Jeremiah was depressed; Jonah was reluctant; Naomi was a widow. John the Baptist was eccentric; Peter was impulsive; Martha worried a lot; the Samaritan woman had five failed marriages; Zacchaeus was unpopular; Thomas had doubts; Paul had poor health; and Timothy was timid. God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.” (Rick Warren’s Daily Devotional, Day 357)

Healthy churches have members who serve.

3. Unity in the faith

“… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son…” (Ephesians 4:13a, HCSB)

Healthy churches are united. Unhealthy churches are divided. Notice the two ways he says we are to be united: by doctrinal faith (“in the faith”) and by personal faith (“and in the knowledge of God’s Son”). I heard about a pastor who was called to a church with only 51% voting in favor of his call. A year later, they fired him. It was a unanimous. The pastor said, “I finally united the church.” Of course, that’s not the way we want to unify the church, but the church does need to be united.

Remember the lesson from Noah’s Ark. It may stink sometimes, but we have to stay together, because we’re all in the same boat!

4. Growth measured by Christ-likeness

“… growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (Ephesians 4:13b, HCSB)

Too often, churches measure themselves by numerical growth. And it is true that healthy churches should have numerical growth. However, there are churches that have numerical growth but they are not healthy. A tumor can grow, but it isn’t healthy. And some churches explode and then die down. Others grow and grow in numbers, but they are attracting people for entertainment or because their standards are lax, and people are not being discipled.

Imagine a church board meeting with Jesus. Pete calls the meeting to order, and says, “Jesus, we’ve been following you around for some time, and we are getting concerned about the attendance figures. Tom, how many were on the hill yesterday?”

Tom answers, “Thirty-seven.”

Pete says, “It’s getting ridiculous. You’re going to have to pep things up.”

John says, “I’d like to suggest you pull off more miracles, but more people need to see it so our crowds will get bigger.”

Pete agrees, and adds, “Publicity is essential, and you tell half the people you cure to keep it quiet. Let the word get around.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Judas adds, “I’d like tos ay that if we are going to continue to meet in this upper room, we ought to do something about the carpet…” (Adapted from Richard K. Wallarab, Christianity Today, January 17, 1979.)

Notice that verse 13 gives the correct measurement of real growth: “a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” That is our measurement of growth: are we like Christ? If our budget grows but we spend our budget on a bowling alley for church members instead of helping the hurting and sharing the gospel, we may be growing in numbers but not in Christ-likeness.

Healthy churches measure growth by being more like Christ.

5. Teaching that provides stability

“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 5:14, HCSB)

Another great sign of a healthy church is that the Bible is so consistently taught, that the members aren’t tricked by heresy and false teaching. If some clever teacher comes into the church and tries to lead people astray, a healthy church recognizes it right away and puts a stop to it.

A decade ago, we had a powerful wind storm blow an oak tree on our youth building. The tree had shallow roots, and when the winds came, it fell. A healthy church that teaches the Bible is like a healthy tree with deep roots. It doesn’t fall under the pressure of false teaching.

6. Honest and loving relationships

“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head– Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, HCSB)

Healthy churches have honest and loving relationships. “Speaking the truth in love” means that we are honest with each other, we speak the truth, but we are also loving when we do it. We don’t just try to please each other. If something’s wrong, we deal with it, but we always seek to deal with it in love. That’s challenging, but it’s vital to having a healthy church.

Years ago, The Betty Ford Story aired on television. It was a movie that told the story of the addiction and recovery of Betty Ford, the wife of President Gerald Ford. At one point in the film, there is an emotional scene where the family is sitting together confronting Betty Ford. Her son says, “Mother, you are destroying yourself; you are destroying this family, and you are killing yourself. Mother, you are a drunk; you are an addict.” His mother was infuriated. She told her son he was being very disrespectful and said, “How can you say these things to me? I am your mother!” Her son said, “Mother, I can say it because it is the truth.” As hard as it was, this confrontation was the catalyst for the establishment of the Betty Ford Clinic. (Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations, p. 333-334)

A healthy church is a place where people speak the truth in love. Relationships are honest and loving. We don’t play games or try to please people, but we go out of our way to love people.

7. An environment that encourages involvement

“From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:16, HCSB)

Healthy churches create an environment that encourages involvement. “From Him (Jesus) the whole body, fitted and knit together… promotes the growth of the body…”

Many people think that it doesn’t matter if they are involved in the church or not, that the church won’t miss them if they are gone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into flight. The whole nation was shocked. An investigation revealed that it happened because of one inexpensive O-ring. There were one million components in the space shuttle, but that one part destroyed the whole. Like the seemingly insignificant O-ring, one person failing to take his place in the church keeps the whole from being healthy. (Richard Swenson, Margin, 1992, p. 48)

A healthy church is a church where misfits can fit in. A healthy church is a place where the displaced can find a place.
This world is in desperate need of healthy churches in every community. Christian, are you allowing God’s Spirit to work through you to make and keep your church healthy?

The Blind Men and the Elephant – Revisited

 (Adapted from “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” by John Godfrey Saxe. Last two stanzas Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers.)

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,-
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL,

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

BUT WAIT!

Doth this mean ‘tis bigotry
To say one animal we see?
For a blind man simply can’t
Comprehend an elephant
But now let a once-blind man
Give light to our friends of Indostan

The blind men used their feelings to find
A wall, snake, tree, fan, rope and spear.
But let the blind open their eyes
And they will see a truth for all to hear.
There’s just one beast (and likewise, one God)
Who welcomes any who will come near.

The tale of two church cats

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

This is the story of two different cats that tried to get into two different churches in the dead of winter. The first cat was in south Georgia. The second cat was in North Carolina.
The Georgia pastor worried about the cat that he had often seen hanging around the church grounds. It was an unusually cold night from south Georgia, well below freezing, and the pastor feared that the cat might not survive. He went to the sanctuary to check on his feline friend, and sure enough, the cat was huddled next to the front door. The pastor cuddled the cat in his arms and took him inside the warmth of the worship center. Then he asked himself, “Now where do I take him?”
He could not think of a good place to put the cat, so he left the cat in a senior adult lady’s Sunday School classroom. The next day, when he went to check on the cat, the classroom was torn to pieces! Drapes and chair covers were ripped open by the cat’s claws.
The cat in North Carolina was a totally different story. He noticed a window slightly open to the boiler room of a church, so he climbed inside. Soon afterward, the custodian noticed the window ajar, and closed it. About a month later, the custodian noticed an awful smell coming from the boiler room, and when he went to check, he found the cat had died inside.
Both stories had a bad ending, but I smell a more important spiritual lesson in these stories. I wonder, what if the cats had been people? There are many desperate people, who need to come inside the church to experience the warm love of God’s people and the hope of faith in Jesus Christ. However, if we let them in, they will bring their problems with them, and they may make a mess. Would we rather they be shut out and just die?
Excuse me, I think I need to go crack open a window.

Georgia Baptist Convention meets

Today I attended the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention at North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, in Gwinnett County, north of Atlanta. We heard several reports from various ministries, and a stirring sermon on missions from Dannie Williams of FBC Lyons. There was a mass choir and orchestra from the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association that lifted the rafters with their songs.

Then the president of the convention, Dan Spencer, pastor of FBC Thomasville, brought a stirring message, asking us if we are willing to pay whatever price it takes to share the gospel everywhere. He told the story of a dog that wore a shock collar and could not pass an invisible electric fence without getting a shock. There was a cat that knew exactly how far the dog could go, and the cat licked his paws just outside of the fence to taunt the dog. Finally, the dog decided he was going to get that cat anyway, and he took a running leap, and jumped past the electric fence. After he shook himself off from the shock, the dog took off chasing the cat. Dan Spencer said that just as the dog had to decide that the pain was worth it, we must decide that it is worth it to share the gospel, no matter what obstacles we face. He talked about the apostle Paul’s willingness to go to Philippi, and how Acts 16 records that he was not disappointed by the small group that met by the river, but shared the gospel and Lydia accepted Christ. Then when Paul was arrested and thrown into the Philippian jail, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he sang and prayed, and God sent an earthquake that opened the prison, and led to the salvation of the jailer. Was it worth it? Paul would have said yes.

I wrote down a couple of interesting quotations that I heard today. At the Executive Committee meeting, a Baptist deacon and lawyer said, “Lawyers and preachers have a lot in common. Both depend on people to be a little bit bad to keep a job.”

Frank Page, CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, welcomed the messengers at the Georgia Baptist Convention. He said that when he was a young preacher, and older preacher told him, “Son, if the Bible is silent about something, it’s best that you be silent, too.”

Joseph Wong, pastor of the Chinese Mission in Savannah, closed the meeting with the benediction. He told us he would teach us how to say “Amen” in Chinese, and then explained that in Chinese it is “Amen.” He went on to pray in Chinese as well as English, and of course, he ended with “Amen.”

I saw lots of good friends from all around Georgia, like our former member Ted Kandler who is now the associational missionary for three associations around Fitzgerald, and Bobby Braswell, who is associational missionary for Middle Baptist Association in Sylvania, as well as the pastors at Windsor Forest Baptist and Immanuel Baptist in Savannah, to name a few.

Tomorrow the convention meets all day, and we will be voting on a lot of business, including election of a new president.