We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Measure of Church Health

In a recent posting entitled, "Eight Diagnostic Questions for a Church's Health," Dr. Chuck Lawless of the Billy Graham School of Missions & Evangelism lays down what amounts to a set of standards by which churches can measure themselves.  If they measure up to the standards, they are healthy.  A healthy church thus: bases its teachings on the Bible; prays; is driven by the Great Commission; reaches non-believers; retains and disciplines new believers; is both locally and globally minded; has a strategic plan for future growth; and has a leadership committed to the church's ministry.  It has been awhile since I've done a series, and Lawless' eight diagnostic questions provide a good opportunity for one.

Before looking at each of his questions, it would be wise to consider them as a body.  No one set of standards for church health can be complete and relevant to every church to the same degree.  Nowhere in his eight measures of church health, for example, does Lawless mention the Holy Spirit.  He does not use the word, "spiritual" or mention the importance of personal spiritual development. Other than prayer and evangelism, he does not mention other central elements of local church life, notably worship and Christian education.  It is hard to imagine a health church that does not have a lively worship life or an effective CE program.  On the other hand, five of his eight measures of church health are related to evangelism.  Typical of the larger literature on church health, Lawless emphasizes the roles of church leaders but not church followers.

It is fair to say that these standards are not balanced by a complementary set of measures looking at such things as worship, CE, fellowship, social action ministries, the degree to which members (the followers) are involved in the life of the church, and any other number of other important considerations.  It is also fair to say that Lawless' eight measures of church health are worthy of consideration in their own right, and that is what I would like to do in several postings to follow.  It is simply that we have to keep in mind that even if a church meets the standards he sets it may still not be a healthy church, and if a church fails to pass his test that does not meant that it is necessarily unhealthy.