The topic of healthy churches is one that concerns all believers in Jesus Christ. The Christian does not exist independently of other believers. At a minimum, every Christian is to gather with others to hear the preaching of God’s word, to pray and share the love of Christ, and to take part in communion and baptism. As a result, all churches need to provide the opportunity for these things to take place. We would applaud churches doing these things, but if the church family is to be a healthy church, they will need to foster other areas of service to God as well.
This week I am continuing a series on 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. They are taken from Pastor Mark Dever’s book of the same name. Last week we looked at the need for: 1) Expositional Preaching, 2) Biblical Theology, and 3) the Gospel. This week we are going to look at the next three marks of a healthy church: 1) Conversion, 2) Evangelism, and 3) Church Membership.
1. CONVERSION: Healthy churches need to provide clear teaching on conversion because if they don’t, the church will be full of those who have not understood what it means to be a committed follower of Christ. Mark Dever explains biblical teaching on conversion in terms of God making a dramatic change in someone’s life. Conversion is a work of God bringing someone to a place where they see the holiness of God and the reality of their sin. Every Christian needs to accept that God needs to change them by cleansing them of their sin and bringing them out of spiritual darkness into spiritual light. Dever emphasizes Paul’s description of conversion in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
2. EVANGELISM: Evangelism is the mark of a healthy church because it is one of the main ways Jesus expects the church to pursue his final command to “Make disciples of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19-20). Mark Dever defines evangelism as a call to “proclaim… the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion.” All believers should seek to share the good news with others, and they should do so with conviction, with a sense of urgency, with joy, with the Bible, and with prayer. A healthy church family will encourage its members to share the truth of Scripture with others, and the church will provide training on how to do so.
3. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: Church Membership is a mark of a healthy church because it demonstrates that people are committed to the local body of Christ and also helps the leadership of the church provide oversight for a specific group of people. Dever emphasizes that the church is not a building. It is “a local collection of people committed Christ, to regularly assemble and have his Word preached and obeyed, including Christ’s commands to baptize and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.” If people make the commitment to become members to a church, it contributes to the health of the church because it means the church is carefully considering who is being admitted to its membership. This helps to maintain the purity of the church and makes it possible for the church to remove anyone who is persistently opposed to living the way God commands. Dever describes church membership in a positive way as “the opportunity to grasp a hold of each other in responsibility and love.”
Before I finish this article, I want to let you know that I have also written a short review of the first day of the Weekender church conference I went to last week. It was a powerful experience that included a fair share of surprising moments and consistently long meetings (they warned us we might stay up late the first night). You can read about the conference on christandcommonsense.com.