Signs of a Healthy Church
One of my goals for us at Marshfield First Baptist is that we are a spiritually healthy church. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see signs of a healthy church. They certainly weren’t perfect – no congregation is. But in Paul's opening words to this group of Jesus followers we find some signs of spiritual health which can help us in our own spiritual check-up.
Joy. Paul’s letter is clearly a joyful letter. Joy in serving the Lord is both a sign of spiritual health and a result of spiritual health. Paul rejoiced in what God was doing among these Gentile followers of Jesus. Paul said he prayed for them with thanksgiving and joy. This theme of joy resonates throughout this brief letter to these believers in Philippi.
Partnership. Paul said he prayed with joy because of their partnership in the gospel. A healthy church is marked by partnership – people worshiping, growing, and serving in community. We need each other. God doesn’t want us to serve him all alone. He calls us to serve him alongside other people.
Confidence. Paul expressed his confidence in what God was doing among them. Philippians 1:6 is a Scripture verse that has been a huge encouragement to me throughout my whole ministry career. At age 17, when I shared with my church that God was calling me into the ministry, my youth pastor shared this verse with me. It stuck in my mind and heart permanently. “Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will continue to perform it until the day Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had begun his work among these believers and God would never give up on them. God had begun his work in me, and He would never give up on me. The same is true for you when you trust God and follow Jesus.
Grace. In verse 7 Paul writes, “…all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Grace – God’s unmerited favor – is an incredible thing. The Jewish disciples of Jesus were witnessing the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham: that all the world would be blessed through Israel. The good news of Jesus was going out to all nations. All who come to faith in the Messiah would share in God’s grace. A healthy church is a beacon of God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward us. We realize we don’t deserve God’s favor, but we don’t “wallow” in that undeserving state. Instead we humbly accept God’s grace and join the mission to proclaim God’s grace for the nations.
Love. One more marker of spiritual health here. Paul prayed that their love would abound. And it wasn’t ooey, gooey, touchy, feely love either. Look at the kind of love Paul prayed that the Philippian believers would have (verses 9-11). It was a love filled to overflowing with knowledge and insight that resulted in discernment, righteousness, and praise to God. The popular notion is that love is blind. God calls us to a love with eyes wide open that causes us and others to give glory to God!
Are these markers of spiritual health visible in in our lives?