Someone made this interesting observation: “You don't judge
an army's strength by how many people sit in the mess hall;
you judge an army on how many people are trained and active
on the front-line. Likewise, the percentage of members
being utilized for ministry and missions is a more reliable
indicator of church health than how many people attend
services” (Warren). From what Jesus said about the
church in Philadelphia, it was a healthy church. The
members there had been not only obedient to the Lord's Word
but also loyal to the Lord's name (v. 8). They had
endured persecutions and persevered (vv. 9-10). They
were to continue to hold fast and to overcome in future
trials (vv. 11-12). Let's consider some functions of a
healthy church. This is important because health
determines growth. When we focus on doing these
functions and doing them well, then church growth will be
the result. “Church growth will be the by-product of
doing the things that every [healthy] church ought to do”
First of all, let's grow wiser through prayer. James
encourages us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will
be given to him” (1:5). The early Christians understood
this need, and in the book of Acts, we find them praying
around 20 times! We certainly need God's wisdom when
it comes to being a healthy church. Someone has
rightfully observed: “Prayer is source of vision, power,
creativity, and blessing ...” (Grounds). One of the
highlights of our men's prayer breakfast is that a chain
prayer is said before we begin any business, and each man
can contribute to that prayer. There is strength in
such collective prayer. Someone gives this advice: “It
is a mistake to begin ministry focus without prayer.
Pray separately and pray as a [group]. Ask God to give
you sensitivity to His leading and to the perspective of
[others] who don't know Him yet. Also ask God to help
you determine your priorities” (Walter). Since prayer
is so profitable, it should be given priority. In
fact, the apostle Paul admonishes: “Therefore I exhort first
of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and
giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, and all who
are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable
life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good
and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires
that all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Let's pray for God's help to be a
healthier congregation! Let's pray for His guidance!
Let's pray that He will open doors we haven't yet imagined!
Let's grow wiser through prayer.
Next, let's grow holier through worship. Romans
13:12ff admonishes us: “The night is far spent, the day is
at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of
darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us
walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and
drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and
envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no
provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Now
this passage was read to a congregation of God’s people
during their worship service. Did you notice the
emphasis on being obedient together: let us all together
cast off the works of darkness, let us all together put on
the armor of light, let us all together live properly.
You see, when we assemble together, when come before God's
throne together, when we eat at the Lord's table together,
when sing, hear God's Word, and give together, these
collective acts strengthen us spiritually and should
motivate us to want to live holier in our daily lives.
Shouldn't the church be like a garden where we grow in
holiness through the sunshine of divine love, through the
soil of faith, and through the fertilizer of eternal hope?
According to 1 Corinthians 14:26, worship should be a
collective experience where we are all strengthened and
edified. Let's grow holier through worship.
Next, let's grow deeper through discipleship. Discipleship
involves a great challenges because Jesus Himself has set
high standards. We must deny ourselves, which is
pretty hard to do in a consumer society where you can always
have it your way. We must take up a cross daily and
crucify our wills to Jesus' commands, which goes against the
grain of our unbridled “do your own thing” culture. We
must lose our lives to save them and put eternal salvation
above the present preoccupation of accumulating earthly
wealth, which is challenges the motto that “the one who dies
with the most toys wins” (Mark 8:34ff). Jesus says our
discipleship includes not being ashamed of Him and His
teachings, of putting our relationship with Him above all
earthly relationships, of being truly serious about
remaining loyal to Him despite the persecutions that this
might entail, of learning to travel light and looking beyond
this world, and of keeping God's kingdom uppermost in our
lives (Luke 14:26ff and Matthew 6:33). Disciples of
Jesus are expected by Him to live productive lives which
bear much fruit and are active in doing good works in His
name (John 15:5 and Matthew 25:31ff). A healthy church
is one where we are learning to be more dedicated disciples.
Let's grow deeper through discipleship.
Next, let's grow closer through fellowship. Have you
ever noticed that if pine trees will lean into each other
during a snow storm, they will survive? If they try to
withstand the snows alone, they will often be severely
damaged. Moral of this tale: “When the storms of life
hit, we need to be standing close to other Christians.
The closer we stand, the more we will be able to hold up”
(Conner). God's vision is a group of people united
around His Son. According to the apostle Paul, this
has been God's eternal vision which He accomplished through
the sacrifice of Jesus (Ephesians 3:10-11). Jesus
Himself put it this way in John 10:16 when He said that
other sheep would become part of the one flock under one
shepherd and in John 12:32 when He said that through His
being lifted up or crucified, all peoples would be draw to
Him. An old hymn states it so well: “Bless be the tie
that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of
kindred minds is like to that above. Before our
Father's throne, we pour our ardent prayers; our fears, our
hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often
for each other flows the sympathizing tear” (Fawcett).
The early Christians were in each others' homes and in each
others' lives to the point that unbelievers saw this
incredible brotherly love that they had for one another!
Do people in our city see the same thing in our lives?
Let's grow closer through fellowship.
Next, let's grow stronger through stewardship.
“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found
faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). A master would entrust the
care of his estate to a steward, and the steward was to care
for it just as the master had instructed him. He would
be “faithful” to his master's orders if he carried them out.
“[This] Christian principle of stewardship says that since
we bought nothing into this world and since we can take
nothing with us when we die, everything we have really
belongs to God; we are entrusted with these possessions to
use as God's agents. We are accountable to God for
[how we use] everything” (Diehl). Do we make money or
does our money make us? How we learned to use our
money generously or are we used by our money? Have we
learned to live on the low side, to reject status symbols,
and to save some funds in order to help others in disaster?
Are we laying up treasures on the earth or treasures in
heaven? Remember, it was the rich young ruler that
refused to follow Christ, and we are similar to him because
we can easily let our riches become our goal so that
spiritual matters are cast aside. Someone has rightly
noted: “Christians need to take a hard and honest look at
their personal life-styles. ... We need to bring to our
society a life-style of Jesus that values people above
property, caring above careerism, selflessness above self,
and giving above getting” (Ibid.). Let's grow stronger
Next, let's grow bolder through ministry. Look at
Ephesians 4:11ff: “And He [Jesus] gave some to be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and
teachers, for the equipping of the saints for [or literally
“to”] the work of ministry, for [or “to”] the edifying of
the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the
faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect
man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ.” Isn't this saying that the job of the church
leaders is to train or to equip the members, so that those
members can then be responsible for doing the work of
ministering to other members and building up everyone in the
body, so that altogether and collectively we can become a
mature Christian body that shows the fullness Christ in all
that it does? Now if I'm mistaken in that
interpretation, then please correct me. But if I'm
correct, then why isn't more training going on around here
and why don't we start realizing that ALL church members are
to become involved in some sort of ministry which will help
others? You see, as we learn to minister to others,
our faith grows, and our love becomes stronger. We
become bolder too because we become more confident in our
service. When are we going to have a class where
members can evaluate their strengths and figure out how they
can serve the body? By the way, there is tool that
might help you in this if you are willing to take some time
to work through it. Let's grow bolder through
Next, let's grow larger through evangelism. “All
authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things
that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always,
even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). We call
this passage the Great Commission, and last Sunday evening
we learned how this is one of the greatest passages in all
the Bible! This passage is still in force, it is still
valid, and it is still relevant for each individual who
claims to be a Christian. Each one of us needs to
learn enough Scripture and to reflect enough on our own
experience that we can share the plan of salvation and
explain how Jesus has affected our lives. “Oh,
preacher, but I’m not much at speaking to others. I
get my tongue caught on my eye tooth, and I can't see what
I'm saying.” Most of you can talk about other things,
but if you really do freeze up, then arm yourselves with
some good tracts that explain the plan of salvation and
learn to say these 7 words: “This is really good!
Please, read it!” There are other materials that are
available as well if you'd like to share them with others
too. Where there's a will, there's a way. The
Great Commission is our Commander-in-Chief's marching
orders; it is His will that we make disciples, so we'd
better be learning the way that we're going to do it!
Grow larger through evangelism.
Next, grow broader through vision and planning. Now,
vision was addressed in our last sermon. By the way,
how's the homework coming along? Are you reading that
eternal vision in Revelation 1:10-20 and are you answering
those questions to discover a congregational vision? A
vision is powerful. Mayor Taylor, Congressman Ross, or
someone had a vision for helping us to achieve a bypass over our railroad
tracks. But that vision would never have become a reality
without planning and work. We need vision, but we also
need a plan to help make that vision become a reality.
A pretty good case can be made that planning is scriptural.
God had a plan to send a Savior into this world.
Joshua followed a plan to conquer the Promised Land.
Nehemiah had a plan which was used to rebuild Jerusalem's
walls. Jesus had a plan when He sent out 70 of His
disciples, and following a plan was also involved in
building His church. Paul had a plan when entered into a
city to spread the Gospel; he would begin at the synagogue
and then go to the Gentiles if the Jews were unreceptive.
One of our elders told me: “A vision is great, but it’s
useless unless we have a plan to implement it” (Ellis).
James warns us about boasting in OUR plans alone; we should
plan with the understanding that in all things we are to
submit to the Lord's plans. You know, formulating a
plan to implement a vision is not like making a budget; you
can't always put into a budget the same things that you did
the previous year. When considering how to make a
vision a reality through a plan, you might also have to
consider this tough question: "To achieve this priority,
what must we as a church continue, stop, or start”
(Schmidt)? Let's grow broader through vision and
Now, that we've seen 8 traits of a healthy church.
Let's consider something else. Let's look here at our
report card. For the 8 traits of a healthy church,
what grade would you give each area? Just do this
silently as you look at the slide and consider each trait:
growing wiser through prayer (give it a grade), growing
holier through worship (give it a grade), growing deeper
through discipleship (give it a grade), growing closer
through fellowship (give it a grade), growing stronger
through stewardship (give it a grade), growing bolder
through ministry (give it a grade), growing larger through
evangelism (give it a grade), and growing broader through
vision and planning (give it a grade). In what two areas
would we, as a congregation, be the weakest? What
could we do differently to improve in those areas?
Philadelphia was a healthy church. How healthy are we?
“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them
sharply, that they may be sound [or healthy] in the faith,
not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who
turn from the truth” (Titus 1:13). Remember, when you
look carefully, sometimes blunt confrontations are the
result. We just evaluated our congregation with our
report card. Now think about yourself individually.
How well are you doing in each function: prayer, worship,
discipleship, fellowship, stewardship, ministry or serving
the congregation, evangelism, vision and planning? Is
a prayer for improvement in order? All these functions
bring about growth. If you are not in the church, then
you are not growing as God desires for you to grow.
Become part of this congregation through baptism, and start
growing like you've never grown before. Get
spiritually healthy today!