4 Balancing Acts for Church Health

Church health is the result of balance.

Balance occurs when a church has a strategy and a structure to fulfill the five New Testament purposes for the church: worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry.

If you don’t have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose you as a pastor feel most passionate about.

We tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear that the key to growth is small groups. At another, it’s volunteer recruitment, or dynamic worship, or creative outreach, or strong preaching.

The fact is, they’re all important.

When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalance — it’s unhealthy. And being unhealthy stunts a lot of churches.

To keep things balanced, four things must happen. You’ve got to:

  • move people into membership
  • build them up to maturity
  • train them for ministry
  • send them out on their mission.

And you need a clear discipleship process to be able to gauge whether you’re doing these things effectively or not. Just as our vital signs tell us whether our physical bodies are in good health or not, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I can measure how many more people are involved in ministry this month than last month.

How you accomplish those four objectives doesn’t matter. As long as you are bringing people to Christ, into the fellowship of his family, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, and sending them out in mission, I like the way you are doing ministry.

Health does not mean perfection. When a church focuses on evangelism, it brings in a lot of unhealthy people. My kids are healthy, but they’re not perfect. There will never be a perfect church this side of heaven because every church is filled with pagans, carnal Christians, and immature believers — along with the mature ones.

I’ve read books that emphasize, “You’ve got to reinforce the purity of the church.” But Jesus said, “Let the tares and the wheat grow together, and one day I’ll sort them out” (paraphrase of Matthew 13:29-30).

We’re not in the sorting business. We’re in the harvesting business. We do get a lot of unhealthy people at church because society is getting sicker. But Jesus demonstrated that ministering to hurting people was more important than maintaining purity. When you fish with a big net, you catch all kinds of fish.

That’s why one of the biggest programs in our church is Celebrate Recovery. We have thousands of people involved in recovery with all kinds of addictions.

One of the most important decisions we made was to not have a counseling center. If we put a full-time therapist on our staff, that person’s schedule would fill up instantly, and 99 percent of the calls would still go unmet. We couldn’t keep up even if we had five full-time therapists. Instead, we’ve trained lay-people to do biblical counseling and compiled a standard list of approved therapists we can refer to if need be.

In conclusion, a far better focal point than church growth is church health. Size is not the issue. You can be big and healthy or big and flabby. You can be small and healthy or small and wimpy. Big isn’t better. Small isn’t better. Healthy is better. So I encourage you to focus on helping your church become balanced and healthy.

If churches are healthy, growth is a natural occurrence. I don’t have to command my kids to grow. If I provide them with a healthy environment, growth is automatic. In the same way, if you provide your church with a healthy, balanced environment, growth will occur naturally.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Bud Brown — 05/20/16 12:24 pm

Thanks for this helpful reminder. I'm finding that I favor moving people into ministry much earlier in the process because the most rapid spiritual growth (moving toward Christlikeness) occurs when people are engaged in service. "Maturity" isn't about information, it's about character transformation. Although character transformation is a slippery, hard to pin down process, it involves many domains working at the same time: gaining information (data), synthesizing information (knowledge), applying information to real life (wisdom). These all require teaching, study, mentoring and serving.

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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