No one church can be all things to all people. If we as church leaders tried to make everyone happy, we'd go nuts.
Each church has its own style, culture and personality. So how do you know if your church is healthy and on the right track in general? Is there a solid baseline from which to measure?
The following seven characteristics, or "hallmarks," will help you evaluate how your church is doing. As you read through this list, think about where your church is strong and where you might need to improve:
1. An authentic love of God and for people. Loving God and loving people is the motivation for ministry in a healthy church. This isn't meant to suggest that any leader or body of believers doesn't love God, but that the pursuit of God can easily get crowded out in the work of God.
It requires an intentional approach to chase God in order to know and love Him fully. This is a lifelong pursuit. It's not unlike my love for my wife, Patti. I pursued her, courted her, proposed to her and we were married! But over the course of our now 34 years together, I must still pursue and live in such a way that she knows I love her.
2. An unrelenting dedication to reach people for Jesus. It's easy for the church to become engulfed in worthy endeavors from political issues to local humanitarian efforts. But we can never let these good things crowd out the great things, the mission of the church! The bottom-line mission is to lift up the name of Jesus in such an encouraging and inspiring way that people want to know Him.
This will manifest itself in three things: new guests attending your church on a regular basis, salvation and baptisms. It's not about how many, though we all pray for more; the important thing is that it is happening. That is a clear sign of a healthy church.
3. A crystal-clear vision with a strong supporting strategy. Good leaders provide vision. All of us who lead in a local church are under the mandate of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). But God also breathes specific vision in each church for the unique way that church will go about reaching people for Jesus. Some churches have a bias for global outreach, some focus on the inner city, some churches go multisite, some churches are all about local compassion, and some are intentionally multiethnic. The list is nearly limitless.
The vision makes your church unique and contains that "fire in the belly" that brings sacrifice, passion and momentum. In addition, the leadership team commits a strategic plan to writing in order to see the vision become reality.
4. Spiritual leaders who develop a leadership culture. A vision big enough to need God is big enough to need more leaders. Leadership isn't a fad, but rather it's part of God's created order. We are all wise to develop as many spiritual leaders as we possibly can and leaders are counted one at a time. The impact of just one more good leader can change your church.
The best leaders always develop other leaders. Those leaders also encourage, inspire and empower others to serve! Developing a leadership culture requires consistent and diligent effort to systematically invest in those who lead. Developing is more than equipping (training for specific ministry tasks); it is about pouring into the leaders so they become "bigger, better and stronger" people.
5. A passionate pursuit of spiritual maturity. Ultimately this is why we do what we do! We are all dedicated to help people mature in their faith. This lifelong journey, often called spiritual formation, is a road of ups and downs, twists and turns, failures and sweet successes. It's never easy, but always worthwhile.
A healthy church never waters down the Scriptures or backs off on biblical values, but it always speaks the truth in love. Gossip and politics are minimal and grace abounds. Perhaps oversimplified, but in essence, spiritual formation is the journey of becoming more and more like Jesus. We never arrive, but we can always make progress.
6. A joyful commitment to serve and care for those in need. At 12Stone, we often use the phrase "Lost, Least and Leaders." It's a visionary phrase that includes reaching the lost, loving the least and raising up new leaders.
Specifically about the least among us, Jesus has much to say about those who are poor and in need. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can always help someone. I believe that a healthy church makes an impact in its own hometown community by serving those who can do nothing for your church, and maybe will never attend. When the church is healthy, it's not an obligation or a project, it's a heartfelt desire that comes from sincere compassion.
7. A generous spirit that results in financial giving. Scripture is loaded with passages on giving, but that obviously doesn't mean everyone gives, let alone tithes. As church leaders, we can't let this become discouraging or cause us to think less of those who don't give. Instead, a good leader in a healthy church prays more and seeks diligently to encourage and inspire the congregation to see and act upon the truth in God's Word.
We can pray for a spirit of generosity among the congregation, but that spirit starts with us as the leaders. It is most uncommon for a church to be generous if its leaders are not generous. Practice generosity, teach on giving and encourage others to follow God's prompts to give.
- How did you do?
- What are your strong areas?
- What areas need attention?
Choose one or two areas to focus on for improvement. Make a brief written plan, agree with your team, set a timeline of measurable goals and jump in. Ask God to help and make it fun!
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
For the original article, visit danreiland.com.
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