By Hank Hanegraaff
This question has taken on added significance as pop culture beckons and post-modern Christians take the bait. Far too many modern churches partake of an unhealthy diet of fast-food Christianity—long on looks, dreadfully short on substance. A healthy church is one in which God is revered, oneness is realized, and discipleship is an experiential reality.
GOD. The first sign of a healthy, well-balanced church is the commitment to worship God through prayer, praise, and proclamation. Prayer is so inextricably woven into the fabric of worship that it would be unthinkable to have a Lord’s Day without it. From the inception of the early Christian church, prayer has been a primary means of worshipping God. Jesus Himself set the pattern for prayer when He taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9 nasb).
Praise is likewise a key ingredient of worshipping God: “praise God in his sanctuary” (Psalm 150:1). Paul urged the church at Ephesus to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). In the Psalms—the hymnbook of the early church—we see a stunning portrayal of God who is indeed worthy of praise and adoration.
In addition to prayer and praise, the proclamation of the Word is vital to the worship of God. Paul exhorted Timothy, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Through the proclamation of God’s Word, God is honored and believers are edified, educated, and equipped. It is through prayer, praise, and proclamation that we as believers are “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
ONENESS. A second sign of a church’s health is oneness. Jesus Christ has broken through the barriers of sex, race, and background that can divide, and He makes us into one body under the banner of love. Communism claimed to turn men into comrades, but Christ turns us into a body. The oneness we share as the body of Christ is tangibly manifested through communion, creed, and contribution.
Communion (the Eucharist) is the chief expression of our oneness with Christ and with one another. As we all partake of the same elements, we also partake of that which the elements signify: Christ, who binds us together as one. Our fellowship on earth, celebrated through the centrality of the Eucharist, is a foretaste of the heavenly communion we will share when the elements give way to eternity.
Commonality in creedal confession unites us around essential Christian doctrine. These doctrines—codified in the creeds and confessions of the Christian church—form the basis of our unity as the body of Christ. They mark the line of demarcation between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the cults. We can disagree agreeably on nonessential or secondary doctrines, but when it comes to essential Christian doctrine, codified in the creeds, there must be oneness: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”
Contribution of time, talent, and treasure also demonstrates oneness in Christ. A healthy, well-balanced church is commissioned to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). God has given the individual members of the body special gifts to be used “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). No human being is an island! Many logs together burn brightly, but when a log falls to the side, its embers quickly die out.
DISCIPLESHIP. In the Great Commission, Christ calls us to make not only converts but disciples (Matthew 28:19). A disciple is a learner or follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Discipleship is demonstrated through the testimony of our love, lips, and lives. One secret of the early church’s growth was the testimony of its love. The love of Christ was so contagious that it swept through the Roman Empire like wildfire. Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
New Testament Christianity was likewise characterized by the testimony of its lips. The book of Acts tells us that on the day Stephen was martyred, a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered through Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went. While it is true that not everyone is called to be an evangelist, everyone is called to evangelize.
Closely related to the testimony of our lips is the testimony of our lives. The aroma of the indwelling Christ should so characterize our life that people are attracted to our lives as are bees to honey. If our lives contradict the testimony of our lips, we conversely drag Christ’s name through the mud. The testimony of our lives and lips must be in sync.
My prayer for you and for myself is that we are daily reminded of the privilege of being vitally connected to a healthy, well-balanced body of believers: a body in which God is worshipped, in which oneness is experienced, and in which discipleship is an experienced reality. Indeed, you and I are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 nkjv
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, Truth Matters, Life Matters More: The Unexpected Beauty of an Authentic Christian Life (W Publishing Group, 2019).
***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***