Dear GCI Family and friends,
Health is a relative term. According to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This is an important distinction – especially as we focus on Healthy Church.
We all experience the ups and downs of health in our physical bodies. My very first week of serving as president was likely the busiest and most demanding of my life. Among the ceremonies and retirement parties, there were a number of planning meetings accompanied by informal breakfast and lunch meetings. The dinners included rich foods, robust wines and always some fancy, hard-to-say-no-to dessert. The physical, mental and social challenges were at an all-time high.
I came out of that first week with my heart full due to the overwhelming high support I received; I also came out with my sinuses and lungs filled with congestion due to the long days and late nights. My second week as president involved a lot of hot tea, vitamins, chicken soup, and extra rest. This experience gave me even more thought on the concept of healthy church.
You are aware that I have been preaching and promoting healthy church, and we are just beginning to focus on what this means. Caring for our bodies and caring for our churches have many similarities. The ebb and flow of how we manage our work schedules, our diets and workout routines is a good platform to convey my thoughts. Let’s ask a couple of important questions:
What is the activity level of the church? Almost all our churches host a weekly worship service (some fellowship groups meet less frequently). So, what is the activity level during this gathering? Does the worship team have to come early to get their worship set together, or have they met at some other time during the week? Do we spend too much time on announcements because this is the one time to communicate with the members, or is communication happening through the week with emails or posts on the church’s website? Does fellowship go unusually long because we only see each other at worship services, or do the members’ lives intersect during the week between services? Are the majority of leadership meetings held on the day of services or do these meetings take place on a different day? (Video conferencing can be utilized when it is simply too hard to physically meet.) When do outreach activities and community-building events like picnics, campouts take place? Working toward and creating a balanced rhythm to the overall schedule is crucial to church health.
What is the diet of the church? Ultimately, we should be feeding on Jesus, the Bread of Life. This is why we have some of our best writers creating sermon outlines for the cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). We believe that preaching through the Bible over a three-year process creates a steady diet that is nourishing to all church members. We also promote the practice of Bible-based Small Groups because the diet of one weekly meal needs to be supplemented.
What is the spiritual exercise of the church? Exercise (working out) for Christian believers is tantamount to becoming equipped for Christian ministry. This can include formal education – I highly recommend our stellar institutions of Grace Communion Seminary and Ambassador College of Christian Ministry. Learning the art and skills of Christian ministry is more caught than it is taught, so we also strongly suggest the practice of mentoring. It is imperative that veteran ministers and ministry leaders pass along their skills and knowledge for the perpetuation of the church. If you are a veteran please find an apprentice to invest in, and if you are a new believer then search out an area of service that fits your personal interests and latent skills and dive in.
Please understand when I promote the vision of Healthy Church, I am not intending any church to assume the label of being unhealthy. All churches go through ups and downs as they attend to their health; good health is an ongoing process. When we write about church health or create ministry tools for you to use, it is based on our desire to provide support that assists you toward better health. Better ministry practices implemented over time will yield better church health. Every congregation and fellowship group is important to us and we pray all of GCI is on a path to better health.
My sentiment to you is the same as the Apostle John’s to Gaius, a beloved church member in Ephesus –
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John :1-4 ESV).
As you continue your faithful walk in the truth, which is your walk with Jesus, I will constantly pray for your congregation to be healthy and prosperous in your collective efforts to point others to Jesus.
Working toward better health,