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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Right foundation, strong focus seen as ingredients for healthy churchescomment (0)

January 3, 2002

By Malinda Hallman McGill


Just as individuals take care of their bodies through proper nutrition and exercise, experts say healthy churches are also the result of the right regimen.
   
“To build a healthy church, you’ve got to have the right foundation,” said Edwin Jenkins, director of the Office of Leadership and Church Growth with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
   
“You’ve got to have a commitment to the great commandment and the Great Commission,” added Jenkins. “You look at the commandment first. A commitment to the great commandment becomes a commitment to the commission.”
   
Jenkins is the author of “LifeLift,” a model for the life and organization of the church, and “Celebrate Your Church,” a workbook for church analysis.
   
Waldo J. Werning, author of “12 Pillars of a Healthy Church,” said healthy churches grow just like healthy babies.
   
“We have to have a biblical attitude, which reflects what we want, and biblical behavior, which is what we do,” Werning said. “And for peace in Christ, you’ve got to have grace.”
   
Jenkins, a member of Taylor Road Baptist Church, Montgomery, said a healthy church must have four focuses:
   
--It must be concerned with the spiritual growth of the individual and the church.
  
 --It must be concerned with the advancement of its mission, both the great mission and the personal mission statement of the church. 
   
--It must be concerned with the expansion of its ministry, where ministry extends from the ordained staff to every member of the church. 
   
--It must not be obsessed with numerical increases.
   
“If numerical increase is a church’s target, it is going in the wrong order,” said Jenkins. “This (growth) simply comes from the others.”
   
Jenkins refers to 1 Corinthians 3:6, where Paul says that he planted, Apollos watered and God gave the increase.
   
After a church develops the four focuses, it may use Jenkins’ “Celebrate Your Church” to measure its effectiveness. The curriculum takes about four months to complete. It involves an eightfold analysis, asking:
   
--Do we have a God-given vision?
   
--Do we have transformational leadership?
   
--Are we using a functional strategy?
   
--Do we have meaningful membership?
   
--Do the leaders and members have a passionate spirituality?
   
--Are we developing loving relationships?
   
--Do we have sacrificial generosity?
   
--Do we have a kingdom orientation?
   
Jenkins said the analysis allows churches to look at where the church has been, where it is now and where it is going.
   
Werning’s approach is similar. He said churches must establish a vision and develop core values that are then integrated into a mission statement for the church. In doing so, he said churches help believers discover their spiritual gifts and encourage them to use those gifts.
   
Don Adolf, a Canadian district ministries coordinator and coach for Natural Church Development, uses two tools for measuring the healthiness of a church.
   
“We use ‘Sonlife,’ which fleshes out the biblical purpose for the church in a very neat way, and ‘Natural Church Development’ by Christian Schwarz, which shows us eight characteristics of a biblical church,” Adolf said. 
   
Schwarz’s book identifies two cultures found in the more than 1,000 congregations in the 32 countries he studied. One was technocratic, which he said focuses on methods and organization, and one was organic, or biblical, with the intention of making disciples.
   
“We want to know how many disciple-making disciples we’re making,” said Adolf. “We measure that by looking at the number of new believers, the amount of retention and the number of people active in ministry.”
   
Adolf refers to Mark 4 and the Parable of the Sower.
   
“The farmer planted, and God grew the plant,” he said. “In the same way, we provide the environment and God grows the church.”
   
Like Schwarz, Jenkins said churches need to be an organic body.
   
“The church has functioned for a long time like an organization, not like an organism; naturally, instead of supernaturally,” he said. “We are the Body of Christ, a supernatural entity. We are His priority for doing His work.”
   
And he stresses that it is God’s work.
   
“Every healthy church must have a God-consciousness where the Holy Spirit is at work,” Jenkins said. “And He will work.”
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