What are the hallmarks of a healthy congregation?
A healthy church relies on the love of its members
The Rev. Daniel Nicholson, pastor, Lawrence Christian Center, 416 Lincoln St.:
I believe the distinguishing characteristics of a healthy congregation can be narrowed down to three and found in the Bible in the book of I Corinthians 13:13, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Jesus also said in the Gospel of St. John 13:35, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
People have a tendency to judge a church's success in terms of size and numbers. But a healthy congregation does not have to be a large congregation; rather, it needs to be a place where hurting people can attend and experience the love of God.
That love should be manifested through the members of the congregation and the church leadership. Someone once said that the church is not a museum for saints but instead a hospital for hurting people. We attend church to worship God, grow in our faith, extend our hope and experience God's love. People need to know that they can be forgiven for their sins and restored to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Your church congregation can become healthy if each member will take responsibility to pray daily, read the Bible daily and apply its teachings to his or her life. You should also attend services faithfully and look for opportunities to serve others.
No church is perfect, because it's created with imperfect people. But we serve a perfect God, and his love can heal us and help us to live in healthy relationships. You can choose to be part of the problem in your church or part of the solution.
Remember to pray for your church, pray for your pastor and love one another as Jesus loves you. These things will help your congregation to be healthy.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Daniel Nicholson at email@example.com.
Congregation needs strong relationships through God
The Rev. Donald Miller, senior pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center, 2104 Bob Billings Parkway:
A healthy congregation is defined not so much by what it does but by relationships. A healthy congregation essentially needs healthy relationships.
The first hallmark is being Christ centered: a community of faith that lives in the love of God through Jesus Christ. In that relationship with Jesus, we know and experience mercy, forgiveness, peace and strength. Without this relationship in Jesus, there is no possibility of having a healthy congregation.
Secondly, a congregation is able to be a warm, caring and welcoming place for all. A healthy congregation recognizes that each person has been accepted and forgiven in Jesus, so each member becomes a reflection of Jesus by loving, caring and accepting. Jesus says, "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34)
Thirdly, people in a healthy congregation will have honest communication. Common vision for its mission and ministry will be shared. Differences, issues and concerns will be openly acknowledged, expressed and discussed. The apostle Paul writes, "speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)
And finally, people in a healthy congregation will be focused on their mission. They will fulfill their calling by letting others know about the love of God in Jesus Christ. They will be looking outside themselves to "Make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) and let the "light" of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shine into the community through the congregation and their personal lives.
A healthy congregation is a forgiven community of people who are loving, forgiving and empowering by sharing a common mission of "life with God" through Jesus Christ.
Send e-mail to the Rev. Donald Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.