Learning how to develop healthy churches is a responsibility we can always be growing in. While it involves more than what can fit within this post, we’ll briefly look at three ways to grow and protect a healthy church environment:
1. Know the health of your leadership team.
The maturity of your leadership team sets the tone for the rest of your congregation. If your leadership team is walking in the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of being truly transformed by God, that behavior is modeled for the rest of your congregation.
In addition to that, you need strong leaders who are able to absorb the criticisms that come from people who are still learning, people who are defensive because something struck a sensitive spot, and people who aren’t committed and have a tendency to stir up trouble. All of these are a part of ministering to diverse groups of people. If your leadership team struggles with gossip, judging, etc., your job is going to get a lot more exhausting… quickly.
Identifying issues early on can provide helpful indications of where to spend extra time during your discipleship efforts. Handling those issues pastorally (even with your staff) can also help them refocus on what’s important without becoming constantly defensive.
2. Take an inventory of what is being modeled to your congregation.
What tone is being used toward them? Is it condescending out of frustration or is it patient exhortation out of a pastoral longing to protect them and nourish them to growth? Human nature’s tendency is to rebel, and my heart goes out to pastors and other Christian leaders who have become exhausted and still aren’t seeing results. If that’s you, please don’t hesitate to send me a message. I’d be more than happy to believe with you through prayer for a refreshed compassion and wisdom for your church.
Remember, whether you feel like it or not, you are seen as a type of authority by the people who call you pastor. Your words and actions will carry more weight than those of other people. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s one that God equips those He calls to shepherd His children for.
The behavior of you or people who you have set in respected positions in your church (this includes non-leadership roles that are referenced in stories, illustrations, etc.) will reproduce. If you notice a recurring issue that needs to change, take an inventory of what is being modeled by your team, ask if that behavior addresses the root (not a symptom) of the issue needing to be addressed, then take steps to model a solution as a team.
3. Stop spreading “news” about other churches.
Spreading “news” about other churches is common among Christians and even church leaders. While it’s not good that we’ve allowed this form of gossip to become acceptable, it’s a helpful indication of how we are seeing our fellow Christians. Think about this:
If a person walked around with a decaying hand, whispering about its sorry state while trying to get other people to agree about the severity of the issue, what would your response be? Probably something along the lines of, “Dude, you need to see a doctor and get that healed.”
And if he doesn’t? Not only does he lose his hand, but the disease will spread to the rest of him too. If left too long, the man dies and everyone else looks at him thinking, “Why did that guy let his body decay right in front of him?”
What about when this happens in the body of believers? Do we stop and recognize there is a wound that needs healing? Or do we help the disease spread? Division left unresolved causes more division. So if we’re spreading “news” about other churches and modeling that the behavior is acceptable, we’re leaving the door open for our churches to be affected by that mindset too.
Big picture, we are not several separate churches. We are one Body of Christ, and we have the opportunity to pursue recommitted, biblical unity in our churches, local body of believers, and global Body of Christ. There are big things ahead that we need to be ready for; we need to be focused and bring our A-game. Not because the outcome is dependent upon us, but because we have been called to unity which also strengthens us to serve God with our lives. There is power among a body of believers that relies on God together.
We can’t sustain true revival if we’re attacking each other. The Body of Christ needs to continue to learn how to identify weaknesses and address them, truly forgive, move past differences, heal from pain, rely on God, trust that He will do what He has promised, and learn how to work together in freedom toward what we have been called by Him to do. It starts small within our churches, but the health of each individual church continues into the health of our community and impacts the effectiveness of the Body of Christ on a global scale.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:13-16 (NASB)
Here’s to our journey!