What Is A Healthy Church? -- By: William W. Gasser

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 06:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: What Is A Healthy Church?
Author: William W. Gasser

What Is A Healthy Church?

William W. Gasser

Pastor, Community Baptist Church
Hillsboro, Oregon

Popular discussion about the state of churches has shifted from growth to health. Labels are changing as Christian leaders revise descriptions of what local churches ought to be. But whether the preferred term is growth, or health, the substance looks much the same. Church health is typically defined through a blend of biblical principles, sociological codes, and expert observations. This article surveys current methodologies related to church health and critiques three contemporary approaches to interpreting local church health.

“I believe the key issue for churches in the twenty-first century will be church health, not church growth.”1 With these words Rick Warren signaled pastors around the country that the Church Growth movement was changing. As the movement has matured, the discussion has shifted from numerical growth toward spiritual growth and health. But what has really changed, and what exactly is a healthy church? In this article we will evaluate contemporary answers.

As we review the discussion of health we must first understand the differences in popular terminology, criteria, and emphasis. When it comes to correlating church health materials, the ducks are not in a row—they’re swimming free-form all around the pond.

Differing Terms, Criteria, And Approaches

Let’s start with differences in terminology. Like a dollar bill, the term spiritual health is a familiar currency that is universally exchanged and accepted. But unlike the dollar, its value is far from standard. Spiritual health is seldom defined and those who do try to define it don’t do so uniformly. Health is often defined by

synonyms. Spiritual health is growth,2 quality,3 effectiveness,4 significance,5 or renewal,6 to name a few. Others simply describe it, rather than define it, as the sum of a set of characteristics. Many church consultants follow this path, explaining health by a list of conditions (e.g., the healthy church does this activity, possesses such a quality, has a certain kind of leadership, etc.). A church is declared healthy when it matches the stated traits.

What are these defining conditions? No consensus exists on the number or...

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