When we try to evaluate the health of one of our young children, one of the first things we do is check their temperature with a thermometer. This can be a difficult for a parent who has a busy child with lots of energy. But it is still necessary. We have occasionally found that a symptom of “busyness” can actually mask an unhealthy condition.
Sometimes it is difficult to really evaluate the health of a busy church also. “Action” and “busyness” can be good, but they don’t necessarily always equate with health (with children or churches). Christian discipleship may appear to be happening if lots of people are busy doing lots of things in a “church setting.” But I have observed times where there is a lot of action happening in a church in the name of “discipleship,” yet it seems to fall short of producing spiritual vitality. This brand of discipleship is accompanied by lots of fanfare within the church but makes little impact outside of the church. This reality has often left discouragement and disillusionment in its wake over the long haul. For instance Bill Hull has said:
“Quite frankly, I’ve grown somewhat tired of the term ‘discipleship.’ A grand biblical principle has been captured by cultural Christianity and distorted into a mechanistic, assembly-line process. I guess I’m tired of watching human rodeos-people herded into corrals, dehorned, vaccinated, branded, and put out to pasture. High-speed, short-term, results oriented: we have turned the mechanics of ministry into the ministry itself.” – Joseph C. Aldrich, Foreword in Jesus Christ: Disciple-Maker, p. 7-8
Well, I haven’t grown tired of the term “discipleship,” but I am very symapthetic to the desire that it be done in the way the Lord intended; through local churches whose members extend themselves into the communities in which they live in order to reach the lost that the Lord will gather to himself. As we are teaching through our series on the 9 Marks of a Healthy Church during the teaching hour on Sunday, we had the opportunity to hear Rick Hensley teach on biblical evangelism as a mark of a healthy church. This coming Sunday I will teach on biblical church membership. I am eager to talk about what it means to be a Christian in community…and how a member of that community is to influence the world around him or her. The old adage that the church gathers for edification (1 Cor. 14:26) and scatters for evangelism (Acts 8:4) is a recipe for healthy Christian living and Christian churches.
Consider this video as you think about God’s calling for you as a Christian in the church and in the world.