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Get A Check-Up

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There are many ways to determine health. An annual check up is a part of that process. They listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, and ask you questions to evaluate how you are doing. They draw blood and have it tested to see if there is anything the doctor should know such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and a host of other things. The doctor needs to know if there is something going on that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

We are told as a nation we are probably more unhealthy physically than ever because of our unhealthy lifestyles. It cannot be blamed on a lack of knowledge of the proper diet. Also, the options for exercise are plentiful. Many remain unhealthy because they have chosen not to do anything about what is causing them to be unhealthy.

In Breakout Churches Thom Rainer talks about a church having an “ABC” moment. This is necessary for change to be considered and attempted:

  • Awareness – something needs to change.
  • Belief – God will transform your church.
  • Crisis – you are willing to deal with for the change to occur. Are you blind to the crisis your churches is faceing?

Is being satisfied with being satisfied no longer acceptable? Most will not change their behavior until the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of making the necessary changes! Crisis can occur when you are no longer satisfied with the status quo.

It begins when a church decides that it is no longer acceptable to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results. Is there not a crisis when we see that discipleship in our churches is undefined and God’s mission is unengaged?

Thom Rainer recently shared 10 Warning Signs of Trouble for Churches:

  1. If the pastor does not have adequate time to be in the Word or if he chooses not to do so.
  2. If the members are spending time arguing about how money should be spent.
  3. If none or only a few of the key leaders are actively sharing their faith.
  4. If there is no clear process of discipleship in place, just a plethora of programs and activities.
  5. If corporate prayer is not a major emphasis in the church.
  6. If church members are arguing about worship style or worship times.
  7. If church members expect the paid staff to do most of the ministry, instead of the staff equipping the members to do the work of ministry. (“Why didn’t the pastor visit me in the hospital?”)
  8. If there are ongoing disagreements about matters of the church facilities.
  9. If the church has more meetings than new disciples.
  10. If the leadership of the church does not have a coherent plan for what is taught in small groups and Sunday school classes.

Is there not a crisis in your church when people know what to do but are not doing it? The scary thing is that all too often the knowledgable religious “mature” christians, who are not engaged in the mission of God, are criticizing those who are.

When we say we value something it shows up in our behavior. We do not just talk about it but we act upon it. Values are confirmed by actions, not just by words.  It is not a value when it is a preference but only becomes a true value when it is practiced.

In The Emotionally Healthy Church Peter Scazzero says , “I discovered that the skills to lead into the next phase were not hard to learn. The real difficulty was taking the time, thinking carefully ‘before the Lord,’ summoning the courage to have difficult conversations, and following through all the way.”

There is a crisis when your knowledge base does not lead to an action in your life and in your church!

5 Warning Signs for Your Church

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     There are many examples of people who thought they were healthy but when they visited the doctor it was the exact opposite.  To be sick and not know it is a very dangerous situation.  Can a church be sick and not know it?  Are there some warning signs a church should be aware of that show whether they are healthy or not?   Thom Rainer on his blog said this, “I’ve seen it countless times. My team would go into a church for a consultation, and we would begin interviewing church members. We would hear from many of the congregants that their church was healthy and thriving. Then we would see the warning signs. And we would begin to fear that the apparently healthy body was not really healthy at all.  The church was sick. Some of the churches were really sick.” 

     Revelation 3:17 says, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”  John McArthur says this in his commentary, “The Laodiceans’ lukewarmness was compounded by their self-deception.  Christ rebuked them for their disastrously inaccurate self-assessment.”  How many churches are evaluating their “spiritual health” by the wrong things?  Big buildings, multiple programs, large offerings, and being busy every night of the week does not in itself equal spiritual health.

     Thom Rainer went on to say, “What were some of the warning signs my team saw? Though the list is not exhaustive, these five issues were common. Some of the churches had one or two on the list; some had all five.” 

  1. The church has few outwardly focused ministries. Most of the budget dollars in the church are spent on the desires and comforts of church members. The ministry staff spends most of its time taking care of members, with little time to reach out and minister to the community the church is supposed to serve.
  2. The dropout rate is increasing. Members are leaving for other churches in the community, or they are leaving the local church completely. A common exit interview theme we heard was a lack of deep biblical teaching and preaching in the church. 
  3. The church is experiencing conflict over issues of budgets and building. When the focus of church members becomes how the facilities and money can meet their preferences, church health is clearly on the wane. 
  4. Corporate prayer is minimized. If the church makes prayer a low priority, it makes God a low priority. 
  5. The pastor has become a chaplain. The church members view the pastor as their personal chaplain, expecting him to be on call for their needs and preferences. When he doesn’t make a visit at the expected time, or when he doesn’t show up for the Bible class fellowship, he receives criticism. In not a few cases, the pastor has lost his job at that church because he was not omnipresent for the church members.

     The problem is that many church activities are more self-gratifying than they are missional.  Have we become more concerned about great comfort than we are the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?     Fanaticism has been defined as redoubling one’s effort after one’s aim has been forgotten.  When we enter our nice buildings with all the trimmings it is easy to forget about the ugliness and brokenness we were saved out of.  We must come back to the mission of the church which is to share the gospel with all people so that they might know the Jesus we know.  It is broken people like us being used by God to reach the broken people of our communities. 

     The question is not are we ok with our church but is Jesus pleased with His church?  Spiritual health will suffer greatly and many churches will die slow agonizing deaths if we continue to be more focused on our church member entitlements than our enlistment to service in the army of God.  Maybe this statistic best describes how unhealthy we have become: “1% of all Christians are actually producing reproducing disciples.”