Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Healthy Church

The Pastor’s Perspective
“The Healthy Church”
First Published: October 17, 2006

What are the qualities of a healthy church? If someone asked you to list some of the more important characteristics of a strong, healthy congregation of believers, what would you say? There are certainly a number of good answers that could be given to that question, but I want to begin exploring this issue by pointing to two in particular.

1. A Love for Expository Bible Preaching
Every healthy Christian congregation is characterized by a membership that loves the reading and preaching of God’s word, and not only listens to that word but lives it out. Paul earnestly exhorted Timothy: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” As far as Paul was concerned biblical preaching was a non-negotiable for the health of the Christian church. The reason for this was simple. Christians grow by hearing the word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and non-Christians become Christians through the ministry of the word (Romans 10:14).

Expository Bible Preaching is not a style but a principle. It’s controlling concern is to expound what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hear God's Word and recover the centrality of the Word in our worship.

2. A Passion for Biblical Worship
Another characteristic of a healthy local church is a congregation of Christians who worship God in all of life, 24/7, who long to glorify and enjoy him in everything they do, and who have a driving passion for coming together, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, to sing and pray God’s word back to him, to hear his word read and proclaimed to them, and regularly to see his words of promised represented and confirmed to them in the “visible words” of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, Jesus told the woman of Samaria that God is searching for just such worshipers. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

The Psalmist tells us that worship is giving unto the Lord the glory due his name (Psalm 29:1-2). But where do we find the substance of and our direction for our gathered, corporate worship? The Bible. Much that is amiss in modern worship practice would be corrected if we took for our principle of direction: “Sing the Bible, Pray the Bible, Read the Bible, Preach the Bible.” We ought to strive to be sure that all that we sing is scriptural, that our prayers are saturated with scripture, that much of the word of God is read in each public service, and that the preaching here is based on the Bible. And we want our worship to be a Scriptural, simple, Spiritual, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-enabled, reverent, joyful, delightful, encounter with the living and true God.

We’ll continue these thoughts next week. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear yours!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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