For several years now, we have been declaring May is Church Health Month! In Converge, we are sold out to church planting as well as very serious about church strengthening.
We are convinced that scripture has a clear mandate on church planting as well as church strengthening.
We believe that this is a both/and proposition and not an either/or competition.
Here is our biblical case for church strengthening.
In the book of Acts, we see the Apostles starting churches on their missionary journeys. Then we see them returning to those churches “strengthening the disciples” (Acts 14:22), “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41), and “strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:22). The care of these infant churches was heavily on Paul’s mind as we see his thoughtful consideration for each church in the letters he wrote.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, we see a more detailed charge in how Titus was to strengthen the churches across the island of Crete. He writes, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…” (Titus 1:5). Some commentators say that Titus could have been working with up to 100 churches on that island.
The phrase ‘straighten out’ (NIV) or ‘set in order’ (NASB) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It was used by first-century medical writers for setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones. The root of this word is ortho, from which we get our terms: orthodontics and orthopedics. When you go to the orthodontist, he straightens your teeth to strengthen them. When you go to the orthopedist, he straightens your bones to strengthen them. Interestingly, both professions use braces to straighten our teeth and to mend bones.
Titus’ commission was to brace up the church by appointing godly leadership, teaching sound doctrine, and encouraging missional engagement.
Let’s take a look at how Titus was to strengthen the churches under his care?
- He appoints qualified leaders in every town (Titus 1:5-16).
- He sets forth healthy leadership qualifications (v. 5-9) and how to deal decisively with unhealthy leaders (vs. 10-16).
- He makes sure that sound doctrine is taught throughout the church (Titus 2:1-15).
- He promotes healthy thinking and healthy living (vs. 1-10), which is found in the gospel’s power and motivation (vs. 11-14).
- He continually reminds God’s people how to live out the gospel in this world (Titus 3:1-14).
- He reminds them to “be ready to do good” (v. 2), to “be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (v. 8), and “to learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” (v. 14) all for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel (vs. 4-7).
So what is a healthy church from Paul’s perspective?
- It is led by healthy leaders who are examples to follow.
- It deals with rebellion quickly and courageously.
- It promotes sound doctrine, strong orthodoxy, along with healthy orthopraxis.
- It is intergenerational and branches beyond social structures.
- It promotes the centrality of the gospel as the fuel for sanctification and mission.
- It does not talk about mission; it fulfills the mission of God.
One of our core convictions is that no leader should lead alone. I believe this also translates onto a corporate level that no church should attempt to achieve God’s mission alone. Our desire is to walk alongside our churches and to be a voice of encouragement. We want to be like that friend you can lean on, as well as that coach who calls his players to the highest level of their potential.
In light of this scriptural foundation, we are serious about church health. In an effort to promote healthy, missionally engaged churches, we have declared May as Church Health Month.
May is an excellent opportunity in a church’s ministry calendar to get a pulse on the ministry. While allowing enough time throughout the summer to make plans and strategic moves before their growth thrust in the fall. We hope we can serve you and your church in maintaining a healthy ministry focus that is gospel-centered and missionally engaged.
We are doubling our efforts on this topic because so many of our churches will be relaunching this fall. Check out the special discounts on Natural Church Development Surveys as well as coaching opportunities.