I have been a pastor for eighteen years in the state of Kentucky. In my current role with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I travel around the state and work with churches of all shapes and sizes. In my travels, I’ve seen and heard of churches I would describe as “healthy” and churches I would describe as “unhealthy.” Have you ever thought about what makes a church healthy?
One of the churches the Apostle Paul wrote while he was in prison at Rome was the church at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus was a strong church during those early days of Christianity. Although the church was not perfect by anyone’s standards (Revelation 2:1-7), it was generally a church that was leading the way.
Scholars tell us that the letter to the church at Ephesus was a circular letter. Paul intended for the letter to circulate around the region, so several churches could benefit from the advice. As Paul talks about the church in the fourth chapter, I see several ingredients of a healthy church.
5 INGREDIENTS OF A HEALTHY CHURCH
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)
Paul used the word “unity” 10 times in first 10 verses of the chapter 4. Paul stressed the importance of unity in the church. Like Noah, Paul understood that . . . .
The woodpeckers on the inside of the ark are often more dangerous than the storm on the outside!
Paul strongly called for unity, but please note that he DID NOT call for UNIFORMITY! Paul did not expect everyone to look or think exactly like him nor did he expect all the members of the Ephesus church to look or think exactly like each other. The unity he spoke of was the unity of the Spirit. The church’s unity rested in the fact they had one purpose, one body, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. Why is unity so important?
The devil knows that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to FIGHT and FISH at the same time! Disunity sidetracks a church from its main mission.
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers….” Ephesians 4:7-8, 11
At first glance, it may seem contradictory to say that a church should have unity and diversity at the same time, but that is what Paul told the church at Ephesus. In these verses, Paul talked about the gifts the Lord gave to the leaders of the church. In describing these gifts, Paul explained that the Lord gave different, unique gifts to each leader.
The same is true with every Christian. God gives us unique gifts, abilities, talents, hair colors, personalities, experiences, passions–yet we are unified in Christ. God loves variety–just look at creation. Yet, there is only one Creator (John 1:3). God loves variety in the church too, but He demands oneness. It is similar to an orchestra. Every instrument has a different sound (timbre) and every musician has a different style, but their music is glorious. It is glorious because diversity and unity both exist. Although the instruments and musicians vary greatly, they tune to the same pitch, play the same composition, and follow the same conductor. The conductor demands oneness from the diverse group.
Tomorrow, we will continue this discussion in Healthy Church, Part 2.