Jana Jackson, Director, Church Strengthening
When Dallas Baptist Association reorganized earlier this year, we created a church strengthening team. Our team is comprised of two consultants, a ministry coordinator, and a team leader. The purpose of this team is to “help churches discover how God is leading them to equip and multiply disciples who will share the gospel where they live, work, and play.” This description implies that a “strong” church is a community of believers that embodies the gospel.
If you grew up attending Sunday School, you were taught that the church is people, not buildings. I would add that the church is not defined by numbers of attendees or the quality of facilities. Instead, a strong church lives out both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40).
Here are 10 important signifiers of strong churches:
- Age, cultural, racial, and socio-economic diversity among the members. “For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
- Shared leadership. Leadership is spread throughout the congregation, according to spiritual gifts and appropriate roles, rather than restricted to a few individuals. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12: 4,5).
- Small group discipleship and Bible study that is inclusive, accessible, and that makes disciples who make disciples. “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’”(Matthew 9:37,38).
- Maturing faith. Though individuals may be at different stages of spiritual maturity, everyone is consistently moving forward to a deeper understanding and relationship with God and each other. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child” (Hebrews 5:11-12).
- Valuing and including poor and marginalized people. Unwritten social rules or intentional barriers that restrict the inclusion of “other” kinds of people have no place in a Sprit-led congregation. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5).
- Generosity with time, resources, and money. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measure to you” (Luke 6:38).
- A pastor with personal integrity and spiritual maturity. The pastor sets the pace for the spiritual growth of the congregation. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
- Proximity and presence. Church leaders live in the community and model being the presence of Christ with their neighbors. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
- Meaningful worship. It’s time to leave the worship wars behind. Whether the music during your church worship time is contemporary, traditional, modern, or ancient, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
- Integral to the community. Neighbors believe the church, even if they do not attend, to be essential to the health of the neighborhood. The church facility is perceived as a welcoming place of support, thus opening the door to share the Gospel. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. . . .praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:46,47).
Do these indicators of strong churches validate or challenge your perception of your congregation’s health? DBA’s church strengthening team is available to provide resources and support to all of our churches.