The New Year is a great time to personally evaluate where we are as individuals. How is our spiritual health? How about our physical, mental and emotional well-being? What kind of shape are our relationships in? The same can be said for our churches. What kind of shape is your church in as we roll into 2015?
It only makes sense to go to the doctor at least once a year to make sure that our bodies are still healthy. Doctors can find out if there are issues just under the surface that could spell disaster for us later on down the road even if we feel perfectly healthy right now. Our churches are no different. A growing, seemingly healthy church may be suffering from great illnesses beneath the surface that can destroy the church from the inside out. What can churches do to protect against such a situation? One of the best solutions is to take a complete spiritual check-up.
So what does a church wide spiritual check-up consist of? If we go back to the metaphor of a routine physical for our bodies we see that much of what the doctor measures is how healthy we are now compared to the previous year. This is an effective measurement for the church as well. The difficult thing, however, is that this type of spiritual check-up requires complete transparency and vulnerability from all levels of church leadership to be worth the time and effort that it takes to administer. Without complete honesty the check-up will be significantly limited in finding any ailments within the church and properly measuring its spiritual health.
The spiritual health of any given church is directly correlated to the spiritual health of its leaders. Pastors and ministry leaders have to take a personal spiritual inventory to see where they are at and where they are leading their churches. Are the pastors of your church more or less passionate about Kingdom work today than they were one year ago? Have their hearts for the lost become more broken in the last year or more hardened? How about their desires to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Are they more or less willing to meet the needs of hurting people? How are their separate sin struggles? Have they improved in their abilities to please God rather than trying to satisfy self? How is their thirst for and knowledge of Scripture compared to where they were at a year ago?
All of these questions are obviously very personal and can definitely cause some difficult, awkward conversations, but without an honest assessment of these issues it is impossible to gauge the spiritual health of the church as a whole.
The next area to consider when measuring the spiritual health of the church is the health of the membership or the core group of regular attenders. What have you seen week in and week out from the core of the church in terms of attitudes? Are members more or less willing to serve than they were a year ago? Are community groups and Sunday school classes functioning in a healthy way that fosters vulnerability and growth and is free of gossip? Are deeper, life changing relationships being developed throughout the church or are most people in the church simply connecting on a shallow level? Are weekly sermons and messages being received attentively and acted upon to promote individual life change? How are guests treated by these core members?
It may take some homework, but all of these questions should be adequately answered through close observation and honest conversations. After your church's spiritual check-up, you may find that your church is as healthy on the inside as it appears on the outside. That would be great. What if there are areas, however, where the church is not so healthy? The good news is that now you know what those areas are and you can focus on them in the coming year before they sabotage your church as a whole.