There are more than 6 marks of a healthy community. On this side of the world, I don’t believe that anyone of us believe in a “perfect church.” Life is messy. Church is messy. Teams can be messy. Real discipleship is messy. And yet, God is in all the mess with His sanctifying grace- conforming us together into the likeness of Christ. The church is being prepared, as the bride of Christ; as we await the marriage supper of the Lamb.
However, in between the already-and-not-yet of the Kingdom, there can be healthy churches because of the ever present powerful work of the Spirit in the church. I want to be a part of a healthy Gospel community. How about you? Perhaps, some of you reading this, are serving in healthy churches. If that’s you, please feel free to use the comment box below to share your thoughts.
Here are what I believe to be some marks of healthy Gospel communities, from Acts 2:42–47 (the Scripture being our ultimate authority).
1. A Church that is devoted to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread & prayer.
Verse 42. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Note, they devoted themselves to:
I) The Apostles teaching (The Gospel).
II) The fellowship.
III) The breaking of bread.
IV) The prayers.
The prayers – This was one effect of the influence of the Spirit, and an evidence of their change. A genuine revival will be always preceded by a love for prayer.
2. A church that witnesses with power and authenticity.
Verse 43. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
As a result, amazing indescribable things happened.
i) Awe came upon every soul.
ii) Many wonders & signs were being done.
3. A community united in all things.
Verse 44. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
There was unbelievable unity among them, and they had all things in common. They shared a common vision and mission.
4. A generous community being shaped and changed by the Gospel.
Verse 45. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Their joy and real treasure became Christ to such an extent that the rich sold “their possessions and belongings.” They distributed the funds to everyone in need. They took care of each others needs as one body. Quite contrary to our post-modern Christian living, don’t you think?
5. A community that meet corporately (large gatherings) and in smaller gatherings.
Verse 46. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
Notice: “attending the temple together” nothing wrong with using a building to meet, and they also ate together in “homes.” It’s the heart of worship that matters- whether you are at home or workplace or “temple” (church building). It’s not either temple or homes, but both “temple” and “homes.”
Furthermore, notice it says, “day by day attending the temple together.” Is this possible in our context where Japanese work really late and their identities are closely tied to their companies? The only day they have time time is on a Sunday; and they usually want to rest on that day or go out with their wives and kids since they work all week. Something to think and pray about.
6. A genuine worshiping community that grows outward.
Verse 47. praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Their praising of God was so authentic (flowing from the heart) that it overflowed to their neighborhood “having favor with all the people” (non-Christians can tell whether we’re truly praising God or not- see I Cor. 14). As they in simplicity and authenticity praised God, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” If we met with each other and meet with non-Christians on a regular basis it should not surprise us if the Lord added to our number day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. Notice it says, “the Lord added” not them or us. We simply praise God in authenticity and live lives of worship everyday as we’re enabled by the Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit’s role to add the numbers, not us.
Lastly, here are some practical implications that I’ve drawn from this text and also from learning from churches that are healthy.
- Healthy communities study the Bible for transformation and not merely information. The extent of our Bible knowledge is not the badge of our spiritual maturity (see here). Healthy communities don’t go to the Bible merely for information so that they can have more information to disobey more. Healthy Gospel communities take Jesus’ commands seriously, and seek to obey as they are motivated by the Gospel of grace.
- Healthy communities share life and meal together regularly in the homes and at different locations with both Christians and non-Christians in their communities.
- Healthy communities remember Jesus’ work together (Lord’s Supper); and they listen to each others’ stories with interest, and speak God’s story (Gospel) to each other.
- Healthy Gospel communities pray together. They listen to God and people, and pray to God for one another and their surrounding communities.
- Healthy Gospel communities are generous, self-sacrificing, and share resources with one another and others outside of their communities –all out God’s lavish grace and generosity in Christ.
- Healthy Gospel communities worship together, in small and large gatherings, to celebrate Jesus and each others’ stories of grace, and hear from God in His word, and be sent out again on mission for God daily.
- Healthy communities witness together as a community where non-Christians are incorporated into their communities through both reactive and proactive events. They encourage one another to live on mission in their neighborhoods and workplace with Gospel intentionality- Monday through Sunday.
In essence, healthy Gospel communities are not theorists that does church in the mind, but they are committed to heart-transformation, Gospel fluency, community-shaping, missional-living and witnessing for God’s glory.