I attended my fair share of church growth seminars as a young pastor. Today, attention has shifted from church growth to church health. An oncologist will confirm that not all growth is healthy. I would much rather pastor a small, healthy church than a large, unhealthy one.
You may wonder, “How do I know whether a church is healthy?” That question can be answered in several ways. Let me give you one way to gauge whether a church is healthy. A healthy church routinely practices the New Testament’s ‘one another’ commands.
“What are those?” you ask.
On the night Jesus was arrested, Jesus told His disciples:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are My disciples if you love one another (John 13:34-35).
Three times in a span of two verses, Jesus told Christians to love one another. That is precisely what healthy churches seek to do.
How Are We to Love ‘One Another’?
The Greek word translated as “one another” is used 100 times in 94 verses. In many cases, that word describes what took place among a group of people. In most instances, however, we are instructed on how to treat ‘one another.’ When you remove the duplications, you get down to about 35 “one another commands.” Broadly, we are to love one another, but specifically, we love one another by living out the various ‘one another’ commands of the New Testament
That means we show love to one another as we serve ‘one another’ and are kind to and patient with ‘one another.’ We are to forgive, teach, encourage, pray for, and build up one another. Negatively, we love one another when we stop passing judgment on when we do not lie to and do not grumble against one another. That is just a sampling of the ‘one another’ commands.
The point is that healthy churches relate rightly to one another.
When people criticize the church, walk away from the church, and don’t want to have anything to do with the church, they are reacting to an unhealthy congregation or unhealthy members within that local fellowship of believers. It is neither right nor productive to criticize sick people for being sick.
“Dear Lord, You are the Great Physician. I pray that You would bring Your Church and each local expression of it to health so that we might represent You well to the world that so desperately needs what You have to offer.”
Christian, I encourage you to seek God’s help in becoming the healthy believer He wants you to be by learning and practicing the NT’s ‘one another’ commands.