Creating a mission and vision statement for a church is deemed essential so as to avoid ‘mission drift’ (as it’s termed). However, as the church of the living God we see ourselves as a spiritual organism, part of the body of Christ. To this end we feel the need to be a spiritually healthy evangelical church – Bible believing and Bible practising. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. So we have no Vision or Mission Statement here at ASEC. Neither do we have a Growth Strategy or Church Management Plan. We are not a banking corporation dictating targets or timetables to God the Holy Spirit. Yes, we plan and organise, but we already possess our Heavenly CEO’s master plan – God’s Word, the Bible.
Good music, a fun atmosphere, a full sanctuary, comfortable pews, a short message; are those areas really what determines whether or not a church is healthy? Unfortunately, in the minds of many people today those areas are among the most important deciding factors in determining how “good” a church is.
To the end of being a healthy Biblical church, we subscribe totally to the ‘9 Marks of a Healthy Church’, which spells out what an evangelical church should be all about. The summary of this is given below.
1. Expository Preaching
This is preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hearing God’s Word and to recovering the centrality of it in our worship.
2. Biblical Theology
Paul charges Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Our concern should be not only with how we are taught, but with what we are taught. Biblical theology is a commitment to know the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
The gospel is the heart of Christianity. But the good news is not that God wants to meet people’s felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. We have sinfully rebelled against our Creator and Judge. Yet He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin, and He has credited Christ’s acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is the good news.
4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
The spiritual change each person needs is so radical, so near the root of us, that only God can do it. We need God to convert us. Conversion need not be an emotionally heated experience, but it must evidence itself in godly fruit if it is to be what the Bible regards as a true conversion.
5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
How someone shares the gospel is closely related to how he understands the gospel. To present it as an additive that gives non-Christians something they naturally want (i.e. joy or peace) is to present a half-truth, which elicits false conversions. The whole truth is that our deepest need is spiritual life, and that new life only comes by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus. We present the gospel openly, and leave the converting to God.
6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
Membership should reflect a living commitment to a local church in attendance, giving, prayer and service; otherwise it is meaningless, worthless, and even dangerous. We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons or lack of attention. To be a member is knowingly to be traveling together as aliens and strangers in this world as we head to our heavenly home.
7. Biblical Church Discipline
Church discipline gives parameters to church membership. The idea seems negative to people today – “didn’t our Lord forbid judging?” But if we cannot say how a Christian should not live, how can we say how he or she should live? Each local church actually has a biblical responsibility to judge the life and teaching of its leaders, and even of its members, particularly insofar as either could compromise the church’s witness to the gospel.
8. Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth
A pervasive concern with church growth exists today – not simply with growing numbers, but with growing members. Though many Christians measure other things, the only certain observable sign of growth is a life of increasing holiness, rooted in Christian self-denial. These concepts are nearly extinct in the modern church. Recovering true discipleship for today would build the church and promote a clearer witness to the world.
9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership
What eighteenth-century Baptists and Presbyterians often agreed upon was that there should be a plurality of elders in each local church. This plurality of elders is not only biblical, but practical — it has the immense benefit of rounding out the pastor’s gifts to ensure the proper shepherding of God’s church.
In identifying and promoting these nine marks, we are not intending to lay down an exhaustive or authoritative list. There are other significant marks of healthy churches, like prayer and fellowship. We want to pursue those ourselves as well, and we want you to pursue them with us. But these nine are the ones we think are most neglected in most local churches today, with the most damaging ramifications. Join us in cultivating churches that reflect the character of God.