3 Defining Words–(Some) Characteristics of a Healthy Church Part 3

I will have to admit that I’m not sure if word number three is a word.  Can you hyphenate any two words and then call the result a word no matter what?  Is lactose-intolerant a word?  If so, then is Bieber-intolerant also a word?  Who is in charge of deciding this?  Is it all the English teachers I had in High School and college that unjustly didn’t like me just because I was obnoxious and resented every minute I was in their class?  That hardly seems fair.  I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

Ah yes, the third defining word.


You’re right dude that’s not a word.  Would you prefer I use the more intriguing, non-hyphenated missional?  I don’t like the word missional.  Why?  My reasons are numerous and ridiculous.  We’re going with outward-focused.  Wait, wait, wait!  Shouldn’t it be outwardly-focused? Shouldn’t it be the adverbial (also possibly not a word) form?  Weren’t you paying attention?  I didn’t like English class growing up.

Anyway, just like me and this post (or this post and me), I find myself easily distracted.  My purpose in writing this post is to give and explain the 3rd of the three defining words for church.  Then I was going to inspire you.  However, I can’t stop rambling about a lot of nothing.  I’m too busy trying to be cute and clever to get to the point.

I feel church can be that way.  Jesus told us what the most important commands were–loving God and loving people.  He then gave us a mission–to tell the whole world about him, to make disciples, to take his love to people who desperately need it.  But we get distracted.  We start focusing on being busy with church activities.  We start focusing on what we don’t like about each other and we lose sight of all the people outside of church who desperately need to see, feel and hear about the love of God through his son Jesus.

Churches can become petty and start fighting within about music styles, theological minutia and, legendarily, carpet colors.  In the meanwhile, there is poverty and desperation and people separated from God that need us to love them.  When a church turns it’s attention outside of the walls, incredible things happen.  I’m too busy working along side of you to be bothered by your quirkyness.  I’m loving and serving people and I notice God transforming my character.  Most importantly, people who are far from God feel and experience God’s love, they hear about God’s Son and they begin to have life in his name.

People, both believers and not, want to be a part of a church that is showing love to people outside of their church.  They want to be a part of a church that is not waiting for people to come inside but is going “outside” to find and love people, a church that turns its energy toward needs in the world rather than turning on each other.  God is using these churches in amazing ways.

They are world-changeable.

3 Defining Words–(Some) Characteristics of a Healthy Church Part 1

OK, this is going to be a little risky.  Anytime you start talking about characteristics of a healthy church or church values, there is always one more.  There is one that is the “most important” and “I can’t believe you left that one out.”  Then the discussion gets hijacked.  So here is what I would like to do.  I would like to start with a basic definition of what makes a church and then talk about some specific characteristics of what I believe make a healthy church.  Ok? Ok.

A church:

1. Primarily exists to bring honor and worship to God and secondarily to love people (the great commandment)

2. Believes that the Bible is God’s word

3. Trusts in Jesus alone for hope, life and salvation

4. Depends completely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide and bless

5. (That one thing that’s really important to you that I forgot)

I know that not all churches hold to those, but these are what make a church, evangelical if we must have a category.  Go to 100 churches in 100 weeks and 90+ of them will believe and value those.  Yet some churches are growing and healthy and others struggle.  There are a lot of different ways to do church, different programs, leadership styles, etc., and many (most, all?) of those can be very effective.  However they can all be quite ineffective as well. 

After a less than great experience at a church in St. Louis, an amazing experience in Cabot, and talking, interacting and learning from some of the top church planters around, I have come to believe that there are certain characteristics of churches that make churches grow, be healthy and thrive.  To repeat the disclaimer, this is not an exhaustive list.  These are simply three that echo loudly in my mind.  We will tackle them one at a time.


Great churches love people.  They especially love people who are brand new.  They mostest especialliest love people who are new and far from God.  When new people walk in, that church very quickly does everything that they can to make that person not feel new.  The church lets them know that they are wanted and are invited to be a part of that family.  There are no strangers, no outsiders, no lonely people at this church.

How do you know if your church is friendly?

1. The members leave the best parking spaces for new people.

2. New people have been greeted, welcomed, shown around, multiple times before the service starts.

3. You have a hard time starting on time because people won’t stop talking in the cafe, lobby, back of the worship center, etc.

4. The “meet and greet” just won’t end.

5. The person that has to lock up the building never gets to eat lunch at a reasonable time.

6. Everyone, not just the greeters and ushers, welcomes and meets new people.

7. New people come back.

It is troubling the number of churches that say they want to grow but seem to resent at worst,and are  indifferent at best to new people.  But not your church.  Your church loves people.  It greets everyone.  It creates a welcoming environment for everyone, visits people in the hospital, surrounds people that are hurting.  Your church loves people.  At least it can, starting now.