Unsung Barometers of Congregational Health
A barometer is an instrument that measures air pressure. Weather forecasters can tell a great deal about the weather by reading a barometer. In like manner, Christians can tell a lot about the health of a congregation by reading several spiritual “barometers” of congregational health. The following is a list of “unsung” barometers that indicate whether a local congregation is heading in a direction the Lord would have it go.
#1 — Condition of Facilities — Whether we like it or not, the condition of a church building says a lot about a congregation’s attitude toward the Lord and His work. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah wrote to “wake up” their complacent brethren who had left the Lord’s temple unfinished (cf. Hag. 1:2-7). Obviously we realize that physical building facilities are not essential to practicing New Testament Christianity. However, the condition (neatness, state of disrepair, adequacy, etc.) of a congregation’s building facilities says a great deal about that people’s attitude toward the Lord and His work!
#2 — Quality of Children’s Bible Classes — Strong churches encourage strong Bible classes. God commanded ancient Israel to teach their children His word (Deut. 6:4-8). One of the very best ways to get a feel for a particular congregation’s health is to visit the children’s classes. Is the word of God being emphasized, or is it merely playtime?
#3 — Enthusiasm of the Deacons — Deacons are God’s special servant-leaders (cf. Phil. 1:1-2; 1 Tim. 3:8-13). Generally speaking, as the deacons go, so goes the local church. When deacons settle into a pattern of disinterest and inactivity, so will the members. On the other hand, when deacons are actively searching for opportunities to serve, it is a sure sign that the local church is on the road to good health.
#4 — Balance in Preaching and Teaching — Healthy churches have pulpits that emphasize the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). One barometer of the spiritual health of a local congregation is the extent to which the teaching is hobby-oriented. Some preachers and teachers have a “pet” issue that makes them sound like broken records. Truly healthy congregations (and Christians!) emphasize “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
#5 — Strong Family Units — Healthy congregations are not comprised of weak families. While realizing that all families have their struggles, healthy churches attempt to support and encourage Godliness in every home (cf. Eph. 5:22-6:4). How the 21st century church needs to teach more on the subject of marriage and the family!
#6 — Concern for Missionaries — It is impossible to read the New Testament without being tremendously impressed by the relationship between first century churches and their missionaries (for example, read Acts 13-20 and Philippians). Healthy churches support, remember, pray for, write, and visit the missionaries they have sent to preach the Gospel in far away places.
#7 — Spirit of Worship — The way a congregation worships says much about its attitude toward God (Jn. 4:24). Is there a sense of dullness or drudgery in worship, or does the congregation eagerly anticipate coming into the very presence of God (Ps. 16:11; Ps. 40:8)? Is the focus of worship on “what I can get out of it” or is the focus on expressing praise and gratitude to the God who has sanctified us?
What do these barometers say about the congregation where you worship? —JB