How might we define a healthy church? How would we know when we see one? What do we measure? What do we look for? Some suggest there are 9 marks of a healthy church, and maybe there are. But Ephesians 4:1-16 gives us three things to look for.
When we look at the first part of Ephesians 4, the temptation is to zero in on verse 11. "Oh look: apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastor-teachers; oh my!" But verse 11 is not the main point of this section of Paul's letter to the Ephesians.
Paul is talking about a body working together. It's a healthy body. He's talking about Christ's metaphorical Body. The Church. But this text can be applied to the local expression of the Church too. It can and should be applied to Redeeming Life Church. Paul is saying that a healthy church should demonstrate spiritual unity, spiritual diversity, and spiritual maturity.
Ephesians 4:1-6 deals primarily with spiritual unity within the Body. In many ways this is a summary of what Paul has been discussing in the previous three chapters, but this section comes with some instruction. "Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called," writes Paul. This calling is the call to every saint. You are called to be humble, gentle, patient (baring with one another in love), and eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace with your fellow brothers and sisters in the church (which he gets into in the next couple verses). How are you doing with this? If the Lord were to look at your Facebook account, would it look like this verse or something else? If he were to replay your conversations over the past week, would he find evidence that you are walking as this text instructs? How about an examination of your private thoughts of others?
This call to unity is not a complete homogenization. Every Christian shouldn't look and act exactly the same. We are not entering into a culture of sameness. No. We are called to enter into unity. United around Christ but each gifted differently. Our gifts help us to do the work of ministry and they are as diverse as the 2000 parts of the human body. Paul uses an analogy of a body in verse 15-16. Even the specific offices mentioned in verse 11 speak of a gift to the church to help equip the body, but not a totality of gifts. Very few will have these specific gifts because these gifts are intended to help the saints deploy their gifts in the church. The implication is that we appreciate the gifts God has given to those in our church and we exercise our own gifts well. How are you doing with this? Do you appreciate the gifts God granted to others or an you envious of them? Are you using your gift for the benefit of the body or sitting on your hands in fear? Are you finding unity among the various gifted saints in our church? I hope so. It is united diversity, or at least it should be.
This unity, however, is not unity for unity's sake. It's centered around sound doctrine. We are not called to be gullible Christian babies. We're not called to use our gifts in any way we choose. We are called to be wise and disciplined. . . like one might describe an adult. Instead, we are to be mature, demonstrating Christ-likeness (4:13), and stability (4:13-14). A mature believer should live by truth, bonded by love (4:15-16). And the mature believer contributes to the body in ways that build it up in love (4:16). The instruction from this section is that each believer is growing into maturity. There is no room for the Peter Pans who refuse to grow up. The expectation is that the Christian will become mature over time. How? By attaining faith and knowledge, understanding correct doctrine, and speaking truth in love to one another. (A study of doctrine and theology is not done in a vacuum. We need each other to grow into maturity!) Are you learning? Are you studying in community? Are you learning more about God and growing into maturity because of what you are learning?
A healthy church should demonstrate spiritual unity, spiritual diversity, and spiritual maturity. To get there, the individuals that make up the church should demonstrate these qualities as well. How are we doing with this?
Please be reading Ephesians 4:1-16 this week. Think about the text in preparation for Sunday. We'll see you Sunday, but in the mean time, there's an update video below.
For the Kingdom!