The idea of pursuing a healthy church is nothing new. Over the past few decades, numerous books, articles, podcasts, and conferences have focused on helping local churches and leaders become and stay healthy. Typing “healthy churches” into the Google search bar yields more than 27 million hits, letting us know there is significant interest on this topic. One major Pentecostal denomination built a website dedicated to resourcing healthy churches and in the minds of many, church health and church growth are inextricably linked. Nearly 30 years ago, Rick Warren, in essence, stated that a healthy church would be a growing church because it is the nature of healthy organisms to grow. Far be it from me to take issue with a prominent church leader, but I hit my adult height at age 14. Over the past 40 years, I have not grown one inch (waist size, notwithstanding). The point is simple: just because a church is healthy does not guarantee that the church will grow.
Blogger and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof recently tackled this topic and stated the inverse. While healthy churches do indeed grow, “not all growing churches are healthy churches.” While church health cannot always guarantee church growth and vice versa, the health of a local church and its leadership is vital for sustainability and mission fulfillment. A healthy church led by healthy leaders will position that church for consistent and steady Kingdom impact in its town or city. Leaders do the healthy work of planting and watering. God alone brings increase, and if we will commit ourselves and our churches to implementing healthy systems, we invite God into our space to do what only he can do—grow the church.
Over the past two years, the Church Coaching Network of the Pentecostal Church of God has coached nearly 100 churches/pastors across 10 districts in the 40-week “Exceed” experience built around five systems of healthy churches. The biblical foundation for Exceed is Ephesians 3:20-21.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the (His) power that works in us…” (NKJV)
When God infuses us with his divine power, that same power works in and through us to help us exceed in our efforts toward Kingdom expansion. The five systems of Exceed are designed to help pastors become healthy in their personal leadership and facilitate missional movement within the culture of God’s Kingdom.
As a pastor, you may feel stuck in your leadership. Maybe your church is stagnant and you wonder if a healthy, growing church that impacts your town or city is even possible. I believe it is, and so do many pastors who have already gone through the Exceed Experience.
In the last two years, nearly 100 churches in 10 different districts have received coaching for greater church health and growth.
"Being coached in the five systems of healthy churches is leading our church into becoming a ministry-mandate church instead of a maintenance-mundane church.” -Jim Laudell, Humnoke, Arkansas
“It has helped me see areas in which our church needed to improve and develop better systems to reach the lost. Both personally and as a church, we have seen growth.” -Andrew Payne, Perkins, Oklahoma
“Implementing the five systems of healthy churches has been a game changer. Had I discovered these systems 20 years ago, it would have saved me a lot of heartache.” -Todd Oldenburg, Banning, California
“I fired the pastor I used to be and hired the pastor I wanted to be.” -Jeff Nance, Seminole, Oklahoma
You may be running 50, 500, or 5,000 and pastor in a small rural community, college town, or metropolitan area. The systems are the same and, when properly implemented, position us for healthy Kingdom impact.
Leadership drives ministry, and its importance cannot be understated. A clear understanding of how God designed the five-fold ministry to operate in the context of the local church is vital to missional movement. A healthy leadership system identifies and implements values and vision while maintaining the uniqueness of the church’s voice in the life of the Kingdom. Additionally, healthy leaders must become adept at developing other leaders in the church, coming alongside to ensure that gifting and function are in sync. When leaders nurture and develop other leaders with common values and vision, momentum builds, and the church begins to move forward.
The spiritual life of a congregation is both personal and corporate. Those we serve must understand the importance of cultivating their own walk with Christ, but never to the point of living isolated from the rest of the local assembly. Prayer, fasting, Bible study, and worship are personal and corporate, and a healthy system of spiritual life will create a sense within those we lead that they are part of something bigger than just their own world and life. We are living stones being built together into a spiritual house to demonstrate the glory of God in our world.
Most leaders and churches understand the need for evangelism, but without a healthy system of continuous, intentional outreach, a church will be void of new believers. Those who attend our churches must be taught how to share their testimony, and subsequently, the Gospel within their circles of influence. Churches must view themselves as servants of their local communities and continually look for ways to make connections and build bridges with the ultimate goal of bringing people to faith in Jesus.
One of the reasons that smaller churches stay small is because of a mindset that leaves all the congregational care responsibilities to the lead pastor. A healthy care system will help break that mindset and instill within the life of the church a core belief that we are responsible for each other. The New Testament contains over 50 “one another” phrases, and developing teams of people to care for the body in areas of crisis, benevolence, etc. creates a synergy that can spur growth, not to mention greater spiritual and personal health for the senior leader.
Our final system challenges us to evaluate how we move people from first-time guests to fully devoted disciples of Christ, and eventually, leaders in the church. Many churches hope that this will somehow just organically happen, but it rarely does. A strategic process of personal growth makes people feel as though they have found a home—a place to belong where they will be discipled in the faith, nurtured in their spiritual gifts, and cared for when life is difficult.
I encourage you to ask this question:
I also encourage you to take time to look at each of these five systems, perhaps sitting down with the key leaders in your church and talking through the central points. Finally, talk with your district leadership and ask if the Exceed Coaching Experience is being utilized in your district. The 40-week experience may be just what is needed to help get your leadership and church healthy and growing.
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