by Craig Etheredge
Is your church healthy?
That can feel like a loaded question, but we think it’s an important one to ask.
Church health can have a skewed meaning in the eyes of the North American church. Many Christians look at the churches that have thousands of people attending each Sunday and think that’s the definition of a healthy church.
Maybe it’s that they have a praise team instead of a church choir… or maybe that they have a choir instead of a praise team.
Perhaps it the number of students attending youth group on a weekly basis.
If any of these metrics are what you’re using to define your church’s health, you might want to take a second look.
Because the Bible doesn’t mention any of the metrics we listed above as the definition of a healthy church.
The New Testament is filled with letters from apostles admonishing and encouraging the local bodies of the early church. These letters were their guide to understanding what it looked like to follow Jesus and build a gospel-centered community.
They’re the same letters we use today in order to seek guidance for our lives. And Peter offers a lot of wisdom when it comes to shepherding a flock of believers.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:1-5
When we asked you earlier, “Is your church healthy,” did your thoughts go immediately to other people? If so, you might have missed Peter’s point.
Peter makes a big deal about submitting to the authority of Jesus as our Lord. But, as mentioned above, Peter had some pretty specific ideas for how to ensure your flock is healthy.
He starts right off the bat by saying we are to lead out of a willing heart, not out of compulsion. Do you have days where your church feels more like a chore than a community of believers? Do you offer yourself as a willing vessel for God to use?
As a church leader, your heart behind why you do what you do has a huge impact to the health of your church. Are you focused on being in the limelight? Or do you truly want to see hearts and lives changed for Jesus?
The second point here is about the way shepherds treat those they’re leading. Do you say one thing from the pulpit and then live a different way outside of the church walls? Do you teach from a domineering posture or do you speak truth filled with grace?
When you lead your church from the example of servant leadership shown to the disciples by Jesus, your church will follow, thus creating a culture of servant leadership within your church.
It can be easy for people to jump straight to verse 5 as a rebuke for younger people in the church to respect their elders. But Peter’s point at the end of this section is to “clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another.”
Peter’s main point here is that the church can only be healthy if the leadership is healthy. If your focus as a church leader is solely on the health of your church members and not on your own as well, you can fall risk to the adversary that Peter mentions later on in chapter 5.
So, after going through this passage of scripture and breaking it down, we want to ask you again.
Is your church healthy?