Developing Church Health
- Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Church health is a major issue in evangelicalism today. Entire books have been dedicated to the subject. Ministries related to church health are now pervasive with certain individuals emphasizing that issue over church growth. Church splits often hurt many individuals involved and bring reproach upon Christ Himself. Breaches in relationships must be repaired if the church is to be seen for what it truly is: the body of Christ. Real differences from the world and real spiritual power must be demonstrated in God's churches. While a number of dynamics are involved in church health, practically speaking, we must learn how to minister to individuals in the church who are facing differing problems. In so doing, we will then be in the process of developing and maintaining a healthy church. So, how can we do our part?
First, we can do our part to develop and maintain a healthy church if we understand our union with the body of Christ. We must see and treat one another as family. Too often persons in the church see one another as adversaries. This concept is foundational and ties the following implications together. These implications are grounded in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 . There, Paul addresses the "brethren." We are brothers and sisters and in union with one another by virtue of our union with Christ. In light of that reality, there are practical issues in terms of relationships with which we must deal.
Second, we can do our part to develop and maintain a healthy church if we understand our focus on the body of Christ. In other words, in terms of relationships, our focus must be others and not ourselves. When conflict arises, the most common response is a focus on oneself by way of anger, an unwillingness to seek reconciliation, or the slander of a brother. In his word to the Thessalonians, Paul emphasizes a focus on others. Elsewhere he says, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:3-5)."
Third, we can do our part to develop and maintain a healthy church if we understand our ministry to the body of Christ. As we focus on others, we will minister to others. Paul offers a word of exhortation in terms of helping those within the body who face different issues leading to different dispositions or heart attitudes. He simply says, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all (1 Thes. 5:14)." Rather than tear others down, we are to help those within the church who are hurting or who have perhaps fallen into sin. We are to deal with them in ways that are relevant to that with which they are struggling. Highlights may be given here.
The first thing we can do in terms of ministry is "warn those who are unruly." The word translated "warn" is the Greek word rooted in nouthesis from which we get our word "nouthetic" which relates to the specific discipline of biblical counseling. The verb noutheteo refers to imparting understanding, setting right, or laying on the heart. The emphasis lies in not only influencing the intellect but in moving the will. The word is often translated admonish, warn, remind, correct, etc. The word literally means to put in mind with particular reference to training by the Word through encouragement or reproof.
In addition, the concept carries a specific pastoral function in the New Testament and indeed, a primary function. Pastors are to confront nouthetically individuals in the every day ebb and flow of their ministries. Believers are to do the same in regard to one another. We members of the body of Christ are to shepherd one another in appropriate ways. In this particular context, we are to help those who have broken ranks come to their senses.
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