I do not tire of quoting Jess Moody who said that people choose a church with their noses. They can smell the joy.

That's as good a summary as I've ever heard. People can smell the joy on Sunday morning. And they can smell the other stuff too. Sometimes it's easy to smell the manure of church conflict. Most of us have had the experience of visiting a new church and without knowing anything about it, we sense that something is wrong inside the church. People look distraught, upset, flat, disinterested, and sometimes you can feel the tension in the air.

I don't think you can fake joy. Even unbelievers can sense it. And nowhere is it more obvious than in hearty congregational singing and obvious affection between the pastor and the congregation. Where those things are present, you have found a healthy church.

(I'd love to know what you think about this. Do you agree with these two marks of a healthy church? What else would you add that would help a visitor quickly gauge the health of a church? Click here to offer your comments.)

Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries and author of And When You Pray. He has ministered extensively overseas and is a frequent conference speaker and guest on Christian radio and television talk shows. He has authored over 27 books, including Credo, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul, and Why Did This Happen to Me?

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