Churches are too busy. Church members are too busy.
We have created cultures of activity in many of our churches instead of cultures of transformational discipleship. There are so many important facets of church life to emphasize. Where should we put our greatest emphases?
Without diminishing other ministries and activities in churches, I want to share with you the two most common practices in healthy churches. I understand that "healthy" can have a subjective nature to it. And I understand that correlation is not the same as causation.
But after looking at tens of thousands of churches over the past several years, I would be negligent if I did not note these two common practices in the healthiest of the churches.
These practices showed up again and again:
1. The church strongly encourages its members to read the Bible daily. Brad Waggoner, in his excellent book, The Shape of Faith to Come, provides excellent research toward this reality. When Christians read their Bibles every day, they are more likely to evangelize, minister to the community, pray, give to the church and be a unifying force in the congregation. The healthy churches do not simply say members should read their Bibles, they are highly intentional and strategic about helping the members toward that end. It is not a one-and-done emphasis. It is a part of the DNA of the church, and the emphasis and encouragement is redundant and persistent.
2. The church has an incredibly strong emphasis on groups. Choose the name that best fits your context: community groups, Sunday school, life groups, small groups, home groups or others. Drop-out rates are five times higher for those in worship only versus those who also are involved in a group. (Note: That statistic is dated, but I have at least anecdotal confidence it is still fairly accurate.) Groups provide three incredible dynamics for members: They increase stickiness or assimilation; they provide community; and they are instruments of accountability.
At the risk of being redundant, let me be very clear. It is not the mere existence of groups or emphases on Bible daily reading that are the differentiating factors in healthy churches. Rather, it is the reality that church leaders are strategic about these two vital areas and determined to move all members to these two important habits.
Would your church members say these two areas are key emphases in your church? If so, you are likely in a healthy church or a church that is moving toward health.
Let me hear from you.
Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.
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