Six Characteristics of a Healthy Church



I’m sure you know of the couple who woke up one Sunday morning and the wife said to her husband, “Get up or you will be late for church!”  Her husband replied, “I really don’t feel like going to church and I don’t like the church people that much anyway.   Give me 3 reasons why I should go this morning.”  The wife responded, “Number 1:  Church is beneficial because your hear God’s Word.  Number 2: The people at church actually care for you.  3.  And number 3: You’re the pastor!”

It sounds like that church may not be the spiritually healthiest church around – at least not the minister!   Of course we should not expect perfect churches because churches are made up of sinful people.  We are forgiven, but not sinless.   God doesn’t call Christians and churches to perfection, but he does call us to make progress.

The Church in Corinth was certainly not a perfect church and it had a number of issues and challenges.  As we come to the last chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he makes some closing remarks and we see what Paul considers what’s necessary for a healthy church – a church that’s progressing.   How do you and your church match up?

1. Zeal for evangelism

v15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first convertsin Achaia

Originally Paul went to Corinth in the province of Achaia and told people the truth about Jesus’ death for sins and subsequent resurrection.  Stephanas and his household believed the gospel and were the start of the church.  Here is an important observation: there is no other way to grow the church than through evangelism.  The church grows as people hear the gospel, repent of sin and believe the gospel.  All other methods of growth are false, deceptive and wrong.  Many churches seek to grow by presenting an entertaining programme or by watering down the gospel.  Without the continued, faithful proclamation of the gospel (in big groups and small conversations) there can be no real church growth.

2. Devotion to serving

v15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints

No-one asked or appointed Stehanas’ family to serve, they just did.   They ministered in Jesus’ name to others in the church. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul pictured the church as a human body with its different members all having different abilities and functions working for the good of the one body.  Jesus served us so we serve each other.  Note: in the Bible all Christians are called “saints”.

3. Respect for godly leaders

v15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and labourer.

As Christians we are told to submit to Christ as Sovereign King.   In the future the Bible says that every knee will bow before Christ – either in worship or terror.  Paul also wrote in chapter 14:37 that they should submit to him as Christ’s Apostle.   Here we are told to submit to godly leaders in the church.  The church cannot be made up of people all trying to do their own thing.  Marriage is a good illustration.  If both spouses pull in their own direction it is a recipe for divorce or an unhappy marriage.  Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in the Lord.  Marriage, like a ship, simply can’t have two captains.  So too the church.  We are called to submit to, i.e. voluntarily place ourselves under the authority of, godly leaders.

v17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Many people today don’t want to submit to anyone – it’s a characteristic of the age we live in.   Yet, as Christians, we humbly submit to those over us in the Lord.   We give them the recognition they deserve.  Are you willing to receive instruction from your church leaders, even rebuke, if necessary?

4. Desire for fellowship

v17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours.

I’m sure you’ve experienced what Paul is talking about here as you re-connected with long-lost friends.  Normally we make friends and spend time with people who are like us, are our own age, have a similar income bracket and culture, and share our hobbies.  Church is different.  We know that the church is made up of all kinds of people.  It’s great news that Christ calls all kinds of people to be part of his family.   No-one is too bad,  too evil or too sinful.  In Christ, because we are united by a far greater reality, we are able to transcend income-brackets, culture, background and personal likes.  We are brothers and sisters in God’s family.

v19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings.

In those days there were no designated church building and the church met in houses.   The church in Ephesus, meeting in the home of Aquila and Prisca, sent “hearty greeting” or literally “many hugs” to the Corinthian church.  They were far apart but their fellowship in the Lord was strong.

V20 …Greet one another with a holy kiss.

This simply means that they should greet one another warmly in a culturally appropriate way.   In our context, Paul would have written, “Give one another a hearty handshake!”  It was also meant to be a “holy” kiss.   That meant that if there were any issues between people that caused them not to greet, they were to sort it out, so that their greeting could be holy.  Fellowship is an essential part of Christianity and not an added-extra.

5. Commitment to love Jesus demonstrated by holiness

v22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.

What does Paul mean by, “has no love for the Lord”?  Can he see into his readers’ hearts?   The word “accursed” comes from the Old Testament word meaning “devoted to God” – normally devoted to God for destruction.   Accursed means to be under the judgment of God

According to the Bible, humanity is divided up into two groups.  (a) Those trying to earn their own righteousness and (b) those who accept the righteousness that comes from God.  The Bible says that those who try to earn own rightness before God are under the judgment of God, or accursed.   But those that accept the rightness of God that comes through faith in Christ are the total opposite, they are blessed.

Paul writes at the end of his letter, “Some of you listening to this letter being read out don’t love the Lord!”  How does Paul know?  They’ve shown it by their actions and attitudes that Paul had written about earlier in his letter.  Some were living in sexual immorality and didn’t care about it.  Some were giving their allegiance to idols.  Some were using the Lord’s Supper as an opportunity to get drunk and thus bring dishonour on Jesus.  Some had forsaken the gospel that was preached to them.  Some believed that this life is all there is.  Some created factions, divisions and disunity in the church.   These Corinthians demonstrated by their sinful lifestyle and ungodly attitudes that although they were in the church, they had no love for the Lord.   They thought they were blessed, but Paul says they are under God’s judgment.

V22 Our Lord, come!

Paul is not referring to the second coming, but that the Lord (Jesus) should come in judgment against those who would defile his church.

6. Passion for sound doctrine

v13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

The imposters and so-called “super-spiritual” Christians were saying that Jesus is not enough and the gospel is not sufficient for Christian living.  Paul, however, says, “Stand firm in THE faith”.  There is only one true faith, one sound body of teaching and one sure foundation.  In the midst of a world that would change the gospel, reduce the gospel, or add to the gospel, Paul instructs, “Stand firm in the faith.”   Is the preaching of God’s Word the main focus of your church service?  Do you listen more than you sing?  Does your pastor explain the Bible and remind you of the gospel each Sunday?


Written by Andre Visagie


The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or standpoint of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa


The Goal of Training

Training Small

Sitting in a meeting recently a person made this comment, she said,

“We have got a new leader, they went on a course and now they are trained.”

That comment made me stop and wonder…when is someone actually trained? It is commonly held that someone is trained when they have completed a course, when they have got a degree, when they have attended a set of lectures, when they have mastered some content but is that how it works? When does training end? When can training stop? Can we ever say that someone is now trained?

Tony Payne, Colin Marshall and the guys at MTS in Australia have helpfully developed a way of understanding the process of training and discipleship. It goes something like this….

•Far away from God

•Thinking about God

•Profession of Faith

•New Disciple

•Growing Disciple

•Minister to Others

•Trainer of Others

Every person is somewhere in their spiritual journey, somewhere along that line. Training is simply helping them to move along the line, one step to the right. That process helps us to see the goal clearly. A trainee is trained when they are training others, not when they have mastered material, or attended a course or been awarded a piece of paper. A trainer is trained only when they have understood, embraced and internalised training for themselves.

Here are some implications for when we train:

  • Whenever you teach a trainee something encourage them to teach it to someone else.
  • As a part of your training read and discuss 2 Tim 2:2 with them.
  • Pray with them around Matt 9:38. Get them to pray this with others.
  • Expect them to be involved in the process of recruiting and training others. Ask them to do it. Hold them accountable to it. Make time for this in their apprenticeships.
  • Keep on training them until you see them training others.

The Most Important Lesson on Training

Training Small

It was like a light bulb went on for me. The preacher was speaking on an all too familiar text, Jesus appointing the 12 to be his apostles (Mk 3:13-19) when a little line (that I must have read hundreds of times) jumped out and punched me firmly between the eyes.

Mark 3:14 says: He appointed twelve - designating them apostles - that they might be with him.

That little phrase, “that they might be with him” is the essence of Jesus training strategy. It is not complicated. It doesn’t involve huge resources. You don’t have to be brilliant or particularly gifted to pull it off. In fact it is incredibly simple. The essence of training is sharing your life with them. It doesn’t require classrooms or formal curricula or expensive buildings. It is just presence - him with them. He shared himself with them. They were together for three years. They must have talked about the Scriptures, talked about people, talked about ministry, talked about politics and ethics. They surely prayed together, kicked a ball, laughed and wept together. He taught them what to do with his words and they watched him do it himself. As he did ministry they saw the way he handled people and how he handled the Bible, they saw how he lived and they saw his heart…because training is more than knowledge. Training is knowledge and skills, but the most important part of training is the training of the heart. Christian ministry must flow out of a heart that is deeply in love with God.

The strategy isn’t complicated but it is costly. Lorne Sanny says,

Sometimes we don’t want to get involved. We don’t want the phone to ring at night. We want to pull up the drawbridge around our little home so nothing disturbs our peace. But if you’re going to share your life with people, it’s going to disturb your peace. That’s the cost. It will tear you apart. But it will also thrill you…

6 thoughts for training…

  1. Training is very simple. It is simply sharing your life and ministry. Anyone can do it.
  2. You can’t train if you won’t give yourself. Don’t even try.
  3. Do as much as you can with your trainees. Take them with you.
  4. Share your life with them. Share your joys and struggles, your successes and failures. Let them watch you do it.
  5. Let them catch your passion for God.
  6. Centre all you do on the Bible. Make sure you are reading and praying it with them.

Additional reading: The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman…a classic and a must read.

Billy Graham says about this book, “Few books have had as great an impact on the cause of world evangelisation…”

The Birth of C4


“When DID YOU decide to plant a church?” This is the question I’ve been asked most recently. The answer always brings about the same reaction in almost everyone who hears it. The ICU ward in Sunninghill Hospital Joburg got me to think about church planting. Having suffered a Pulmonary Embolism and spending ten days in ICU, one has a bit more time to think clearly and evaluate their life and circumstances. It was at that time that I decided it would be honouring to the Lord for me to at least think, pray and investigate what is involved in church planting. Technically speaking, cross centered community church – C4 was born in a hospital.

About two years ago a group of 18 adults and a bunch of kids started meeting as the core group coming out of Christ Church Midrand. We met weekly for bible study, training and prayer. We also met as a community to do life together. It soon became clear that we needed to grow and expand our efforts and so we started a Sunday morning gathering where others could attend. Many others have come to join us, including some non-Christi ans. We are a church of small gospel communities because we are convinced this is the best way to evangelize, disciple and pastor each other in our context. Many people have found this refreshing and new. It is authentic community where people are loved and cared for, but most important where they see the Bible come alive in practice. We have now been meeting officially as a church for the past eight months and are encouraged to be part of what God is doing in our community. It is early days, but they are good days indeed.

C4 meets on a Sunday morning in a pre-school hall in Bryanston. God has blessed us with this great facility because it’s comfortable for adults and awesome for our children in a big way. Our aim is to see young professionals and young families come to know Jesus and grow to maturity in Him. We want the gospel of Christ to be clear, to be relevant and culture-transforming in our community. As C4 we want to see many un-churched and un-believing people come to Christ as Lord and Saviour. We believe we have a role to play in Joburg. We love Joburg – because it’s our city and God has put us here. We pray and look where God is working and partner with Him there for the good of the city.