The First Attribute of a Healthy Church

My denomination, The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is not really a denomination but a convention of like-minded autonomous churches that voluntarily cooperate together for the purpose of doing the Great Commission. It originated as Triennial Baptist Convention, founded 203 years ago when Baptists came to understand that we could do more together than separately. I love the SBC, and I believe the churches of the SBC are some of the most Christ-centered mission-minded churches in the world.
 
You may be from one of the 9,000 different denominations that exist in the world or one of the hundreds of thousands of churches that claim no denominational affiliation. Each denomination and each nondenominational church claims to have a healthy grasp of the Christian faith. Whatever denomination you claim, you likely feel the same way about your fellowship as I do about the SBC.
 
Before there was a Protestant Reformation split off the Roman Catholic Church, there was one united body of Christians in the first century. On the day in which she was born, the day of Pentecost, there were three thousand souls added to her number (Acts 2:41). Over the first three centuries, the first church grew exponentially and evangelized much of the known world.
 
These days there are all sorts of measurements of church health. Every pastor and layperson who cares wants to get a pulse on whether or not their church is alive or dead, growing or declining, and whether or not they are reaching the world with the message of the gospel. The best measurement of your church’s health is to see how well it stacks up to the healthiest and growing church ever known.
 
Over the next few weeks, I want to use this space to expound upon Acts 2:42-47. No matter your denominational affiliation, this should help you get a feel for how healthy is your church. Let’s look at the first attribute of a healthy church and we will look at more next week.
 
1. A healthy church is one where Bible teaching is the lynchpin.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
 

It says here that the first church was devoted to “the apostles’ teaching.” The apostles, in obedience to the Great Commission, had made disciples, baptized them, and taught them all that Jesus had commanded them. This first church, composed of born again disciples, was careful to observe, learn, practice, and teach what they had been taught. The teaching of Peter, James, John and the other apostles was their lifeblood and the thing they hung onto the tightest.

 
There was no turning to the right or left. There was no new or strange teaching. Their fellowship was the fellowship that was taught to them. When they observed the Lord supper (the breaking of bread) they did it the way they were taught. They prayed, and when they prayed they did so in the way they were taught.
 
They were dogmatically conservative of the teaching they received. When they would receive letters from the apostles, they would make copies and circulate them to all the churches in the region. They believed these writings to be inspired of the Holy Spirit, so they took care in the way that they preserved them. Many would give their lives in obedience to what they had been taught, thus strengthening the resolve of the church and authenticating the teaching of the apostles.
 
The “apostles teaching” is still preserved for us today in twenty-six New Testament writings. Healthy churches still devote themselves to the apostles teaching. In healthy churches, the preaching from the pulpit and the teachings in the small groups (Sunday School) centers around the same teaching of the apostles. On the hearts and minds of the members are the New Testament writings. The way they fellowship, the way they practice the ordinances, and the way they pray are in accordance with the apostles’ teachings.
 
Ask these questions of your own church. Is the teaching that comes from the pulpit in agreement with the teaching in the New Testament? What about the teaching you receive in your smaller groups? Are the people in your fellowship discussing football more than they discuss scripture? The honest answers to these questions will give you a good idea about the health of your church.