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Healthy leaders mark healthy churches
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
May 17, 2010
4 MIN READ TIME

Healthy leaders mark healthy churches

Healthy leaders mark healthy churches
Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications
May 17, 2010

In his book Comeback

Churches, Ed Stetzer writes that 3,500-4,000 churches close each year in the

United States and 70-80 percent of churches in North America are stagnant or

declining.

“Millions of Christians

attend churches that demonstrate little concern for the lost around them,”

writes Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. Many of these stagnant churches

have the resources to make a difference if they committed to becoming “more

than museums of past glory days.”

While more church plants are

desperately needed, existing churches also need to get back on track if nearly

1.6 billion people in the world are going to hear the gospel for the first

time. The foundation for doing both and seeing any measure of success is really

the same: spiritually healthy leaders. Pastors and church leaders can’t expect

the congregation to be healthy if they themselves are not healthy.

Returning spiritually mature

leaders to the pulpit is the focus of one-day Church Health Institutes being

held across the state. Neal Eller, church health team leader for the Baptist

State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), began the May 4 Church Health

Institute in Cary by asking pastors, church leaders and directors of missions

to consider the state of congregations they serve. Are they barren, with no

fruit for the Kingdom of God? Do they look healthy only from the outside? Are

they producing disciples who are producing disciples?

Russ Conley, BSC leadership consultant, says “We often don’t give a lot of thought to why we’re doing the things we’re doing.”

Eller reminded leaders of

Revelation 2:2-5 and how the church in Ephesus “abandoned the love” they once

had for God. Leaders must anchor their lives on love for God and the gospel or

they will never be healthy leaders with healthy congregations.

Who are you?

Church leaders sometimes

give in to the unhealthy habit of trying to please everyone around them. When

that happens, their vision for the church can get sidetracked by other

priorities. David Moore, BSC pastoral ministries consultant, asked attendees to

think about the people they listen to. “Ministers lose their joy because they

feel like they are subject to other people’s voices,” Moore said.

John 10 describes Jesus as

the Good Shepherd and believers as those who hear His voice and follow Him.

“Who you are and what you

value will determine what you do,” Moore said. Who a leader is depends on

whether or not the leader truly believes that self-worth and value are

validated in a relationship with Jesus Christ and not in trying to please

everyone.

Church leaders, especially

ministers, can fall into the trap of saying “yes” to everything and before long

have no time for family or even themselves. “What are you saying yes to that

you really don’t have to?,” Moore asked.

Values first

Most are familiar with the

Proverbs 29:18 text: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But a

vision statement “doesn’t automatically mean a shared understanding and

commitment,” said Russ Conley, BSC leadership consultant. Nor does it

automatically mean a healthy church.

Values drive vision. If a

leader’s values are not aligned with scripture the most eloquent church vision

statement means nothing. Conley said pastors must face the reality that often a

gap exists between the stated values of a congregation and their actual values.

Pastors must help their congregations understand who they actually are.

With values in place,

churches can move forward in the process of re-thinking structure and strategy.

“We often don’t give a lot of thought to why we’re doing the things we’re

doing,” Conley said. “A busy church is a happy church. We lose sight of the

bigger picture.”

The Great Commandment

In Matthew 22:20 Jesus says

the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor

as yourself. Healthy churches do both.

Healthy churches understand

that a shared sense of values among the people is fostered when leaders put a

high value on making disciples committed to Matthew 22:20.

“You can’t change the values

in your church without discipling people,” said Rick Hughes, BSC discipleship

consultant.

Hughes explained that

healthy churches do not see church as something just for them; healthy churches

engage in gospel-centered worship and engage others with the gospel.

Hughes encourages churches

to begin Acts 2 disciple-making groups. Groups of about 8 or 10 meet weekly and

focus on four areas: learning biblical truths, building relationships,

community missions and spiritual growth.

Remaining Church Health Institutes are

June 1 in Concord, Sept. 9 in Greensboro and Oct. 19 in Hendersonville.