A Healthy Church
I was chatting with Cameron Eccleston from Baptist World Aid when our conversation turned towards what makes for a healthy, Spirit filled, life-giving church. Cameron visits lots of churches and he always leaves with an impression, imperfect though it be, of their spiritual vitality.
The churches that leave Cameron buoyant in faith are not necessarily the biggest churches, or the slick contemporary churches with a great band and tight program. Nor can vitality be linked to the quality of the décor, the passion of the preaching and leading, the ‘freedom’ of worship, nor even by a stated commitment to the centrality of God’s Word – as important as that is.
Church vitality, as Cameron senses it on a Sunday morning, is more intangible. Ask simple questions. Is the love of Jesus present? Are people engaged with God and one another, or do they seem to be going through the motions?
We spent four Sundays at St Andrews Baptist in Scotland. They meet in a dingy school hall. Their music was in holiday survival mode; everything at a steady beat. They were ‘traditional’. But… they loved Jesus. Old and young shared with each other before and after the service. They sung with joy and passion. They smiled, laughed, and engaged in every part of the service with sincerity. We felt that we were part of a healthy, Spirit filled church.
We concern ourselves lots of things in church life that are secondary. But do we have a passion for unity in the Spirit, for the love of Jesus given and received? That’s central. That’s number one.