By Jeff Christopherson
Rewiring our long-established hardwiring can be an exasperating procedure. Our spiritual muscle memory has been dedicated to the objective of growing the sacred gathering. Rethinking and recalibrating against this instinctive pattern can be challenging. But for those who do, they discover the sacred assembly becomes a natural byproduct. These four marks do not describe every nuance of health, but gaps within these often lead to a troubling road ahead.
1. New Believers
If a new church plant moves into a neighborhood and manages to successfully grow at a rapid pace, but baptisms are limited to children from already believing families, and the previously evangelized transferring in — would this be considered a healthy plant? Any measurements of health should include an evaluation to see if the lost are being found and added to the faith.
Consequently, the highest value measured is gospel penetration in the lives of those formerly far from Christ. The primary phase of any new church plant must be a concentrated on evangelism. This requires careful spiritual reconnaissance of an area to determine patterns of resistance. Does this neighborhood or people group have emotional, intellectual, or volitional barriers to the message of Jesus?
Accurately understanding the soil you are investing in will return great rewards during harvest time.
With new believer’s regularly discovering faith in Christ, a new church has the culture for tremendous Kingdom impact.
2. New Disciple-makers
The word ‘discipleship’ has lost much of its punch over the past half century. For many, discipleship refers to a deeper-life process brought about through Bible studies. They are artificially fulfilled with a godly leader and a group of eager Bible students well insulated from the lost sheep.
If true disciple making is not a part of a new church’s strategic process—is that church plant obedient to the commission of Christ? A Kingdomcentric church plant will shape this expectation in the disciple early on because evangelism is unfinished until the evangelized begin evangelizing.
Pastors and worship services should be mere support structures for a membership that understands its Kingdom assignment in disciple making.
3. New Communities of Faith
Any understanding of a church plant’s health that does not account for the normative reproduction of its Kingdom assignment should be dismissed as self-serving. A church plant with no strategy to ‘give itself away’ to those with little or no access to a Gospel proclaiming church cannot consider itself whole.
What should be a new church’s primary value? Should it not be the lost son or daughter being eternally united with his or her Heavenly Father? If this is our highest value, then our planning should facilitate multiple movements of ‘eternal reunions’ taking place within diverse neighborhoods and people groups. The church plant operating in this way correctly sees itself as a tool for the assignment, not the reason of the assignment.
Developing a roadmap for a new church plant to sacrificially multiply new congregations as a normal part of its lifestyle is a vital sign of Kingdom health. Time and experience in that community will undoubtedly reveal ‘Gospel gaps’, whether they are affinity-based, linguistic, or cultural. These gaps become troubling to your spirit, motivating you and your team to prayerfully seek solutions to this eternal problem.
By instilling this value in the DNA of the church plant, the probability of a new church becoming a multiplying church increases greatly.
If it is calendared as a value to be adopted after achieving self-sustainability, it will never be a value at all. When it comes to determining future trajectory, actions always speak louder than words.
4. Transforming Communities
Finally, is it possible to consider a church plant to be healthy that has little or no transformative presence in the community?
Once again, time and experience advises a Kingdomcentric church plant how to release its members as selfless agents of transformation. The testimony of this health indicator can be observed as salt and light penetrating hidden places that a sacred service could never find. Metrics of success in this area become less objective and more anecdotal. The church in which I am a leader has a goal of 3000 ‘Kingdom imprints’ over the next five years. We define this as a documented occasion when a believer meets a physical need in the community and credits the grace of Jesus Christ.
Good works and good news on display in the context of Christian community is a potent testimony of our faith.
Four distinct Kingdom characteristics – all reproducing by nature, and all expressing our King’s desires for His creation. The church of Jesus Christ, united together and dreaming the very desires of King Jesus. The transformative power of that dream will be documented in a history not yet written, but none-the-less real.
Published April 6, 2016