“The Christian Reformed Church is a diverse family of healthy congregations, assemblies, and ministries expressing the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide.”
Did you know that the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church reaffirmed the above in 2010 as our denomination’s vision statement?
The Board also agreed that “The ministry priority of the Christian Reformed Church is to create and sustain healthy congregations for the purpose of transforming lives and communities worldwide.”
"Just what is it that makes for a healthy congregation?
So, you might ask, just what is it that makes for a healthy congregation?
Some might say that meeting the budget is a good indication of a congregation’s health. Others might look at a church’s programs. Still others might consider such things as the church facility, parking spaces, or community involvement. While any and all of those have something to do with congregational health, none by itself—and not all of them together—make a church healthy.
If I could show you a church that grew phenomenally—by as much as 2,500 percent—after one spectacular worship service, would you be inclined to consider it a healthy congregation?
The Bible describes it this way: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).
Here was a church in which God’s Word was central—not only on a pulpit or podium in the front of the sanctuary, but in the hearts and minds of the members. They placed it first in their lives. They consulted it first in their decisions. They listened to it before making plans. They put it before their families. They gave it first place, without exception.
Here was a church in which hospitality was important. Church members listened to each other before they spoke. They cared for one another’s needs before making their own known. They sought out people they did not know. They shared meals together and laughter and tears. They shared themselves.
Here was a church in which the sound of splashing water or the scent of pressed grapes brought warmth to hearts and tears to eyes and filled the air with the electricity of faith. Bread fed souls hungry for closeness to God. Worship services never seemed too long, never seemed long enough.
Here was a church in which, even when people disagreed—especially when they disagreed—they shared the same position: kneeling. They spoke not only to each other, but to God on behalf of each other. “Amen” meant not only that a prayer was finished but that the pray-ers believed that the God to whom they prayed had lovingly heard. Prayer was not their last resort but their first impulse, not the end of things but the very beginning.
This was a healthy congregation. And there are many healthy congregations in the Christian Reformed Church today. We are made continually healthier in these important ways: teaching, fellowship, sacraments, and prayer.
These essentials receive additional power through such programs as Sustaining Pastoral Excellence and Sustaining Congregational Excellence.They are encouraged and enhanced by the dedicated work of Pastor-Church Relations. And by God’s amazing grace they are available to us all.
The One who came not to declare us healthy but to diagnose and treat the sick, provides this prescription for good health. Wherever such “treatment” is not only offered but received, the prognosis is truly good.