Every dead frog must wiggle to become healthy
Every dead frog must wiggle. Now, doesn’t that sound like a profound statement? No? Not unless you have a profound appreciation for literary devices.
Every dead frog must wiggle is a phrase I learned in seminary. And, I know how confident that makes you feel about the value of a seminary education. But, stay with me; I really did learn some things in seminary. And, from the phrase, every dead frog must wiggle, I learned the five basic functions of the church: Evangelism, Discipleship, Fellowship, Missions/Ministry, and Worship.
Over the next few weeks, we will consider numerous lists of the characteristics of a healthy church. Recently, I have studied several different lists with anywhere from eight to 12 characteristics of a healthy church. This one is the most basic list I have found. And, think about that phrase: Every dead frog must wiggle.
Now, I have to warn you that if you are an especially sensitive person and particularly fond of small, green amphibians, this next bit of information might upset you. But, when I was a boy I had a pet frog that died. Be careful, it gets a little more graphic over the next couple of sentences. Even after my frog died, he continued to move. I hope I have not offended anyone. But, you have probably seen the same thing. Sometimes, even though they have “passed from this life into the next” (please don’t read anything theological into that last statement – it’s just a phrase we all use), frogs, like snakes, sometimes keep moving around for a while even when they are dead. The whole thing “freaked me out” when I was a boy. But it really happened. My dead frog actually moved – he wiggled. He was dead but still moving – still going through the motions.
Every dead frog must wiggle.
Sadly, the same is true for too many Missouri Baptist Churches. We all know of some churches that are, for all practical purposes, dead but still moving – still going through the motions. They continue to hold services. They meet. Sing. Preach. Hold business meeting. (Business meeting may actually their most exciting meeting.) These churches continue to hold church socials. Some of them even conduct some kinds of community outreach. They marry. They bury. They wiggle. They continue to go through the motions. But, they are dead or, at the very least, extremely unhealthy.
Those unhealthy Missouri Baptist churches are in desperate need of a church health screening. And the phrase we have been using provides an appropriate outline for that church health screening. Why not rate your church?
Every dead frog must wiggle.
• Evangelism – what is the evangelism quotient in your church? The evangelism quotient is the number of baptisms annually divided by the number of church members. If there are 750 members in your church and, last year, your church baptized 25 people; your evangelism quotient is 30. If that same church baptized only 15 people, your evangelism quotient would be 50. That would mean that, in your church, it takes 50 Christians to lead just one person to Christ. The evangelism quotient for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is 32. It takes 32 Missouri Baptists to lead one person to Christ. What is the evangelism quotient in your church? A healthy church is one that trains its members for witnessing and offers encouragement and opportunities to participate in evangelism.
• Discipleship – the evangelism quotient in your church is directly impacted by the priority given to discipleship in your church. The marching orders for the church are found in the Great Commission. Matt. 28:19-20 has as much to say about discipleship as it does about evangelism. In fact, the implication is that your church will be an evangelistic church only to the extent that it is a discipling church. A healthy church remains focused on teaching the deep truths of Scripture, thereby growing mature Christians.
• Fellowship – not just church socials, but genuine Christian fellowship. In Heb. 10:25, the Holy Spirit referred to genuine Christian fellowship and to the result of that fellowship. In that passage of Scripture, God says that Christians are to gather together for the purpose of encouraging one another and enabling one another to endure spiritual warfare. Genuine Christian fellowship is much, much more than lingering and visiting after church on Sunday morning. Genuine Christian fellowship is genuinely caring for and ministering to one another in difficult circumstances and is necessary in a healthy church.
• Missions/Ministry – healthy churches do more than talk about missions and ministry. They actually do missions and ministry. Healthy churches impact their communities. They confront the culture and improve the moral climate in their community. They seek out the needy and meet their needs. Healthy churches find those who are hurting and they provide comfort and healing. Healthy churches provide hands-on opportunities to do missions and ministry. Healthy Southern Baptist churches participate in direct missions as well as cooperative missions. Healthy churches do more than talk about missions and ministry. Healthy churches actually do missions and ministry at home and abroad.
• Worship – vibrant, Spirit-filled worship is a requirement for any church that will successfully complete our church health screening. But be sure to notice that vibrant, Spirit-filled worship is either and it is neither traditional or contemporary. I am a little concerned about the grammatical accuracy of that last sentence, but the theology of it is correct. Whether you enjoy classical or cowboy music is not the issue. If traditional hymns speak to you, sing those hymns exuberantly. If choruses touch you, sing your choruses with gusto. Regardless of worship style, healthy churches are churches that genuinely “… worship in Spirit and in truth”.
Well, how did your church do? What is the health-ranking of your church when you consider the areas of Evangelism, Discipleship, Fellowship, Missions/Ministry and Worship? This was a just a quick look at your church health – sort of like a check-up. In future articles, we will be looking more closely at the characteristics of a healthy church. And we will write a prescription for church health. But this is a great start. And how did you stack-up? During my last physical health screening, I found a few things that needed some attention. I am praying that all Missouri Baptists will take an honest look at the Spiritual health of our churches and be quick to take whatever corrective actions are needed.