Don’t you just despise reruns on television?
With the onset of “reality television” we don’t have to endure reruns much anymore, but when I was a kid, all summer we had to watch reruns of My Three Sons and Father Knows Best. I have to admit, it sometimes took two viewings for me to “get it,” so reruns are not altogether bad. I hope you agree because this article is the second installment in the “reruns” of my Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) vision statement articles. In this column, I want to explain what I mean when I use the term “spiritually healthy churches.” Here it is:
Vision statement: A vivid idealized description of a desired outcome that inspires, energizes and helps you create a mental picture of your target. That definition clarifies the subject of my last Pathway column. I shared with you what I hope will become the vision statement of our Missouri Baptist Convention – that, Missouri Baptists are spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ. When that vision becomes reality in our Missouri Baptist Convention and in your Missouri Baptist church, we will be meeting ourselves coming and going.
In the previous article, we began to closely examine that statement, one phrase at a time. I shared with you six specifics that define spiritually healthy Christians. The next phrase explains that those spiritually healthy Christians are “… coming together in healthy churches.” Consider that statement.
Healthy churches are:
Churches filled with spiritually healthy Christians. This was the point of the previous article. And, maybe you remember that spiritually healthy Christians are saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, devoted to personal discipleship through daily devotions, holy in their lifestyle, passionate witnesses for Christ, and in love with the Lord’s church. Healthy churches are only healthy when they are filled with spiritually healthy Christians.
Churches where genuine Christian fellowship is experienced. If your church is not singing the old hymns of the church, you are missing the opportunity to affirm some important theological truths. A couple of weeks ago, in my home church, we sang the hymn, “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship.” The last verse of that great old hymn begins with the words “Let us love our God supremely, Let us love each other too.” I am convinced that the lack of genuine Christian fellowship in our Missouri Baptist Convention and in Missouri Baptist churches is the result of a lack of genuine love for our Lord. None of us should claim to love God unless we also love God’s people. Healthy churches are healthy only when genuine Christian fellowship is experienced.
Churches where the truth of Scripture is taught and lived. Inerrancy was the code word of the Southern Baptist Convention/MBC conservative resurgence. In my opinion, inerrancy is the most accurate word to describe Scripture. The Word of God is absolutely and completely true. Today, we can find a wide array of writing—articles and books designed to help us in church work. I also find something in every book and/or article with which I disagree. Sometimes, even in useful books, I find statements that are utterly false. But every word in the Word of God is true and helpful to the Christian and to the Christian church. Healthy churches are healthy only when the Bible is our only guide for faith and practice because it is the entirely true Word of God.
Churches with a Kingdom focus. Healthy churches are focused on building the Kingdom of God. But there are some churches and a few church leaders who are focused on building personal kingdoms. The Spirit of God inspired the Apostle Paul to write to the Roman church declaring that the “… kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus spoke about the “… mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 13:11, He immediately began to speak to His own disciples about righteous living. The kingdom of God is the rule of God in the hearts and lives of His people. It is Jesus Christ reigning in His church. A kingdom-focused church is a church that is not concerned about its own needs. A kingdom-focused church is concerned about the needs of the lost world—specifically the needs of the community that surrounds the church. A kingdom-focused church is always concerned with the advance of God’s agenda—not the personal agendas of church members. Healthy churches are healthy only when they are focused on the kingdom of God.
Churches where the Great Commission is preeminent. Last words are important. And, it is important for us to hear and heed the final words of Jesus to His church—“Go therefore and make disciples.” A version or an adaptation of the Great Commission appears in the closing chapter of every Gospel and in the opening chapter book of Acts. To help us to fulfill the Great Commission, Southern Baptists have adopted the Acts 1:8 Challenge. In Missouri, we call it Show-Me Acts 1:8. Healthy Missouri Baptist churches are genuinely healthy only when they are sharing the Savior.
Our vision statement describes the healthy church as “… going to an unhealthy world.” An unhealthy world is a world without Christ. The song says “… the whole world was lost in the darkness of sin.” The third verse of that great old hymn describes “… dwellers in darkness with sin-blinded eyes” and encourages them to “… Go, wash at His bidding, and light will arise”—which portrays the ultimate outcome of “… the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The healing Gospel is the good news that Jesus came to “… seek and to save that which was lost.” The healing Gospel declares that God is “… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The healing Gospel says clearly that
“… God so loved the [unhealthy] world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him [and His healing Gospel] should not perish but have everlasting life.”
I am praying for the day when Missouri Baptists will meet themselves coming and going. And we will, indeed, meet ourselves coming and going when we become spiritually healthy Christians, coming together in healthy churches, going to an unhealthy world with the healing Gospel of Jesus Christ.