- David Schrader, PhD., National Pastor
New Year, Fresh Start
A New Year is for new beginnings–a new resolution, a new dream, a new resolve–these all speak of determination and challenge. Seeing a New Year’s resolution come to pass can be rewarding and exciting–like getting a new job, seeing a waistline reduction, or buying your first home–but in the end, while these are great achievements, they’re just temporal accomplishments.
What about your spiritual health? Have you ever thought of making a resolution to address this area of your life? I am not sure where the matter of spiritual health rates on your priority list, but if you’re involved in a church and you care about your church, then you need to know that your church’s health is affected by the attitude you take towards your spiritual health.
When the Apostle John wrote to Gaius, his friend, he said, “My dear friend, I know your soul is doing fine, and I pray that you are doing well in every way and that your health is good (3 John 1:2).” You can tell from John’s focus that the spiritual health of his friend was his first and foremost concern. It also must be our top concern as well.
Rick Warren has rightly pointed out, “The key issue for churches in the twenty-first century will be church health, not church growth”. I couldn’t agree more with Warren’s insight. Every person in every church must take the matter of their own spiritual health seriously.
The church is never a building or a place but always a people or a flock, and as such, it is only as strong as the spiritual health of each of its members. Spader and Mayes point this out in their book, Growing a Healthy Church, “Our culture measures success by educational degrees, statistical gains, big buildings, and hefty bank accounts. God measures success by changed lives and leaders who are producing them. A healthy church is one characterized by Ephesians 4:13”. Is your church producing changed lives or just reshuffling saints from one church to another to increase its numbers?
London and Wiseman have some solid advice for churches and their leaders:
“You can build a big attendance church without much help from God....Almost anyone, from a human point of view, can do the right things and people will be attracted to a church . . . . If you succeed in your own strength, however, your church will be shallow, misguided, self-indulgent, muddled crowd that only faintly resembles God’s dream for his church or for your ministry”.
Over the years I have seen too many churches that fit the description of London and Wiseman. They are shallow, misguided and self-indulgent. Even Jesus had to address churches like that in the book of Revelation. Unhealthy churches are toxic churches comprised of spiritually unhealthy people. Unfortunately, these people have failed to grasp what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every church was a healthy one? It can be! This is where you come in. Do you understand what it means to be a healthy disciple? Do you know what’s at stake if you don’t take your spiritual health and growth seriously? These are questions of grave importance. Did you know that Christ has provided every Christian with everything they need to become spiritually healthy?
Peter says, “By his (Christ’s) divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (1Peter 1:3). Wow, Christ’s divine nature within us providing us with everything we need for living a godly life! So, what is holding you back?
People of godly character and influence are desperately needed in our world today. The Christian life was never intended to be an initial “spasm” of belief followed by years of chronic inertia. Christian growth and spiritual health were to be pursued with passion.
Peter expected believers to grow into godly people when he said, “Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Peter lays out a progressive growth plan for all Christians to become healthy. He starts out by saying “supplement” your faith. To put it simply, that means add to it. He ends up with brotherly affection and love for everyone at the top of the list.
Most of us can manage to get to the place where we can love our own. Even at that level many of us can struggle. But imagine getting to the place where in our spiritual growth the final expectation is that we would love everyone. You say, “Everyone”. That’s a tall order. You mean I’m to love people like my boss, my co-workers, or that other political party. Wow, you can’t be serious”. That’s what he says. So how would you rate your progress towards spiritual growth at this point?
Consider what Peter says next. “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Productive and useful! Wow! Could the church ever use people like that! Spiritual growth is for the purpose of being useful and productive. Do you know any Christians that are not being productive and useful? I bet you do.
Next, Peter goes on to tell us why we need to make our spiritual health a top priority. He says, “Those who fail to develop in this way (grow and become healthy) are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins”.
Failing to grow as a Christian is not good. Not good at all! Shortsighted or spiritually blind people can become mean spirited, legalistic, chronic complainers or just downright toxic in general. Their very presence can pollute an otherwise healthy church. Sadly, these people have forgotten all about the grace that God had bestowed upon them.
Peter finally adds, “So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away”. Wait, fall away? Did you catch that? Let me repeat it again. “Do these things and you will never fall away. “Fall away”, what does that mean you ask? Well, for starters it sure doesn’t sound good, wouldn’t you agree? It looks to me, like he is talking about people who will no longer be in communion with God or others. One thing can be said for certain–if you’re away from God, you’re not going to be spiritually healthy.
Let’s not kid ourselves about our spiritual health in 2018! Spiritual growth and health is not an option for those that call themselves Christians.
Are you feeling the need for a spiritual check-up? Want to get back on the road to spiritual vitality and health? Resolve this year to do something about your spiritual growth and health. Your church will love you for it.