This is the last Voice article for the year of 2018 and so that means we come to an end of our study this year of the Characteristics of a Healthy Church. To summarize, here are the previous eleven entries in this list: Passionate Worship, Expositional Preaching, Sound Theology, Qualified Leadership, Converted Membership, Persistent Evangelism, Continued Growth, Heartfelt Prayer, Humble Service, Missions Minded, and Individual Accountability. Any time we write a list like this there are of course some other topics that could be included. There is no absolute final list of THE 12 characteristics of a healthy church. I would have liked to include something about fellowship or the administering of the ordinances (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). It is important for me to note this just to make sure if you don’t see something on this list that should be, it doesn’t mean I don’t believe it is necessary or Biblical. It just means I chose the top 12 for what I would think I would see in a healthy church. With that in mind, let’s get to our characteristic for this month: One Another’s.
I love the church, that’s no secret. I think it is the greatest organization that there is (even though it is more of an organism rather than just an organization). It is the only thing that Jesus promised to build. It is the only group called the Lord’s Body, giving it an extreme importance to the Lord. It is the only collection of people the Lord promised to sanctify and make holy; not the culture or the nation. It is the only crowd that is promised eternal life in heaven. These details are what make the church so great and so important in the Lord’s eyes.
But there is one more practical detail about the church that makes it so great and that makes it very personal in experience; it is the relationship of the people of the church to one another. It is an absolute blessing to join together on Sunday mornings with all kinds of different people from all different kinds of backgrounds and personalities and gather to praise the same God who gave the same salvation to all of them. But it is an even greater blessing to then share life with those other people and do ministry together.
The Bible calls on us to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice’ and ‘weep’ with those who ‘weep’ (Rom 12:15). How many of you reading this can testify to your personal experience to this exhortation? When joy and excitement happened to you, people from the church came to celebrate with you. When sorrow and hardship happened to you, people from the church came to weep with you. I can testify to both of these. From seeing the joy of our girls being born and having church people coming to rejoice with us to receiving cards of sympathy or calls of concern when a relative passed away or when a trip to the hospital was needed. This is what makes the church so special.
Over and over again in the New Testament there are commands upon believers to do various ‘One Another’s.’ 59 times in the New Testament the church is called on to ‘one another’ one another. From commands like honor one another, to instruct one another, to forgive one another, to encourage one another, the ‘one another’s’ are everywhere and they are varied. The most common ‘one another’ is to love one another which occurs 12 times. The New Testament sees a believer in Christ with a responsibility to live in relationship with other believers.
I don’t know how some believers think their Christian life can be lived in isolation away from the church. Those who don’t attend church regularly not only miss out on the blessings of being in relationship with others, but they also consistently disobey the ‘one another’ commands of Scripture. How can you obey those commands if you are never in relationship with other believers in the church?
The highlight of membership and ministry in the local church is the relationship you can develop with other believers. The connections, the shared lives, the joys and struggles are all a blessings we receive from the Lord here on earth. I can’t imagine a life without relationships with others in God’s family. Our final characteristic of a healthy church is a church that genuinely involves themselves with the other members and form lasting encouraging relationships. So, dive in, get involved, start serving and begin ‘one anothering’ one another.
Pastor Mark Scialabba