The following post is taken from our 2014 Annual Report.
When I became the pastor of the Village Church I don’t think I was quite ready to lead. Looking back on it, even though I’d been on staff at some churches and participated in other non-profit ministries, I had never walked in and through the complexities of leading people, managing growth, handling large budgets, or resolving conflicts. To work through this, I gave myself over to learn as much as I could. I read every book I could get my hands on, I stopped sleeping as much as I used to, and I started driving myself with all the discipline I could muster. Eventually this led to a bit of a collapse. I went to bed one night and didn’t wake up for eight days.
After that, I started making some modifications on how I was living life and how I was approaching things. Two things that stood out to me were that I had never really considered my own physical health and I hadn’t done a good job of managing my own spiritual health while in my quest to make sure that people were spiritually healthy, particularly the people of The Village Church.
It was really the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards’ that the Holy Spirit used to start putting pressure on my heart in a way that helped me consider pursuing my own physical health. Resolution 4 says, “Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.” And then Resolution 20 says, “Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.”
In his works, you also find this quote from his diary: “By a sparingness in diet, and eating as much as may be, what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be able to think more clearly, and shall gain time; 1. By lengthening out my life; 2. Shall need less time for digestion, after meals; 3. Shall be able to study more closely, without injury to my health; 4. Shall need less time for sleep; 5. Shall more seldom be troubled with the headache.”
Edwards considered everything from how he ate to how physical activity would affect him. He measured it not by how he looked, but by how he felt and whether or not it gave him the energy, vibrancy, and vitality he needed to do the Lord’s work. By doing so, Edwards tapped into the reality that physical health is valuable. We also see the Apostle Paul say this in 1 Timothy 4:8, which says...
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
If spiritual and physical health is good and right for men and women, it is also good and right for organizations.
The marks of healthy physicality are obvious: energy, clear thinking, the absence of pain, and the ability to get good rest. Spiritually speaking, you can gauge one’s spiritual health by their desire to worship, whether or not they can rest in the Lord, if they have a growing confidence in the things of God, and if they are trusting God at his word. All of those are marks of a healthy spirituality.
How can we tell what a healthy church is and isn’t?
What about churches though? How can we tell what a healthy church is and isn’t? Are there things we can look at and look towards that healthy churches do and unhealthy churches don’t do? If we look at the physical body, we can say that the absence of pain is health and the presence of pain shows that it’s probably not healthy. If we look at our spiritual lives, we can say that being able to rest in the Lord reveals health and not being able to rest in the Lord reveals we are not healthy. Can we do the same thing with the church?
What we want to do in our time together this coming year is to look at what makes a church healthy, both historically and biblically. We believe that church health leads to church multiplication, and if we are a network of “church-planting churches,” then the healthier we are, the more churches we will be able to plant. To help in this process, the Acts 29 Board has put together a list of markers that can help reveal the health of our churches. These markers are included in this report and we are excited to work through them together throughout this next year.
It is our sincere hope and prayer that our network will magnify and make much of Jesus. We want to minister to you, our members, first and foremost as children of God. We want to focus on more than just church dynamics. We want to speak deeply into your lives. We want to encourage you in your marriages. And along the way, we hope that you will all be encouraged to evaluate the health of the church that God has called you to lead.
Brothers, I’m looking forward to learning with you and walking alongside of you.
Christ is all,
President of Acts 29
Click here to download the entire 2014 Annual Report.
To continue the conversation about building healthy churches, join us this November in Dallas for our Acts 29 Conference | North America. The event will create space for current and future church planters, lead pastors, and leadership teams to learn from local church leaders who have been where you are and to begin conversations that you’ll take home and apply to the life of your church. While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, there are important biblical principles to consider. With more than 70 breakouts led by Acts 29 leadership, you’ll go home with clear next steps for critical issues like discipleship, elder development, finances, and church planting.
This will be an intensely practical conference, with each day dominated by hands-on breakout sessions on various aspects of church health. These breakout tracks will be grouped by the size of your church, so you'll be surrounded by other pastors and leaders who are in the same stage of ministry. We aim to encourage healthy dialogue, provide opportunities to share ministry experiences, and give you a chance to learn practical handles on how to set up scalable systems that lead to having a healthy church.