We want Hope to be a HEALTHY church.
A Theology of a HEALTHY Church
Good morning Hope Church! I am so glad that you have chosen to join us today. It's a special time in the life of Hope Bible Fellowship and you get to be a part of that! Let me welcome you to the the relaunching, replanting, refocusing of Hope. Over the next few weeks we are going to see what God has to say about His church, our mission in Dixon and around the world, and take a deep dive into the vision of why and how we are going to practically work this out in the life of the church body. It's going to be exciting. I truly believe that God is up to something here. God is about changing lives. That's the work that only He can do. By the blood of Jesus, He changes lives. I believe He's going to do that here. And you know something? He already is. I'm so excited that I want to get right into it.
(Imagine what the church could look like... bring them into it.)
Let's pray and ask God for help and open hearts.
I want to begin by asking you a couple of questions (quiz). They are going to be multiple choice and I want you just to answer in your mind.
1. The biggest reason I come to Hope Bible Fellowship is…?
A. The coffee
B. I love the family feast days
C. Free baby-sitting
D. Pastor’s awesome jokes
E. Other
The appropriate answer is other. But what should the “other be?”
What is the purpose of this gathering? Why do we come together?
Hopefully you said: Jesus, gospel, worship with his people
Question number 2:
2. To me, becoming a member and actively participating at Hope is:
A. A nice idea but optional
B. A cultural expectation based on my upbringing
C. Impossible due to my schedule
D. Crucial to being a Christ follower
Yet some have reservations about fully committing to the local church.
Some of you came in with some baggage. (List examples)
- You went to a legalistic church
- Bruised fruit - split
- Thought of the denomination as the vine and the churches as the branches.
- Super separatist churches. Feel sterile. Method teaches more than the message. Church culture trumps the church creed in these churches.
So what is a church? What is a local church? What does it do? Who leads the local church? And how do we, Hope Bible Fellowship be a HEALTHY CHURCH? These are all questions that we want to answer today. I am indebted to Dr. Mark Dever and the ministry of 9 Marks for teaching me these Biblical truths over the years and am continuing to learn what it all means and how it plays out in the local church’s life and ministry. Some of the points this morning come directly from a study of the Marks of a Healthy Church that the men’s group went through last fall.
This morning we are going to look at what the church is supposed to be and we are going to see this primarily in the book of I Corinthians, where the author, the Apostle Paul addresses the church at Corinth and their issues he had gotten word about.

I. What is the church?

1 Corinthians 12:12 ESV
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

A. A people, not a place.

This is a gathering of Hope Bible Fellowship. This building is not Hope. 
The church is a people and not a place. It is not a platform. It’s not some kind of spiritual service provider. It is a people. Specifically, the new covenant, blood-bought people of a Holy God.
Ephesians 5:25 tells us that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus didn’t give his life for a place. He didn’t give His life for a building. He sacrificed His life for a people… the church.

B. A people, not a statistic.

As a pastor I face this all of the time. I face it as a metric of how I am measured by outsiders as well as a personal temptation toward despair. A church is a people, not simply a number. It’s not an attendance figure or the amount of baptisms in a single year. Faithfulness to the gospel must be our measure of success. The first thing pastors ask each other in conversation. “How many you running?”
Formal definition from a Ligonier teaching series on healthy churches:
>The church is a congregation associated by covenant to the faith and fellowship of the gospel that observes the ordinances of Christ.
Layman’s terms: It’s the people of God gathered in covenant with one another where the Gospel is rightly preached and the ordinances are observed. (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
The church is governed by Christ’s laws as expressed in His Word in which there are two offices: elder and deacon. The duties of these offices are listed in letters to Timothy and Titus.
So, what is a church supposed to be like?
Why is it supposed to be like this?

C. Three things that a church is supposed to be like and why.

1. Holy/Pure

- Holiness - strangeness to the world
- the church is made up of those who have been called to be holy and blameless,
- those who are set apart for a special relationship with God
- Our message and wisdom and motivation is different than the message and wisdom of the world.
- We are to be strange to the world.
- I Corinthians 1-2
- Christians are God’s temple: because God’s temple is sacred, the church is called to be pure.
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
- God has always been concerned with the purity of His people.
- In I Cor 5 Paul addressed the sexual sin in the church
- Paul appeals to the Corinthians with the same refrain that God spoke to the Israelites who were preparing to enter the Promised Land. Deut 17:7
- Holiness is an essential part of the Christian life.
- Paul explains or argues in I Cor 6 that Christians have been washed and sanctified and will be resurrected. This means that what Christians do with their bodies is significant. It matters.
- Paul also argues that the resurrection underscores God’s concern for what is done with our body in this life.
- He (Paul) pleads with the Corinthians to remember Israel and not to fall in to idolatrous, evil desires.
- I Cor 10:1-13
1 Corinthians 10:1–13 ESV
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
- Holiness is to mark the church.
- We are to be constantly striving after a God-honoring way of life. That’s holiness played out.
- Holiness is an essential part of the church. So many aspects of the church reinforce our need to be holy.
- So, the church is to be holy. Now, this is where a lot of denominations and individual churches have gotten a little extreme with some things. I think we should be extreme in our working on holiness but not in such a way that we dip into the waters of legalism. It’s easy to do. Obeying the Word of the Lord is not legalism. Adding to it to somehow keep yourself separate while not working on your evil heart is not what we are talking about here.
- So the church is to be holy.

2. United

- The Church is also to be united.
- Christians are to be separated from the world but not from each other.
- Unity is a distinguishing mark of the church.
- I Corinthians 3:1-4
1 Corinthians 3:1–4 ESV
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
- Unity testifies that the gospel is true.
- Unity transcended the division between Jew and Gentile and ever worldly division is transcended by the unity found in Christ.
- Paul is especially upset seeing division during the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. I mean, it’s supposed to be feast of unity and they had division.
- I Cor. 11:17-34

3. Loving

- The church is to be holy and unified. The third trait the church is supposed to exhibit is to be loving. The church should be loving.
- Dever points out that I Corinthians 8-14 is a long excursus on the topic of love. It deals with showing consideration toward others because love is how Christians are unified. Love is what keeps us together.
- Love builds up the church.
1 Corinthians 8:1 ESV
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
- Paul’s principle of love:
1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV
24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
- seek the good of your neighbor, not yourself
- Paul speaks of love as the most excellent way because it edifies the church. Is what you do and say and how you act edifying to the church?
-Love determines how the church is to function.
- Paul prioritizes the gift of prophecy over tongues because prophecy edifies the church.
- The most loving way to exercise your spiritual gifts in the church is for the edification of others. Are you fighting for what will be good for others? What builds others up in their discipleship?
- I Cor 13 is known as the love chapter of the Bible but one pastor argues that Paul’s practical application of love in chapter 14 makes it just as definitive of a chapter on love.
- Lest you think Paul was someone sitting at a distance and dispensing commands…. You need to know that Paul loved the local church. He was sensitive to the health of the local church. This book of I Cor is in large part his response to issues that were going on in the church.
- He experienced the grace of God.
1 Corinthians 15:9 ESV
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
- He called himself the least of the apostles because he had persecuted the church.
- So it is only fitting that it is he who urges so strongly that the Corinthian church love one another and do all things for the edification of the church.
So, we can see here that the church is to be be holy and united and loving. But it begs the question: why is the church supposed to be holy, united, and loving?
The answer is quite simple but pregnant with profoundness. The church is to be these things because God is holy, united, and loving.
“The character of the church is to reflect the character of God.” - Mark Dever

1. The church must be holy because God is holy.

1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
- Imitating Christ makes us different than the world. God has set us apart.
- The wisdom of God is not the wisdom of the world.
- God’s wisdom is the gospel. The gospel is foolishness to the world.
- We are strange to the world because the world is estranged from God. IF we are going to belong to God, we will be like God.
- God has bought us and indwelt us by His Spirit, so we must be holy to reflect His holiness.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 ESV
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2. The church must be united because God is One.

- Paul reminded them that the work of the church is all the work of God.
1 Corinthians 3:4–9 ESV
4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
- The one foundation of the church is Jesus Christ.
- Disunity tells a lie about God. WOW.

3. The church must be loving because God is loving.

- Love for God must be at the center of our hearts as a response to His tremendous love for us.
- God took the initiative to redeem the church. So, the church must reflect God’s love to a dying world.
“The church is the means by which we are called to display God’s character to the world.” - Dever
Holiness, Unity, and Love. Displayed for the world.

II. What is a healthy church?

I have been a part of a few churches over my 40 years of life. Some of them I thought were pretty good churches at the time I was there but I am not sure how many of them were truly healthy. I’m not talking about perfect. There won’t be a perfect church for you to join. But we want to be a healthy church. This means we need to ask what a healthy church looks like Biblically.
I’d like to present to you a few marks of a healthy church. These are things that should mark a church that is healthy. These are things I find in most of the healthy churches that I know of or have had experience with friends who pastor them. This is not an exhaustive list. These are simply 9 marks of a healthy church and not THE 9 marks. There are obviously other things true of healthy churches. This 9 points are Biblical and that is the main thing here.

A. Marks of a healthy church:

1. Expositional Preaching - reflects the centrality of the Word of God

2. Biblical Theology- Understanding God’s truth as a cohesive and coherent whole.

3. A Biblical Understanding of the Gospel - the heart of the Christian message

- “A church confused about the gospel is like a blind Uber driver. It’s like a forgetful historian. It’s like a colorblind artist. A church confused about the gospel is worse than worthless. It is a blocked emergency exit. It’s an elevator to hell.” - Dever

- Many churches are hawking a message of good news and it is different than the message of the Biblical gospel. We must be discerning. How we understand it, teach it and train others in it…

4. A Biblical Understanding of Conversion - undoing the damage of false converts, get to a true understanding of what it means to be a Christian, to be transformed by the power of the Gospel… what the Bible teaches about conversion

5. A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

6. A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership - there is a Biblical understanding of what it means to be part of a local church, in a couple of weeks we are going to talk about why we must work toward a clear understanding of Biblical church membership and everything that it means.

7. Biblical Church Discipline - this goes part and parcel with church membership

8. A Concern for Discipleship and Growth - evangelism that does not result in discipleship is incomplete evangelism

9. Biblical Church Leadership - not granted as a response or reward for secular gifts or position in the world but invested in those who have given evidence in their lives as being qualified and working for the edification of the body.

As we move forward as a church, we have to be honest about where we are at individually and as a church. We want to be a healthy church. We want to be a Biblical church. It starts with each of us committing to the Lord and then committing to do that which moves the church toward health and toward holiness, unity, and love. First though, we must be a people of prayer. Prayer has been the great pre-event of every great revival in history.
Talk about being a people of prayer.
Invite Musicians Up
As the musicians come up I’d like you to stand with me. This morning I want us to pray for the life of our church. As the musicians play and we sing, I’d like you to take some time and pray for the church. Maybe gather with someone near you or a couple of people near you and pray for the church, that we would be a reflection of love, of unity, and of holiness. Pray that we would be protected from the dangers of legalism. Pray for that person with you. We must actively lift each other up. So as the music plays, pray for each other and pray for the church as a whole.
#Lead prayer
#Music and Altar Prayer Time
# For more reading on these topics:
- 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
- What is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
- Expositional Preaching by David Helm
- The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshal and Tony Payne
- Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson
- What is a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
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