One of the bands that was big in my college days was The Northern Pikes. I don’t think I remember ever seeing them live but I had some of their CD’s. They had hits with ‘Things I Do For Money’, ‘Hopes Go Astray’, and ‘Twister’. One that I heard on the radio a while back was called ‘She Ain’t Pretty’ and it had a pretty cool video. I remember going from dial-up to high speed a number of years ago and introducing our daughters to a few music videos including that one. They got a good laugh at how the gal in the video transforms from a head turner to a beast with a little help from some special effects. Essentially the song is about a gal who looks good on the outside but she’s not so good on the inside. The best line of the song goes “her ego wrote cheques incredibly fast, but her personality didn’t have the cash.” That’s a great line.
I sometimes think about that song when I think of churches in the Bible. They may look good on the outside but fall short when you look a little closer. The church at Galatia was held in the iron clad grip of false teachers. The church at Corinth was jacked up in so many ways that Paul addressed them issue after issue in 1 Corinthians. And then there was a group of seven churches in Revelation two and three. Two churches got two thumbs up, four got one up and one down, and one got two thumbs down. Which one got the two thumbs down? Many of you got your hand on the buzzer and you’re shouting “Laodicea.” You’re right.
When they looked in the mirror they saw a wealthy and self-sufficient well-oiled machine but from Jesus’ vantage point…not so much. Listen to His evaluation:
…you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17 ESV)
That must have hit them like a sucker punch. They must have thought ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?’ They would have been eating humble pie for the next few meals as they considered Christ’s assessment.
But is the North America church any different? Many of us think we are hotsy totsy when really many of our churches are hotsy notsy. We ain’t pretty, we just look that way. But we’ve got great programming. We’re filling the pews. The budget has never looked better. We have x number of staff members. We have something for everyone. We’re a busy place. We’ve got a pastor who rocks the joint and so does the band…with laser lights and smoke. We’ve got a great building. It’s a friendly place and people leave with a smile on their face. And some of that stuff may not be bad in and of itself but those things aren’t the main things.
I was gonna try to cram a lot into one post but the material is much too much so what I want to do is spent a number of days on what a church that is moving towards health looks like from the Bible’s point of view. I am indebted to Mark Dever’s ‘9 Marks of a Healthy Church’. I came across that book at a pastor’s conference about ten years ago and it’s biblical content has shaped my perspective on what church world should look like. Each mark is carefully drawn from the Word of God. So, today is an intro to a number of posts to come. Read it prayerfully and let me tell you I have no one church in mind as I blog. I am a part of a local church and every church needs to sharpen things and change things to be more healthy. So to wet your whistle for next time, the first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. So fasten your seat belts…we’re in for a ride to identify marks to a church growing in health!