We’re not settling for less than all God has for us as the Body of Christ. At every level, we are committed to identifying or developing resources that describe healthy churches and encourage deepening and growing more toward the fullness of Jesus’ character and mission in the world.
By David Kendall
Alive and Well – Thriving and Fruitful
In the beginning God created everything healthy and whole. While it is common to think that God made everything “perfect,” such thinking misleads. To our minds “perfect” conveys what is without flaw and incapable of improvement because no improvements are possible since it is “perfect.” But the biblical writer does not describe the world in such terms. Instead, when God finished His creative work, God saw that the whole of creation was “very good.” In fact, God made a world that was alive and completely well designed to grow and develop, to thrive and be fruitful. The creation of humanity no less, brought to the world the first humans fully able to become all God intended and to do all God planned for them to do.
In this respect, God’s plan and purpose for the church is the same. The Scriptures describe the church as global—indeed universal—and local, and then compares it to a human body. God composes the Body from the people who become followers of Jesus, who live in allegiance to Jesus as Lord, so that together they have all they need to grow up into the likeness of Jesus – the very one they follow – and continue Jesus’ own work in the world. God’s plan is that together the people make church alive and well, thriving and fruitful. By describing the church as a Body with Jesus as its head, God reveals the church as a primary way in which Jesus is present and at work in the world. The church is the embodied and active presence of Jesus in the world. Likewise, by insisting that this Body is put together or composed by God, we understand that the church that is healthy and thriving receives and lives its life from God’s grace and power.
God composes the Body from the people who become followers of Jesus, who live in allegiance to Jesus as Lord.
Of course, even a quick scan of the New Testament shows that often the church becomes unhealthy and has a lot of growing up to do. Within the church it is possible to find wrong theology, disobedience to the most basic teachings of Jesus, bad attitudes, corrupt morals, rivalries, conflicts, bitterness and even hatred. It is possible that a church can slide into a way of relating to one another and responding to the outside world that is contrary to the way of Jesus. Sadly, almost any wrong humans can commit may occur within the fellowship of the church! We see this in the Scriptures and sometimes we experience it in our churches.
God’s plan, however, calls for the church as God’s people to participate in the very Life of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and therefore to be alive in the love of God that we see in Jesus. Such aliveness in love, fills our hearts and floods our relationships with the care and compassion Jesus offers to us, heals our hurts, corrects our faults, grows us in the likeness of Jesus so that we serve our present world as Jesus did in Jesus’ name. Such fullness of love, reflection of Jesus’ likeness, and service toward others marks the church as healthy and whole, bound to be thriving and fruitful.
Free Methodists are eager for the whole gospel to be worked out deeply in their lives and relationships.
Therefore, while we are not shocked to see sin and brokenness within some local churches, we will settle for nothing less than all God intends and makes possible for us as His people. Jesus died and rose again in order to defeat whatever hinders, enslaves, and stops us from becoming all God created us to be, consistent and attractive bearers of his likeness in the world. Then, as Jesus promised, God made his own Spirit abundantly available to his people so that God’s indwelling presence makes them alive in love in such a powerful way that how they relate to each other reflects Jesus among them, and how they relate to the world offers Jesus to all.
Free Methodists are eager for the whole gospel to be worked out deeply in their lives and relationships. We want to be earnest in our commitment and following after Jesus. We long to be full of the Spirit of Jesus. We cultivate relationships with others that have Jesus at the center of them. And, where this is not possible because the people with whom we relate are not yet willing, we enter into relationship with them as friends sent to them by Jesus on a mission of love. Churches focused on Jesus, filled with Jesus’ Spirit, sharing together in Jesus’ love, sent into their world for the sake of love—churches oriented in these ways, though not perfect, will be healthy and whole, thriving and fruitful.
We’re not settling for less than all God has for us as the Body of Christ. At every level, we are committed to identifying or developing resources that describe healthy churches and encourage deepening and growing more toward the fullness of Jesus’ character and mission in the world. We intend to join together as bishops, superintendents, area directors, pastors, missionaries, professors, and an amazing array of lay leaders to walk together to our best days of vital and fruitful ministry in coming years.
Dalton, Ohio, is a small town of small churches. The one exception is Living Water Community Church. The healthy Free Methodist congregation’s attendance equals approximately one-third of Dalton’s population (1,830 in the 2010 census). Living Water continues to grow as its members pursue the church’s vision of being real, relevant and relentless.
“We’re real people living relevant lives relentlessly pursuing new life,” Lead Pastor Mark Hirst said. “That vision came out of our leadership team, and really it was a picture of who we already are and who we want to become as well.”
In the most recent Vision Cast, which aired January 5, 2014, the bishops discuss the final three of our nine strategies. A main focus is to cultivate health in local churches. They discuss how local churches are doing this, why it’s important and what changes we can make to further grow and deepen our personal and congregational devotion to Christ.
A big part of our ongoing mission to love God, love people and make disciples is an earnest desire to see the health and effectiveness of local churches increase. This Vision Cast explains how we intend to cultivate health.
Discussion: What Makes a Church Healthy?
Unity in vision, Christ like love towards the lost and one another, along with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. – Tony Chick
True and whole hearted worship that draws the presence of God. Where there is worship,we are bowed down to him and his presence brings forth his movement.
Harmony, absence of ethnic tensions, following Christ’s doctrine and following true beliefs. Caring for all the needy.