John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.
Continuing the Incarnational Ministry of Jesus Christ.
The health of the church body is a goal, but it is not an end in and for itself.
The last spiritual subsystem of a church is the skin. The skin is the largest and the most visible subsystem of the human body. It covers the connection of our hands, arms, feet, legs to our torso, and to our head.
The importance of healthy skin for the body of Christ reminds us that through the church, Jesus Christ continues his ministry in the world today.
Doctrinally speaking, this focus on the skin points to the Church as a continuation of Jesus' incarnation in the world or continuing ministry in the world through the Church as God’s Healing Community mending broken lives.
The spiritual empowering of a church's health leads to healthy ministries or healthy skin for a hurting world as we are sent forth to witness and serve.
I.) The first and primary goal of healthy skin is to reach the unchurched for Jesus Christ in fulfillment of the Great Commission to go make disciples of all people and teach them to obey what Jesus taught.
There are many fine books about reaching the unchurched to become disciples of Jesus Christ . They all assume a basic level of church health for that congregation which may or may not be true currently of your church.
The reality is that only a small percentage of churchgoing Americans belong to mainline churches many of which have become greatly secularized and in great need of a fresh wind from the Holy Spirit. With few exceptions, these churches view the pastor as being there to meet their needs which is not Biblical and is very selfish. The ruling boards and counsels of such churches understand their role as one of controlling and supervising the pastor and staff. Those mainline churches who are growing do not hold such a view because they are mission focused, work together as a team, take risks in reaching out to the unchurched and are churches where the pastor is the initiating leader. As a whole though, a majority of mainline churches suffer from the impact of an ecclesiology that is very different from New Testament ecclesiology. These churches need to apply the principles for church health in this book in order for a church growth strategy to really work and to be something the congregation as a whole will really work on.
The status of church growth among non-mainline churches is not much better for only a microscopic few grow mainly from conversion growth. Most church growth in America both mainline and non-mainline involves people transferring their membership from one church to another.
II.) A second goal of healthy skin is to fulfill the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
One overlooked but greatly needed ministry today is for churches to offer radical hospitality to those with a mental illness and their families.
For more about this expression of a church having healthy skin see.
Books related to fulfilling the Great Commission.
1. Hunter, George G. Church for the Unchurched. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.
2. Hunter, George G. The Apostolic Congregation: Church Growth Reconceived for a New Generation. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.
3. Hunter, George G. The Celtic Way of Evangelism, Tenth Anniversary Edition: How Christianity Can Reach the West . . .Again. Nashville: Abingdon, 2010.
4. Morton, Brooks St. Clair. The Great CoMission: Making Sense of Making Disciples. New York: University Press of America, 2013.
5. Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
The contents of this article comes from chapter 6 of my book, Church Health For The Twenty-First Century A Biblical Approach.