If you were told to put yourself on a continuum from sickness-wellness-fitness, where would you place yourself? Would you say that you are pretty fit? In the CrossFit Level 1 manual, in the lectures on ‘what is fitness’, founder and former CEO of CrossFit Greg Glassman describes this health-wellness continuum (pictured below) as a way to measure a person’s health. Take a moment and think about where you’d fit on this continuum.
“Our assumption is that if everything we can measure about health will conform to this continuum then it seems that sickness, wellness, and fitness are different measures of a single quality: health.”-Greg Glassman
This makes sense, right? Obviously if our body fat is high, our triglyceride numbers or HDL numbers are ridiculously bad, we wouldn’t consider ourselves ‘healthy’; we’d consider ourselves sick. Likewise, if your blood pressure is good, and all the other sciencey-medical numbers look good, you’re more healthy than you are sick. To CrossFit’s advantage, I think they’re right. All of these elements are measurable, and are ways for us to clearly say whether someone is sick or they are fit-regardless of what sport they may or may not play.
But as I sit at a small table in the Carriage House Bakery writing this, I can’t help but wonder what the health-wellness continuum for churches would look like. For CrossFit, the measurables are easy to find (body fat, muscle mass, HDL, etc.) but for churches, what would we measure?
In a previous post, I had mentioned how I don’t think numbers are all that important. I don’t think they’re helpful for ministry and can become an obsession for some and for others an unfair way of measuring how well the ministry is moving. The health of a church should not, and cannot, be measured by the amount of butts in pews, or attendees in Sunday School. I think the only appropriate way to measure the health of a church is found in Galatians 5:22-23a
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.Galatians 5:22-23a
The church is only as healthy as it is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and showing self-control. How would your church stack up?
Are they showing love to all? Love to not only the members, but the visitors; not only the ones who tithe thousands, but the one who tithes pennies; not only the elders, but the children and youth. Are they faithful to what they discern where the Holy Spirit is calling them? Are they joyful, celebrating the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, celebrating when members are cancer free, being the embodiment of joy in their interactions with others? or are they a sour grapes always mentioning how ‘the other churches’ are doing great things, how ‘they have no volunteers’, or that ‘nobody will show up’. Do they show gentleness and self-control in the way that they interact with others on topics that may be considered controversial? Or are they ‘always right’ failing to listen with intent and engage others from a place of grace.
I don’t think it’s hard to determine whether churches are healthy or they’re sick, in fact I think most people can make up their mind about how healthy your church within the first five minutes of stepping our of their care into your parking lot. Nevertheless, I think it takes a lot of awareness and honesty from the pastors and leadership to admit whether they are or they aren’t healthy, and it takes a lot of courage to hear that, more courage to receive that, and even more to change.
So, who is responsible for the health of the church? Is it the Pastors and staff? This would make sense. They are the ones paid to lead, paid to make decisions, paid to preach the Word of God weekly to all who will receive it (and even those who show up ‘just because’.) However, I don’t think the responsibility of the church’s health rests solely upon the shoulders of a few staff and clergy.
If not the pastors, then maybe the responsibility rests upon the trustees and councils. After all, the councils and trustees are the ones making the decisions for the church. They determine which projects get pushed through, they determine the budget which determines the priority of the church for that given year. With as much power and authority given to the councils and trustees, I still wouldn’t say that the responsibility for the church’s health rests upon their shoulders either. SO WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHURCH’S HEALTH!!!!!!
An old Sunday school song says “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.” The responsibility for the church’s health is not solely the pastor’s or the councils. It is them and the congregation. And not only them, but the visitors too. And not only them but the community too. If we are the church together, then the collective we are responsible for the health of the church. That means that every time we gossip about the things we didn’t like about the service (or “pray for (x)”) we make the church less healthy. Every time a visitor shows up and does not feel welcomed or another called and gifted woman is passed up for a clergy role, the church becomes less healthy.
We are all responsible for the health of the church…so let’s act like it. Let’s start saying ‘hi’ to those we don’t know in the pews. Let’s give that extra dollar to the missions and visions of the church. Let’s start serving our neighbors—our LGBTQ neighbors, our Muslim neighbors, our atheist neighbors. Let’s serve them, love them, not out of obligation, but out of our love for God and our desire to be healthy.