Philip Yancey on The Healthy Church

Philip Yancey’s article in the latest issue of Christianity Today is worth reading.  Here’s an excerpt:

This past year my wife and I conducted an experiment. We decided to go through the Yellow Pages under “Churches” and visit each one listed in our local phone book…

I learned that churches offer wide variety these days. A few still have organs and choirs, whereas most feature worship bands with electric guitars and drum sets…

With an intuition difficult to explain, I could usually sense the “aliveness” of a congregation within five minutes. Were people conversing in the foyer? Did I hear the sound of laughter? What activities and issues did the bulletin board highlight?

To my surprise, the aliveness factor had little to do with theology. In two of the most conservative churches, members slumped in their seats and glumly went through the motions, even as the pastoral staff conveyed the distinct impression that their primary goal was to get to the benediction. Meanwhile, a liberal church (it had rewritten familiar hymns and even the Lord’s Prayer to make them politically correct) showed the most energy in community and global outreach programs.

Thanks to this experiment, I now have a clearer picture of the qualities I look for in a healthy church…

I’ll list Yancey’s 3 qualities for a healthy church here, but read his article to get his explanation of each.

  1. Diversity
  2. Unity
  3. Mission

Yancey concludes with these words of wisdom:

In my visits I never found a perfect church (nor should we expect to, if the New Testament gives any indication). But when tempted to judge, I simply remind myself that disappointment with the church traces back to God’s own bold experiment: to allow ordinary people like us to embody his presence on earth.

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