The numbers of Christians are high. They make up over 70 per cent of the national population. And that is significant! But does their impact on society match their numbers?
How can they better function as salt and light in society? And what is extremely important is whether the churches are fulfilling what they exist for to raise mature Christ-like Disciples for the church and society in this nation, and in the nations of Africa and the World.
The month of August here, is functionally the month that church denominations hold Annual Synods, Conferences, General Assemblies, Conventions and Meetings. It is time to review Church Life and Ministry. We need biblically healthy churches! The following are three key considerations for biblically healthy churches we want to discuss:
• Biblical leadership in the church
• Prioritise and plan for the proper theological training and spiritual formation of pastors and leaders in the church.
• The evil of "Money idolatry" in the church, from which we must repent; and we must recover the centrality of Christ and His word in church worship services and church Life.
First, sound Biblical Leadership is paramount to healthy church life and ministry. The pastors and leaders, who are key agents of the church must reflect godly living with integrity in their family life, in church life, and life in the community or society.
The Apostle Paul tells Pastor Timothy: “Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV). Thus, “The Power of Leadership Example” becomes very essential in healthy church life and ministry.
Timothy to faithfully and effectively “Guard the Gospel”, is charged to uphold and practice the principle of engaging godly, disciplined believers, as overseers (Pastors and Church leaders) for the congregation: “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1 Timothy 3:2-7 NIV).
The pastors and leaders in the church must first seek to be Christ-like people in all their conduct, and train and require Church members, “to seek first the Kingdom of God, and live godly lifestyles” (Matthew 6:33). That is what depicts the Church as a body of Christ who serves as salt and light in the family, the local Church congregation, and in the community in which the Church congregation is located.
Our new life in Christ as true believers must show itself in a new lifestyle. We, believers in the church, must live differently from non-Christian values and practices. The Apostle Paul is very emphatic on this: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17&18 NIV).
The pursuit of purity in Biblical teaching and Church doctrine, moral purity, and godliness with integrity, should be the critical hallmark of the Pastors and leaders of the Church. They must keep in focus the key reason why Christ called them into Church leadership: “You are my friends if you do what I command.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:14-16 NIV).
Healthy biblical church life and ministry requires that we are a body of believers who “grow in every way more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) – in genuine love; in unity; in service, and in the care for the poor. The Bible is clear: “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6 NLT).
Second, there should be an intentional plan for the development of the Pastors and leaders who are the essential and critical Human Resources and Key agents of the Church. This would be a plan for the proper theological education and spiritual formation of the Pastors in particular.
Indeed, “there is the indispensable need for providing the best Theological Education and sound Spiritual Formation to prepare the next generation of Pastors and Leaders for the Challenges of the church ministry today, in the 21st Century”. We must develop Pastors and leaders for the Church, who like the men of Issachar “understand the times we live in, and know the best course for the Church to take” (see 1 Chronicle 12:32 NLT).
These properly formed Pastors and leaders, with sound and good capacity, will in turn equip other church members to do the work of Gospel Ministry. (See Ephesians 4:11-15 NLT).
The double emphasis on Theological Training and Spiritual Formation is essential. We mean spiritual formation in authentic Biblical Christian Spirituality. Formation in Christ-likeness!!
This double focus is a biblically sound Evangelical Leadership formation and is also informed by church history. The churches should have an intentional plan for developing the capacity of the Pastors and leaders.
This is a call to biblical leadership lifestyle: knowing God, and the fear of God; living in love; holding on to doctrinal purity; living a life of moral purity; and “the power of leadership example”.
We also very much need adequately theologically trained and properly spiritually formed Pastors and leaders. These are critical for biblically healthy church life and ministry.
The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union.