Most church leaders want to help develop healthy churches. In reality, church health in and of itself does not necessarily result in fruitfulness. Just as an individual may be healthy while living a sedentary lifestyle, churches are often content with a minimum level of health. They are technically healthy but not fit.
The metaphor of long-distance runners highlights five stages in the fitness of churches. First, beginner churches are extremely sedentary. They have little experience with church health concepts and do not think about church fitness. Most have had declining worship attendance for a decade or longer.
Second, novice churches have some understanding of church health principles and have attempted to implement specific ideas to strengthen the church. Worship attendance has often plateaued, but these churches are comfortable. Their comfort is akin to hypertension in humans. They can live with hypertension for many years, but if left untreated, it may result in a stroke or death.
Third, intermediate churches have achieved good levels of health. They are united, loving, and caring. Worshipers know their spiritual gifts and passions; many serve in ministry roles. Church leaders teach the Word of God with conviction. Members support missionaries and offer prayers for the salvation of souls around the world.
Fourth, advanced churches are extremely fit, make new disciples each year, and have started at least one or two daughter churches. They stand out from other churches due to their higher levels of people involved in prayer, Christ-exalting worship, and missional engagement in the community.
Fifth, elite churches have attained extraordinary levels of fitness. As one might expect, elite churches are rare. They are unusually gifted but also have worked long and hard to achieve high levels of fruitfulness.
Church fitness is achievable, but it takes effort, energy, and equipping. The fitter the body, the greater its impact for Christ and his church.
We want to help you understand and pursue fitness for your church. When you understand the benefits of being fit and are dissatisfied enough to begin running, a new world will open up for you and your church. Fit churches have more stamina. Fit churches have plans. Fit churches measure their progress. Whether you are part of a beginner, a novice, an intermediate, an advanced, or an elite church, you can always achieve a level of fitness. Let’s start running!
What stage would you say your church is in?