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What Is A Healthy Church?

Updated: Jun 9




There has been much discussion over the years among Christians, pastors, and researchers concerning what constitutes a healthy church. Especially in these days of widespread ecclesiastic decline, we are driven to consider, "Is my church ok? Is it healthy?" In my research for another article, I discovered this interesting section on a "healthy ministry."


In 1855, a man by the name of Charles Waters Banks published a Christian paper/journal called, "The Earthen Vessel." In 1845 Banks printed the first issue of The Earthen Vessel; he was the sole editor. The number of copies printed rose rapidly from 200 of the first issue to over 6,000 by 1852. The magazine was designed to encourage ‘vital godliness’. It was not a theological journal, initially containing mainly letters; sermons, book reviews, devotional pieces, and church news were soon added. Banks allowed open debate, a policy perhaps unwise; the magazine became embroiled in controversy. Banks himself was a conciliator, who sought to spread and establish Strict Baptist principles with kindness of heart. He was still giving instructions for The Earthen Vessel from his bed when he died in March 1886. (1)


This man was a friend of Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon's early ministry in London was confronted with accusations and controversy. Mr. Banks attempted to help Mr. Spurgeon through this difficult time. One of the ways he tried to do this was to write three brief articles describing what a healthy ministry looks like. In doing this, he encouraged people to see Spurgeon's ministry as a "healthy" expression of what a good ministry should be. The next words are a summary of those articles. (2)


THE GOOD MINISTER


To begin this description of what constitutes a healthy church, Mr. Banks first described the good minister. If a minister is not actuated by these three things, the resulting ministry cannot be healthy. He stated, "Any true-hearted Gospel minister must be actuated by three things: He is sincerely aiming at three things.


  1. THE GLORY OF CHRIST

  2. THE GOOD OF IMMORTAL SOULS, and

  3. THE WELL-BEING OF ZION; and that in all this, the love of Christ constrains him. "


THE GOOD MINISTRY


Next, he launches into some particulars of what constitutes a good ministry.


He states, "Now the question meets us most decidedly - WHAT IS GOOD? We answer, briefly, for a ministry to be essentially, successfully, and permanently good, it must be:



A LIVING MINISTRY


The HOLY GHOST himself must be the Author of it: This "living ministry" also finds its evidence in various personal manifestations, only one of which is listed - "One of the evidences of LIFE (the life of God in the soul) is 'a crying out against ourselves,' as Paul doth in the seventh of Romans. The law in the members, warring against the law in the mind, caused the apostle to cry out most bitterly, " Oh, wretched man that I am! WHO shall deliver me from the body of this death?"




A TRUTH-EXPOUNDING MINISTRY


Secondly, it must be a Truth-expounding Ministry (an Illuminating Ministry): the SON OF RIGHTEOUSNESS himself must shine in it, and through it, throwing pure heavenly light into the sanctified minds of the chosen family of the Lord God Almighty.




A SYMPATHZING MINISTRY


Thirdly, it must be a Sympathizing Ministry: One that can come down and enter into the various hard cases, perplexing trials, and heavy sorrows of the living in Jerusalem. It is not enough for God's exercised children, merely to have truth thrown at them; the mere setting up the skeleton of gospel principles is a two-fold evil;


  1. in the first place it is tantalising to thirsty souls who pant for living bread (and yet find none); and

  2. in the second place, it tends to settle down dead formalists in an awful delusion. For a ministry, then, to be essentially good, it must be one that has a Divine power to take the Bread of Life; to break it up in suitable and seasonable morsels; and under the unseen but certain guidance of God the Holy Ghost, gives a portion to six, and even sometimes to the seventh-even to those who appear to be at the very ends of the earth.



A GROWING MINISTRY


Furthermore, we add, for a ministry to be essentially and permanently useful, it must be a Growing Ministry. Tell us why it is that one man stands for twenty, thirty, forty years in one place, constantly acceptable, feeding the church of God with the finest of the wheat while others are always moving hither and thither? We will not allow ourselves to attempt the reply; although in few words it may be given.


That the good ministry is a growing ministry is easily proved. How many have said to us, ''I knew So-and-so when he first came out, very many years ago; but, oh, what a different preacher now, to what he was then! He preached the doctrines of grace then; he preaches the doctrines of grace now : he entered into the experiences of the Lord's people then, he enters into their experiences now; he contended for new covenant settlements and New Testament ordinances then, and contends for the same things now; but there has been much thrown overboard; and the ministerial vessel has spread her sails more fully; has hoisted her colours more consistently; has cut her course through the ocean of truth more deeply and extensively; and the consequence has been, she has taken in more than ten times the number of passengers she used to carry." Oh, yes; the ministry is a growing ministry: it does never grow out of truth, or away from truth; but it takes root downwards deeper, deeper, and deeper still. It spreads its thickly clothed, richly laden branches wider, wider, and wider still; it rears its exalted head higher, higher, and higher still; it opens up its treasures, and unfolds its heaven-born beauties with immeasurable power; until it leads us sometimes so transportingly into the fulness of gospel glory, that we can but cry out--" He brought me into his banquetting house, and his banner over me is love."



(1) - “Charles Waters Banks (1806 -1886) – Strict Baptist Historical Society.” n.d. Accessed June 8, 2024. https://www.sbhs.org.uk/articles/cwbanks/#:~:text=In%201845%20Banks%20printed%20the.


(2) Earthen Vessel, 1855, 193, 202, 241.

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