Clarion Call – Healthy, Missional Churches

     by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister

When I became Conference Minister, I named “resourcing healthy, missional churches” as one of the core tasks for the Western District. I described healthy churches then as:

  • Churches growing in spiritual vitality with God and in caring community with each other.
  • Churches reaching out to the unchurched.
  • Churches with good processes of making decisions and dealing with conflict.
  • Churches serving people in their community.
  • Churches engaged in God’s global redeeming mission.
  • Churches training new leaders and calling new pastors.

I suppose it’s a good list for describing a healthy church, but when I come to the healthy church list in I Peter 4:7-11, it’s simpler and even more basic. Here is the Apostle Peter’s list for a healthy church. Pray, love each other, offer hospitality, and serve with the gifts God has given you. Pray, love, welcome, serve. These are the essentials of grace-filled, healthy churches.

Prayers of praise and petition seem to be at the heart of the church worship services I experience in my travel across Western District. Prayer requests are named weekly in bulletins or emails or on websites. I get to hear and share stories of new missional initiatives birthed in prayer including all of our current church plants – Aposento Alto in Wichita, Camino de Santidad in Liberal, KS, and Grace Mennonite in Gladewater, TX. Amazing stories!

Secondly, in healthy churches people love each other deeply (vs. 8). How do we stay in relationship when we disagree with one another as believers? It’s a challenge for us in Western District Conference as we consider ministry with LGBTQ persons. Love isn’t the whole answer, but it is a critical component.

To paraphrase Jesus, “What’s special about hanging together with just like-minded people? Even the pagans do that.”  “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Love, therefore, as your heavenly Father loves” (Matthew 5:46-48). Love each other deeply.

The third characteristic of a healthy church is its hospitality quotient. The phrase translated offer hospitality (vs. 9) literally means to love the stranger. Our welcome of immigrants is one test of our hospitality quotient. Often the test is will we make room in our schedule, in our pew, in our home, our small group, our Sunday School class for that new visitor?

And finally, healthy churches, serve others “as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (vs. 10). Peter names both speaking gifts and serving gifts, gifts of communication and gifts of construction, gifts of the head and gifts of the hand. Healthy churches need both, bless both, and use both as gifts of God’s grace.

Pray, love, welcome, serve.  How healthy are we?