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Subject: Fit Churches
I spoke to 20 pastors this last week on the topic of Healthy Churches. I suggested to the pastors that there are four, perhaps five, types of churches in a health paradigm. First, there are Hospice Churches. These churches are extremely ill, having declined in worship attendance for a decade or longer, and most likely will close. God can, of course, perform a miracle and restore hospice churches to health, but this is rare.
Second, there are Sick Churches. These churches are often populated by people who have let a root of bitterness sprout up. They may be angry, hopeless, and have declined in worship attendance for five years or more. Sometimes sick churches are plateaued in worship attendance, but this is still an unhealthy situation. Plateauing in churches is akin to hypertension in humans. You can live with hypertension for many years, but if it is left untreated, the hypertensions may result in a stroke or death. Churches that have been on a long-term plateau may be okay for decades, but the plateau will usually result in eventual decline and death if left untreated.
Third, there are Healthy Churches. Health is normally defined as an “absence of disease.” Thus, a healthy church is one that is unified, loving, and caring. Worshipers usually know their spiritual gifts and passions, and are found serving in some ministry role. The Word of God is taught with conviction, and children are raised up in the faith. Missionaries are supported, and prayers are offered for the salvation of souls around the world. It is good to be healthy, but I suggest there is another level of health, or church, that is best: a Fit Church.
Thus, a fourth type of church is a Fit Church. A fit church usually have a five percent conversation rate each year. Another way to say that is it only takes twenty people in a fit church to see one new person come to faith in Jesus Christ each year. A healthy church would need fifty people to see one person come to faith and a sick church would need around 100 people to bring one new person to faith. Hospice Churches, by definition, bring no one to faith in Christ.
Fit churches average around ten percent growth each and every year, while healthy churches may only growth between two and five percent a year, which barely holds onto their own children. Sick churches rarely grow, but may each enough new people to remain on a plateau. Hospice churches experience major decline.
You may be healthy and fit, but are you world class? World class athletes compete in the Olympic Games and other national and world venues. They are a step above even those who are physically fit. In a similar way there are churches that go way beyond fitness to being World Class. Instead of averaging an annual growth rate of ten percent a year, they average twenty percent or greater. In stead of starting a few daughter churches, they multiply numerous daughter churches. Instead of seeing five percent of their newcomers being new converts to Christ each year, they see ten percent or more conversion growth rate. As you might expect, World Class Churches are rare, but we can all work toward fitness. If you church is sick, strive to become healthy. If it is healthy, strive to be fit. And, if your church is fit, why not strive to be world class?
Your friend, Gary McIntosh