Marks of a Healthy Church


  Over the next several weeks the leaders of Walnut Hill Church will engage in a   number of discussions concerning our health and direction.  Those discussions will cover a wide range of considerations. 

Walnut Hill is already a healthy church in many ways.  And if we compare ourselves with the majority of churches around the country, we are, without a doubt, doing quite well.  But we know that comparative health is not our aim. Instead we want to be faithful to all that Our Lord calls us to be and to do. 

Toward that end…

Our Elders will be going to Birmingham, AL in a few weeks to participate in the Embers to Flame Conference, which I expect will provide some common ground for our discussions.  The key concepts emphasized by the Embers Conference will then serve as a sort of “scaffolding” as we labor to strengthen and build and our various ministries.  

We will continue our process of moving from a church that prays toward becoming a House of Prayer for all Nations.  Already Walnut Hill displays a priority of prayer that is very encouraging to me as the pastor.  But we want to explore how we can still grow in this area. (I’ll compose several posts that I hope will clarify some of the distinctions between a Praying Church and a House of Prayer.) 

We will explore the Gospel, and its various aspects. And we will consider how the Gospel applies to us each day as followers of Christ, and is not just a plan of salvation to be explained to those who do not believe. (See Colossians 2:6, Galatians 3:1-3, and 2 Peter 3:18)

We will reflect on the Core Values, or the DNA, of our church, so we can build on those things that make Walnut Hill unique and blessed. And we anticipate developing a clear and comprehensive philosophy of ministry – which we will put in writing. Much of this is already in place, but still needs to be clearly articulated so we can communicate it to those who are joining us. 

And we will consider how we may express our faith in love; how we may love our neighbors and the Nations, being a blessing to them, as Our Lord has told us we should and will be.  (See Galatians 5:6Genesis 12:1-3; Jeremiah 29:7; and Proverbs 11:10)

These are a few of the things that we will be undertaking, and obviously only a broad sketch. But I wanted to share it with you so you will know how to pray for us. And I also wanted to provide an open door for you to consider some of these same things along with us. 

As part of our discussion I will also post a series of articles by Dr. James M. Boice from his series: How to Have a Healthy Church.  While these are not exhaustive, I find these insights to be very helpful, and as I look at Walnut Hill, encouraging.   

Dr. Boice suggests there are 6 Marks, which will be published in six subsequent posts: 

First Mark – Joy

Second Mark – Holiness

Third Mark – Truth

Fourth Mark – Mission

Fifth Mark – Unity

Sixth Mark – Love

I invite you to reflect on these marks, and consider to what extent they are evident at Walnut Hill (or whatever church you are a part of), corporately – and in you and me, personally.

To any degree you find us lacking, please pray that by God’s grace these marks would become increasingly evident in and among us. 

Signs of Living to Please God


Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?” – Galatians 1:10.   

 At this time of the year most of us see the opportunity for a new start. Whether you are one who makes New Years Resolutions or not, there seems to be the sense of “Do Over” that comes almost as soon as that ball drops in Times Square, and the Bowl season begins to make way for the roundball & puck.   

The question cited at the top of this post was posed by the Apostle Paul.  His question raises another, more fundamental question: Who are we to live to please?  I hope that question will be given consideration for this new year (and every year).  

It would not be appropriate to suppose Paul suggests that affirmation from the people around you is a bad thing. On many occasions he expresses his thankfulness for having been well received, for the friendships with many among whom he lived and ministered.  Yet, his question should remind us, as the Westminster Catechism says, “The primary purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God”. 

While earning esteem at work, in your neighborhood, or among family members is often a good thing, Paul reminds us that when this is our driving motivation we are often out of accord with the very purpose for which we are created, and for which we are redeemed.   

So how do we know when we are falling into this? (Yes, when, not if.)   

The great English Puritan, Richard Baxter, provides us with some thoughts, and exhorts us: “See therefore that you live for God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and as that will suffice you.”

You may discover yourself by these signs: 

1. You will be careful to understand the Scripture, to know what pleases and displeases God

2. You will be more careful in the doing of every task, to fit it to the pleasure of God rather than men.

3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your goals, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.

4. You will look to secret duties as well as public, and to that which men do not see as well as those which they see.

5. You will revere your conscience, paying close attention to it, and not slighting it; when it tells you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when it tells you of His approval, it will comfort you.

6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious (holy) in order to please God, not proud and ambitious for your honor among men, nor impious against the pleasing of God.

7. Whether men are pleased or displeased, how they judge you or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interests, in comparison to God’s judgment. You don’t live for them. You can bear their displeasure, and comments, if God is pleased. 

These will be your evidences.