Spiritual Habits of a Healthy Church, pt.1, They Respect Spiritual Authority

November 3, 2019 Speaker: Pastor Scott Slaughter Series: 1 Thessalonians, End-times Holiness

Topic: Discipleship, God's Will, Obedience to God, Worship, Evangelism, Church Growth, Outreach Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:12–5:13

Did you know that churches are like people? They have temperaments, moods, likes, dislikes, idiosyncrasies, in other words, personality. Another way that churches are like people is that some are spiritually healthy and others are not. Some have good spiritual habits that lead to good health while others have allowed themselves bad habits that make them spiritually sickly. 

In this last section of 1 Thessalonians Paul speaks to how the church may be and keep a spiritually healthy congregation. Here he lists seven habits that if we practicing them our church is sure to be spiritually robust. These seven habits are:

They Respect for Spiritual Authority, 1/5 5:12-13

They Responsibly Work for Peace, 2/5 5:13b-15

They Rejoice in Christ, 3/5 5:16

They Regularly Pray 5:17

They Return Thanks for Everything 5:18

They Respond to the Spirit, 4/5 5:19-21They Reject Evil, 5/5 5:22

Conclusion: Congregational Health is the Result 5:23

Dr. Mark Devers and George Barna have written books on this subject. Both of them list nine characteristics for a healthy congregation. Barna’s list was compiled by observation. He visited and interviewed church leaders across the US and surmised the following (without comment): 

  1. They rely upon strategic leadership.
  2. They organize to facilitate highly effective ministry.
  3. They emphasize developing significant relationships. 
  4. Congregants invest themselves in genuine worship. 
  5. They engage in strategic evangelism.
  6. They get people involved in systematic theological growth.
  7. They utilize holistic stewardship practices. 
  8. They serve the needy people in the community. 
  9. They equip families to minister to themselves. 

Theologian and pastor Capital Hills Baptist Church in Washington, DC, Dr. Mark Devers’, the list is developed from studying the Biblical text itself. Although there is value in both, Devers’ insights should be preferred. After studying the Bible’s teaching on congregational health, Devers’ found that the Scriptures teach that for a church to be spiritually healthy they must have these nine habits: 

  1. Expository preaching.
  2. Biblical theology. 
  3. The gospel. 
  4. A biblical understanding of conversion.
  5. A biblical understanding of evangelism. 
  6. A biblical understanding of church membership. 
  7. Biblical church discipline. 
  8. A concern for discipleship and growth. 
  9. Biblical leadership. 

We will take our list from the text of 1 Thessalonians. And right away we see that Paul’s first habit for spiritually healthy churches is to respect their leaders. Immediately, this is a problem for some, and that is unfortunate. But Mark Devers is right when he observes, “…a suspicion of all authority is also very bad. It reveals more of the person questioning than the authority being questioned. Sure, some have abused their authority but does that mean that there should be no authority? Of course not. Leaders are very needed and critical to the church’s spiritual health.” 

This is the Apostle’s first admonition to the believers.