A CHURCH IN
Five things healthy
churches do well
BY JOEL THIESSEN
exist in Canada.
with a newly formed
Flourishing Congregations Institute
at Ambrose University, I am at the
outset of a three-year study with
three colleagues to define and
understand what flourishing congregations (Roman Catholic,
mainline Protestant and conservative Protestant) look like in a
uniquely Canadian context.
We will look at how local congregations may move toward and
maintain a flourishing community
culture. One of our goals is to develop and deliver specific applications of findings, analyses and recommendations to various Christian
From the literature on churches
that thrive, five interrelated features stand out. Intentionality
binds them together. Like cultivating any habit in life, congregations
do not flourish, develop or thrive
without intentionally seeking to
ceeding in ways the world calls
success, and end up feeling worse.
Or failing in ways the world meas-
ures failure, and feel worthless.
Please tell us again, and tell us
often, that the world is not enough,
and was never meant to be.
Inflame us afresh with the hope
of the eternal. Help us to become
all a little more like Stephen, or
Paul, or Peter, or the saints of old,
for whom heaven was the prize,
and all else sheer gift, or distraction. Every effective Christ follower
who’s ever lived was of earthly good
precisely to the degree they were
Help us to be like that. Tell us
I was thinking, when I woke up
from the dream I told you about,
how John wrote to seven churches.
And Paul, by a weird coincidence (or
not), also wrote to seven churches.
Not one of those churches was
perfect. A few were close, but
those ones struggled financially,
or suffered brutal persecution, or
were threatened with disunity, or
heresy, or plain old discouragement.
But there’s no number eight.
There’s no church, anywhere, at
any time, that has been made
perfect yet, that represents the
fullness of Christ’s presence and
God’s Kingdom without flaw or
diminishment. All limp toward a
reality that’s not here yet. All see
through a glass darkly. All carry
the glory in clay jars.
So I decided to stop looking for
I’m going to my church this
Sunday, with thanks and love, with
humility, to bless and to be blessed,
to give and to receive.
Thanks for reading this, my Dear
Mark Buchanan is an author and associate
professor of pastoral theology at Ambrose
Seminary in Calgary, Alta.