After a recent check-up with my family doctor, I had the results back from various tests. Blood work, cardiology, neurology, and other tests gave me a picture of my overall physical health. But this picture seemed incomplete to me. Physical health is one component of what makes a person “healthy.”
When I came across the World Health Organization’s definition of health, I had a better picture of what constitutes wellbeing: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition has been used by the WHO since 1948 and has not been altered since.
In the same way, it helps to ask the question “What constitutes a healthy church?” We could answer with various responses: good theology; loving one another; a church on mission; dynamism in prayer; unity; and the list could go on. But when the New Testament apostles were faced with a crisis that threatened to break the unity of the Church into racial divisions, the answer of the apostles was quite simple and yet profound. “We must devote ourselves to prayer and the Word,” came the apostolic response (see Acts 6:4).
Prayer and the Word. Two simple things with one underlying posture underneath. Both prayer and the Word are confessions that our health as a church does not come from within, but from without. Rather than thinking that we have the resources or that we can do something to become healthy, the apostles confessed that there was one thing they needed to maintain soundness of doctrine, a love for the brothers, a unity in the Church, and progress in the mission of Christ.
In prayer, we confess that we are weak. We are powerless to change things on our own. We can have great strategies and skills, but unless the Spirit shows up to produce his fruit, all else will be in vain.
For this reason, we start our year with a week of prayer. Sunday night we will gather in praise and prayer, taking time to rejoice in the Lord, to confess our needs before him, and to seek his face. We will take time Tuesday-Friday to pray together. Pick one time. Plan to come. Grab a prayer guide here. And make prayer a priority as we confess to the Lord that “we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron. 20:12b).
In the Word, we confess that we do not have the insight in and of ourselves to know what we ought to do. We need the wisdom that comes from heaven (2 Tim. 3:16-17), revealed to us by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10). In the Word, we hear the Word of the Gospel that announces the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of Christ, and the wisdom to live skilfully. Like the Psalmist, we make it our aim to “delight in your statutes [and] not forget your word” (Ps. 119:16). Make it your aim to be in the Word daily. Pick up a reading plan (or see our website here for some options). Prepare your heart for Sunday by reading the passage that will be preached.
Let’s seek to grow in health by acknowledging where our true health comes from: not from ourselves, but from God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:9) as we seek him in his Word and prayer.