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Church Health

*Session 2

International Graduate School of Leadership

Steve Hobson

What is a Healthy Church?

The church is understood in several ways biblically through Jesus promises, its dynamic birth and
ministry in Acts, and through theological reflection in the rest of the New Testament. Biblical metaphors
further enrich our understanding of what a healthy church should look like.


Bennett, David W. Metaphors of Ministry: Biblical Images for Leaders and Followers. Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993.
Clowney, Edmund P. Interpreting the Biblical Models of the Church: A Hermeneutical Deepening of Ecclesiology. In
Biblical Interpretation and the Church: Text and Context. ed. D.A. Carson, 64-109. Exeter, U.K.: Paternoster
Press, 1984.
Clowney, Edmund P. The Church. Contours of Christian Theology Series, ed. Gerald Bray. Downers Grove, IL:
I199nterVarsity Press, 1995.
Dulles, Avery. Models of the Church. Expanded edition. New York: Image Books, Doubleday, 1978; reprint, 1987.
Fisher, David. The 21st Century Pastor: A Vision Based on the Ministry of Paul. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan,
Hiebert, Paul. Evangelism, church and kingdom. In The Good News of the Kingdom: Mission Theology for the Third
Millennium, ed. Charles Van Engen, Dean S. Gilliland, and Paul Pierson. Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993.
Hobson, Steven. Rethinking the Church, Its Leadership and Mission. A paper submitted for the class
DMS 925 "Contemporary Theological Issues in Missions at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield,
IL. 1996.
Hobson, Steven and Whelchel, James. Foundations for Christian Leadership. Manila: ISOT Press, 1994.
Minear, Paul S. Images of the Church in the New Testament. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1960.
Saucy, Robert L. The Church in God's Program. Chicago: Moody Press, 1972.
Senior, Donald. Correlating Images of Church and Images of Mission in the New Testament. Missiology: An
International Review 23, no.1 (January): 3-16. 1995.
Snyder, Howard. The Problem of Wineskins: Church Structure in a Technological Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1976.
Van Engen, Charles. Gods Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Baker, 1991.

Objectives: By the end of this session you should be able to.....


Discuss the nature church as seen in Jesus promises and its dynamic life in Acts.
Reflect on the far reaching vision of the church in Ephesians.
Explain two overarching theological concepts and the rationale for choosing six metaphors to explain the
identity, mission, and leadership dynamic of the church.

Somewhere along the way ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, got lost. . . . placed on the back burner.
Regardless of the cause or causes, evangelical ecclesiology has become fuzzy at best
and more often than not is ignored or misunderstood. And where there is fuzzy thinking about the church,
there will be no clear thinking about the ministry of the church. (Fisher 1996, p. 76)

For Discussion:
1. In the communities of your home culture, what do most people think of the local Christian church?
What does it represent? Do they view it positively, negatively, neutrally? Why?

2. What are the pressures churches in your home culture face? What issues are church leaders most
struggling with?

3. What would you like to learn about the church? What do you need to learn about the church?


What does it take to become a church? (Is a campus fellowship a church? Is an office Bible study a
church? Is a home Bible study a church? Is a group of believers singing in the middle of a park a church?)
What the church is:

What the church is not (merely):


Mt 16:15-19; 18:15-20; (Jesus uses the word "church" 3x) John 20:19-23 (NAS)
Important words: church, rock, kingdom, keys, binding/loosing

Acts 2:40-47
Acts 4:31-37
In studying the book of Acts, we tend to focus on what the church DOES. The church is:

A group of believers (born again people) committed to each other / organized (Acts 2:44,46,47) . . .
. . . who signify their faith through baptism (v. 41)
. . . who meet together regularly for fellowship, prayer, teaching, & worship (v. 42,46)
. . . who minister to the each other and to others outside their group (v. 45,47)
. . . who develop and respect qualified leaders (Acts 6:1-7; 14:21-23)
. . . who practice biblical discipline (Acts 5:1-11; Mt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5; 2 Cor 2:5-11).
In studying the book of book of Ephesians, we can see what the church IS.
The book lives with an expansive vision of Gods purpose for the church based on what it is.
Ch. 1

The church is Gods adopted people - in whom His plan of redemption is accomplished,
God is glorified, and Christ is exalted as head over all for the church! (1:17-23)

Ch. 2

The church is people as a household and temple - no longer alienated from Him
or each other by sin!
(2:4-10; 19-22)

Ch. 3

The church is the showcase of Gods wisdom - revealing His glory to all creatures, even the
(3:4-6, 10-11, 20-21)

Ch. 4

The church is Christ's body - that grows and matures into Christs fullness through one Spirit!

Ch. 5

The church is a picture of the Trinity - as we are imitate God!

(5:1-2, 18-20)

Ch. 6

The church is the army of God - standing strong in spiritual battle, empowered by Spirit & prayer!


A. The Church Begins with God (in Christ) the King and His Kingdom.
He is the Ruler - King over all creation (Eph 1:9-11,19b-23; 4:10), for the church!
He has a Realm - His Kingdom (Mt 16:18,19; 12:28; Lk 12:32), made visible in His people!
OT the people of God were those who joined themselves to God by faith: true Israel and Gentile converts.
NT the people of God comprise the church: a new society, Jew & Gentile as one thru new birth by faith.
(Acts 15:14; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 4:9; 1 Pet. 2:9).
He has a Reign - His sovereign hand is moving both inside and outside of the church (Eph 1:13-14; 2:10;
6:19-20; Mt 28:18-20)!
>> Two Overarching/Integrating Theological Concepts emerge from OT related to the church in NT:
The Kingdom of God/Christ over all creation & peoples 1 Chron 29:11; Ps 103:19-22; Eph 1:11,19b-23
The People of God who yield by faith to the King (Gen 12:13; Hosea 1:10; 2:23; Is 65:1; Rom 9:22-26)

B. The Church Ends with the Fathers glory. (1 Cor 3:5-9; Eph 3:10-11,20-21)

Gods Vision - The Healthy Church in Pictures

We cannot abandon or regard as illegitimate the endeavor to generalize and systematize the understanding gained
from scriptural metaphors . . . On the other hand, we can never discard the metaphors of Scripture . . . [as]chaff to be
blown away once the wheat of meaning has been harvested. No, the metaphors remain, not only to compel us to recheck our conclusions, but also to lead us into further understanding produced by the power of their truth. (Clowney 1984, 97)

>>Six Metaphors - Why These?

Metaphors play a unique role in helping us understand things that are higher than what we occupy ourselves with in
our daily world we see. They point to a reality beyond themselves, suggesting through analogy and picture and
emotional nuance, aspects of the invisible that we can understand through pictures of the visible.
The metaphors by name or clear implication of usage are God centered. The church is to follow His
design and reflect the inner spiritual character of the life He alone gives it. God Himself is the strength of
the churchs identity and its only true life dynamic.
All except for one of the metaphors are found in both the Old and New Testaments.
This scheme of six images finds an internal symmetry by grouping around the persons of the Trinity
Each of the metaphors chosen is fairly fully developed in Scripture.
The images offer contrasting/complementary views of the church.
The metaphors offer contrasting/complementary views of the roles of leadership.

The Church as a Household - The Household of God (Eph 2:19; Mt 6:9; 10:25; Rom 8:16-17; 1 Tim 5:1-2;
Jn 3:3; Eph 1:5; 1 Pet 2:2; 1 Jn 2:12-14; Acts 20:17; 1 Thess 2:7,11-12; 1 Cor 4:15-17; Luke 12:42; Jn 8:44)

The Church as a Holy Nation - The Holy Nation of God (1 Pet 2:9; 5:8-9; Eph 2:19; Phil 2:25; 3:20;
1 Pet 2:11-12; 1 Tim 2:7; Eph 6:10-20; 2 Cor 2:14; 5:20; 10:3-5; Col 2:15; Mt 16:18; 24:14; 2 Tim 2:3-4; Acts 1:8)

The Church as a Body - The Body of Christ (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 10:16-17; 12:4-30; Eph 1:22-23; 2:14-18;
Eph 4:11-16; Col 2:16-19; Jn 17:20-23)

The Church as a Bride - The Bride of Christ (Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Jn 3:29-30; 2 Cor 11:2-3; Eph 5:24-32;
Rev 2:1-5; 19:5-9; 21:9-14)

The Church as a Building - The Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:9-17; Eph 2:20-22; 1 Pet 2:5,9;
1 Tim 3:15: Heb 10:10,12,19-22; Rev 1:5-6)

The Church as a Vineyard - The Channel of the Holy Spirit (Jn 15:1-17; Mt 21:33-36;
Rom 7:4-5 related to 8:5-11,23; 1 Cor 3:6-9; 2 Cor 6:1; Gal 5:22-23; Col 1:6,10-12)

A Biblical Vision of the Church


Holy Nation





God /
Core Function
(also * above)
What is the purpose, the values of your church? Where do they come from? Does your church express the Biblical purpose/values listed above?
Does it have a balance vision of what it is to be, incorporating all the images above? Or does it favor one image, one set of values over others?