12 Traits of a Healthy Church

By David Platt

There are so many ways to build your church, yet God calls His builders to multiply by His design. Here are 12 ways to gauge the health of your church plant.

What Kind of Builder are You?

In 1 Corinthians 3-4, Paul talks about his role as a planter and leader in the church at Corinth. The apostle describes himself as a “skilled master builder.” In Matthew 16, as Jesus is building His church, there’s a sense in which those He has called to plant, lead, and shepherd His church are truly the ones building His church.

What a thought—you and I, as church planters, are building the church of God!

To be a Faithful Steward

1 Corinthians 3 urges us to be careful in how we build His church, to make sure we are building with the right materials and in such a way that it is going to last. One day, the work you have done in building the church will be tested and must be able to withstand the fire. This chapter’s powerful picture of a well-built church leads us into 1 Corinthians 4, where Paul relays the requirements of Christ’s servants as stewards of the mysteries of God.

Let’s pause there and consider what’s required of you and me. What’s required of us as church planters? What’s required of us as pastors in the church? Are we required to have a certain sized church? Is it required to have a certain number of people? Is it required to bring in a certain amount of money? Have certain programs? Have certain success stories we must be able to share? No, none of those things are what 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 discusses.

The Facets of Biblical Faithfulness

What is required of servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God is that they be found faithful. Faithful. That word right there is God’s definition of success for you as a church planter, for you as a pastor among His people. Faithfulness. Being found faithful to build His church, His way.

So, this is where my mind immediately goes: how does God want His church to be built? If I’m building His church and my responsibility is to do that faithfully before Him, how exactly is that done? This is where our church walks through the 12 traits of a healthy church. We continually reiterate these characteristics of a biblical church:

  1. Biblical teaching and preaching upon which the whole church is based
  2. Biblical prayer through seeking God, in dependence on Him
  3. Biblical evangelism through proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ
  4. Biblical discipleship through teaching people to obey everything Christ has commanded us
  5. Biblical membership through identifying ourselves as parts of a church, as Christ’s body of baptized believers who are joined together and belong to each other
  6. Biblical leadership through pastors, elders, and overseers who shepherd deacons and the church, according to God’s Word
  7. Biblical fellowship through loving and caring for one another, including biblical accountability and discipline
  8. Biblical worship through gathering together to glorify God
  9. Biblical ordinances through baptism and celebrating communion regularly
  10. Biblical giving through the gathering of resources for the spread of the gospel, the relief of the poor, and the building up of the church, all for His glory
  11. Biblical mission through making disciples not just where you are, but making disciples of the nations—focusing on getting the gospel where it hasn’t gone and sending people out on this mission
  12. Biblical aim of the church—not making multiplication the end goal, but faithfulness to build God’s church God’s way, according to His Word and trusting His own design for the church.

Aiming for Faithfulness to Christ

When you put these traits together, you see a biblical picture of the church. You and I have been called by God and are required by Him to faithfully build His church, His way. When I talk with church planters, missionaries, and pastors who are zealous to see the church multiply, I admire the heart they have behind this multiplication mindset; however, I do want us to always be careful. If we aim for multiplication, we may or may not end up with a biblical church. But if our aim and driving force is to simply accomplish or achieve more, then we can easily dilute the essence of the church along the way. We can easily skip over things like membership, accountability, and discipline in the church.

Cults multiply, and false religions do, too. This concept shows us that multiplication for the sake of multiplication is not the goal. If we aim for multiplication, we may or may not end with a biblical church. However, when we aim for a biblical church, we will see multiplication every time in God’s time.

Adapted from “12 Traits of a Healthy Church” from the Church Planting Masterclass. Watch this video and more for free by signing up for the Masterclass today.

Published February 21, 2024

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David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical, a ministry that exists to equip Christians to be on mission. David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of RadicalRadical TogetherFollow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, and Don't Hold Back. He is also the author of several volumes in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series. Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Resources from David Platt and Radical can be found at radical.net.