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The unseen vitality and substance of Church

From the May 2024 issue of The Christian Science Journal

A fellow church member said to me, “Our church is just a shadow of what it used to be.” I reflected on that for a moment. What did our church used to be? I’ve seen our church pews more full in the past and our Sunday School bursting with pupils. Could this have been what the member was referring to?

The question stuck with me and I pondered it more deeply. What are the signs of a healthy church? Many people in attendance, a packed parking lot, a full Sunday School, a stream of new members, big collections? Are these the standards we use to measure the health of our churches? While they may be the world’s metrics, do they necessarily indicate the power that drove the growth of the early Christian Church? In Acts we read, “Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. . . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (2:43, 47).

It is right for our churches to thrive, including attracting new attendees and members, for the purpose of church is to have a healing impact in the community and, indeed, in the world. But if this is what we truly want for our churches, wouldn’t it be better to stop focusing on the outward signs and instead acquaint ourselves more closely with the spiritual cause and substance of Church—that which, when understood, naturally brings the power of God to bear on our church experience and blesses our communities?

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