A sign of a healthy church is very little complaining, unproductive conflict and pessimism.
We learned in the book of Leviticus that God provided a way for sinful Israel to become holy so they could be in His presence. The book of Numbers picks up the story at Mt. Sinai as the cloud of God’s presence leaves the Israelite camp to guide them into the wilderness toward the land God had promised to their family in Genesis. (Numbers 10:33-34)
Israel shows a lack of trust in God
Immediately after they leave, things get ugly. The people start complaining about their situation (Numbers 11:1-9). They are hungry and thirsty and claiming that life was better back in Egypt. Moses’ brother and sister even bad mouth him in front of the whole family.
When they get about halfway to the Promised Land, Moses sends out spies to scout out the land and report back on what they find. 10 spies say that the Canaanites will destroy them, while 2 spies say that God will take care of them if they trust him. The fearful spies get the rest of the people to start a riot and they start threatening to overthrow Moses as their leader and take the family back to Egypt.
God is angry. These behaviors are rooted in a lack of trust in Him and the guidance of His presence. Moses intercedes and asks God to remain faithful to His promise to Abraham. God stays faithful, but also exercises justice as well.
He gives the Israelites what they want…to not enter the land. He sentences this generation to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until they die. Only their children will get to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 14:26-35)
Even after this, things don’t get better. They continue to complain and consider going back to Egypt. Even Moses dishonors God and brings upon himself the same fate as the others. He won’t enter the Promised Land either. (Numbers 20:8-12)
God’s faithfulness and judgment
The stories of this family’s rebellion against the terms of their covenant with God throughout their journey in the wilderness just pile up on each other. But the common thread we see in the book is this interplay between God’s faithfulness and His judgment.
The end of the book shows us how the children of the wilderness generation win a number of battles with people groups around them as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. Some tribes even begin to settle there. (Numbers 34-36)
The Spirit leads a healthy church
In the same way that the people of Israel were guided by God’s presence when they entered into covenant with Him, a healthy church is guided by the Spirit of God in the New Covenant (Luke 22:20). This means humans are not deciding by themselves what a church does and where it goes, but they move as the Spirit leads. They follow processes which make this practical and tangible.
Check out how simply Paul wrote it…
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14)
Being led by the Spirit of God doesn’t mean that the circumstances will always be comfy and cozy. In fact, that will likely rarely be the case. There was another time when Paul wrote this…
Indeed, all who want to live in a godly way in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:12)
It’s not just persecution either. The Spirit will lead into situations that will be sacrificial and uncomfortable. While a healthy church does what’s necessary to be led by the Spirit, it trusts that God is taking it where He wants it to go right in the middle of the circumstances that puts it in.
A healthy atmosphere
A healthy church has an atmosphere of encouragement, honesty, transparency, problem-solving and hope. There’s a real sense that it trusts God will stay true to His character of providing what’s best for it in all circumstances, just like He provided food and water in the desert. (Numbers 20:8)
They don’t have to complain, bad mouth each other, or exercise control because of fear. They seem unhurried, don’t make rash decisions and seem comfortable in the midst of a lack of comfort. Together they carry a general feeling of contentment.