Yes, if you are a regular reader, you will notice this photo, one of my favorites of all time. The former home of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit, aka "St. Curvy's." It's my favorite picture of a church corpse.
My intrepid assistant pastor has a famously insightful and provocative father (who has written books about citizen soldiers and men in leather hats). Last week, the senior said to the junior something quite interesting, something along the lines of "A church's health is inversely proportional to the number of staff it has." He got that from Donald MacGavran.
Now, my purpose is certainly not to knock the large church. Bigger churches need more staff, and actually may have less staff, per capita, than smaller or mid-sized churches. What is meant, I think, is that the amount of staff is a barometer of church health. Are people invested in the ministry? Do they care enough to do the work? Or, do we need to hire it done?
Again, a qualification. Some positions require special skills, etc., or such copious amounts of time that they legitimate full time work. There is no fixed list of what these things are. That does not, however, negate the overall point. People need to come to church to do --to roll up their sleeves and engage in the work. Moreover, they need to feel so responsible for the work that, if they don't do it, it does not happen. The problem with having paid staff, in some cases in my own experience is: a.) we have someone to blame when things go wrong, and b.) we pay someone to do this, so we don't have to. Not healthy, not healthy at all.
That's one barometer, I think, of church health. The other is more troublesome to me. I have begged, pleaded, cajoled and scolded to get people (especially elders) to various prayer venues. My standard isn't high. We have several prayer venues in a given week. Just go to one, semi-regularly.
I have been positive, I have been negative. I have threatened to firebomb their houses. Okay, not really....
Then, I came across this when I was re-reading in one of my favorite little books, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, a quote from Spurgeon:
The condition of a church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer.
There are other barometers to be sure. What are they?