4 Key Practices for Healthy Christian Communities – Part 2

by Karen Lucas – IPHC.org

This article is part 2 of a two-part series on healthy community. Read Part 1 here.

What if someone told you that church people are fake and judgmental? Would you be offended? These overgeneralizations hurt the reputation of the Church, yet, mainstream culture feels justified in holding Christians to a higher standard – and rightfully so. We are the redeemed. We are supposed to be different, and they know it. So, when Christian communities cover up sin or come across as cliquish and condescending, skepticism is to be expected.

God IS a perfectly whole community as the Trinity, and this is adequate proof that healthy Christian community matters to God. To be true image bearers of God, the Church should endeavor to reflect the holy communal nature that we observe between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

After researching Christian communities that were especially effective at fostering spiritual health and transformation, Christine D. Pohl distilled their characteristics into four practices. [1]

1) Embracing gratitude as a way of life
2) Making and Keeping Promises
3) Living Truthfully
4) Practicing Hospitality

In the first article, attention was given to gratitude and promises. This article will focus on living truthfully within a hospitable Christian environment.

How important is truthfulness to God? Let’s start by considering Jesus’ bold assertion from John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We may focus on Jesus being the way to the Father and not give as much attention to Jesus being the truth. However, if we don’t live truthfully, our efforts at discipleship and evangelism may fall on deaf ears.

The author of Ecclesiastes warned us to be careful about making vows when we go to the house of God (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6). When Christians view their commitments to their community of faith as expendable, it is detrimental to the health, effectiveness, and reputation of the Church. So, we should be truthful with ourselves and others about our priorities and other obligations before making or breaking commitments.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 also shows us that God values truthfulness. After observing the extreme generosity of another man, they sold property and said they were giving the income to their church. However, they kept some for themselves. Their sin was their deception. They should have been honest about what they could or would give instead of putting on airs. A person who is living truthfully will be at peace with their spiritual journey. Likewise, Christian communities that practice living truthfully will encourage generosity but alongside genuineness. They will support healthy boundaries and give people room to grow.

In his work on emotionally healthy spirituality, Pastor Peter Scazzero explored Christians who unintentionally lean towards practicing forms of Gnostic dualism. [2] They may struggle with anxiety because they imagine Satan as almost equal to God and think of their bodies as a source of evil and their spirits as good. They forget that Jesus was fully God but also fully human and respected the needs of his body. So, some may over-commit themselves and over-spiritualize their circumstances. Often, they do not give adequate time to Sabbath keeping, relationships, family obligations, and personal health because they fail to be honest with themselves and others about their own physical and emotional needs. This overzealous form of Christianity is disconnected from reality and biblical teaching about the goodness of creation and the sovereignty of God. It is damaging to Christian communities because it is works-driven, leaves little room for true relationships, cannot be sustained, and will eventually lead to various forms of breakdown.

Healthy Christian Communities support a transformation process, but the kind of personal truthfulness and courage that leads to real conversion and spiritual growth is rare without trust. Hospitality can open the door to trust, but a person’s emotional and spiritual health cannot properly develop in a community that doesn’t value promises, truthful living, and gratitude as a way of life.

Hospitality is not simply about first impressions, a seeker-friendly environment, and follow-up with guests. The type of hospitality that the Church needs is radical hospitality that takes in broken people and walks with them along the path to wholeness. When a community of faith is intentional and sincerely committed to doing that together, it will have a tremendous impact. After all, the Church is not just the bride of Christ. It is the body of Christ and is IN Christ. So, the Church is intended to be part of the ongoing communal work of the Trinity; touching lives, cultivating hearts and drawing people into a living, breathing, active relationship with a God who makes all things new. [3] (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)


[1] Christine D. Pohl, Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain U, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 8-12.

[2] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 51-59.

[3] Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009), 19-30.