I wrote about anemic churches last week. A couple of commenters asked me to explain how to identify whether a church is anemic or not. Here’s my best shot.
You can tell if you’re in an anemic church by its focus. If the focus is on people — marketing to them, entertaining them, and keeping them happy — then chances are that it’s anemic. Anemic churches treat worshipers as customers. It markets the gospel and promises benefits that will improve one’s life.
I know when I’m in an anemic church by its frivolity. There’s a lack of weight and substance. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you experience it.
Contrast that to a healthy church. Healthy churches aren’t perfect. They still work hard at welcoming people and communicating to them. But they make it clear: God is the focus here, not people. We have come at his invitation to hear him. We need to hear him, because he has something important to say through his Word, and we need to hear it. Healthy churches call people to serve and lay down their lives. They believe and proclaim that people need Jesus more than they need their perceived needs met.
Healthy churches are joyful, but there’s also a weightiness because we’re dealing with serious matters. There’s an urgency and an appeal to respond and worship. I don’t mean to idealize these churches, because no church is perfect, but the focus is completely different: God, not us; weightiness, not frivolity; submission, not consumption; gospel, not life principles to follow.
The longer I live, the more I want to pastor a church that takes seriously that God has summoned us. He has something to say, and we must listen and respond. We have a gospel to herald, a people to love, but not a product to hawk or a crowd to impress. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a world of difference between an anemic church and a healthy one. It’s hard to know why people settle for the former.