Healthy Churches - Lesson 1


In this lesson on healthy churches, you gain a deep understanding of what constitutes a healthy church and the biblical foundations that support this concept. You will explore the key elements that contribute to a church's health, including strong leadership, discipleship, spiritual growth, worship, prayer, fellowship, community, evangelism, and outreach. Additionally, you will learn about assessment tools and strategies to help strengthen church health and the vital role church leaders play in fostering a healthy church culture and ensuring their own personal growth and development.

Bert Downs
Healthy Churches
Lesson 1
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PC310: Healthy Churches

I. Understanding Healthy Churches

A. Defining a Healthy Church

B. Biblical Foundations

II. Key Elements of Healthy Churches

A. Strong Leadership

B. Discipleship and Spiritual Growth

C. Worship and Prayer

D. Fellowship and Community

E. Evangelism and Outreach

III. Assessing and Strengthening Church Health

A. Diagnostic Tools

B. Strategies for Improvement

IV. The Role of Church Leaders in Promoting Health

A. Personal Growth and Development

B. Nurturing a Healthy Church Culture

Class Resources
  • Learn about the essential components of a healthy church, how to assess and strengthen church health, and the crucial role of leadership in cultivating a thriving faith community.

The issue we often don’t address when talking about churches is “health.” We talk about size, programs, budgets and staffs, but church health is often not on our radar. Bert Downs and Mark Hoeffner will help put it there in this lively dialogue about how they have been working on this issue.  


Bert Downs, "Mark, you're not just the shepherd of a group of churches here in the Northwest and their leaders, but you're also the shepherd of the church and quite some in Washington. So what kind of what kind of church health initiatives are you putting together in that particular location?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Probably the things that I put the greatest amount of effort into is the the process of identifying, training, mentoring, next generation shepherds, both male and female, as we think about shepherding all kinds of people in all kinds of contexts, the ability to have people in place who can actually give care to people's soul. How do you how do you identify the kind of maturity that's necessary to be able to shepherd people's soul? But then how do you then cultivate that? How do you help that become a mature shepherd? And so we put a lot of time into not just our elders, and they're identifying those that they're going to mentor and the process in which we use to help that mentoring bring somebody to maturity on the elder level, but also in the in every facet of shepherding in the church. We're trying to to develop that. So that's probably one of our primary agendas in our church, is to make shepherding our highest value, realizing that when we do that really, really well, the the ability to accomplish what New Testament church is all about is much higher, much better."


Bert Downs, "So you're pushing that shepherding approach down through all of the layers of the church as much as you can, through all the layers of the church."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah. Understanding the difference between elder and elder mean and recognizing that elders need to be able to shepherd, but also that there is a shepherding context that goes far broader than just elder. And so recognizing that we need women who can shepherd women, we need youth who can shepherd youth, we need elderly people who can shepherd elderly people, and then across those generations as well. The idea that the elders are going to shepherd everybody is is is really not realistic in the church that's growing."


Bert Downs, "And you can say it's really not a biblical idea."


Mark Hoeffner, "That would be true to be true to."


Bert Downs, "Exactly, so I hear you saying this really connects to what you would call a maturity process, that this is crucial to maturing the layers of of your church from the most veteran Christian to the the most novice Christian."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah. You, you know, the ability to assess where somebody is at in their their walk with Jesus Christ understanding to assess their ability to know and to handle doctrine, to use it as a tool."


Bert Downs, "And you know, I'm going to stop you. And I think we've been joined our conversation has been joined by a group of people who help affirm pieces of an interesting but are probably saying to themself, what in the world is going on now? We're but we're glad you've joined in and welcome to the conversation. I'm Burt Downs, the executive coach for the Southwest Church Connection. And I'm joined by Mark Hoeffner this morning. Mark, tell the folks a little bit about your multifaceted role, your career, if you will."


Mark Hoeffner, "Well, I get the privilege of being able to be one of the teaching elders at Grace Baptist Church in White Salmon, Washington, which is a wonderful privilege to be able to shepherd there. I also am the Executive Director for CB Northwest, so I get to work with our conservative Baptist churches in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Alaska. And I've been in that role for about 13 years now and enjoy it immensely. It's been incredibly beneficial to me in the development of my walk with Christ and my understanding of church leadership. So those are kind of the two primary roles other than being a father and a husband."


Bert Downs, "So you're the husband of Janell. How many kids you got?"


Mark Hoeffner, "We have eight children. We have seven children that have been adopted through the state of Oregon. They're they're called special needs, but they're just kids who've come out of their birth home because their parents love their sin more than they love their kids. And so they entered into a very devastating process that being removed from their home and being brought into the foster care system. And then Janell and I have had. The privilege of adopting seven of those, bringing them into our home, and just watching God do a great work in their life."


Bert Downs, "So you have several shepherding opportunities here. You have the region of churches, you have the local church, and you have your family. And you also get to work on health at multiple levels. So that's that's that's why you're here with us this morning. Okay. All right. Because of those kinds of things. Patrick Lindsay, Tony has written an interesting book called The Advantage. And, of course, it's business oriented. But in it, he talks about health. And at one place, he says a rather kind of shocking thing, I'm sure, particularly the business people who would read it. But even as a churchman reading it, it surprised me in that he said if he was really pushed to it and in the world of business and had to make a choice between being smarter and being healthier, that he would choose health every time. It really is the key. Yeah. Are you there?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah, I know. I'm hearing that. I like that a lot."


Bert Downs, "So why is church health such an important consideration for us?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Well, from a church perspective, the Bible describes church as a life system. It's organic. It's not an organization. It's not. Doesn't mean it's not organized. Right. Any life system has organization, but its primary descriptor is that it's a life entity. And so any time you're talking about something that's alive, health is absolutely essential. You know, the rancher, he if he's focusing on the calf, it's too late. He's got to focus on the health of the cow. And if he's got a healthy cow, the chances are he's going to have a healthy calf. So health is incredibly important in a life system because if it's not healthy, it can't reproduce. And so reproduction is the absolute acid test as to whether something is healthy or not. So if it's healthy and alive, it's going to reproduce it."


Bert Downs, "It certainly is a is a dominant theme in the scripture, as you've already pointed out. We don't always see it in the organizational aspects of the church and we tend to stay there. But but I found in my journey, like yours, of doing church, local church and being involved with the seminary and training and then being involved with a region like you are with a number of churches, is that is that you begin to see it all over the Scripture as some of my favorite books are at the end of the New Testament. You know, I think Hebrews through Revelation are all health books. And each one of them addresses something unique from maturity in Hebrews to my goodness, when you get to Revelation, it starts with a story of seven unhealthy churches. So, all the way along, if you really pay attention to the topic, it's it not only is very present in the practice of our lives, but but when you come back to the to the driver, if you will, to the scripture, it's self-evident that that health becomes a big deal as the church that's birthed. And you follow that through the book of Acts. As it begins to get some age to it, those health issues become major issues. So here's a question that that I wrestle with and probably the folks that are that are in this conversation with us vicariously wrestle with once in a while. That's if that's the case, then why are we so reluctant to address it?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Well, probably the blunt answer is because we're not healthy and it's always difficult to to make something healthy when you yourself aren't. And so so oftentimes, I think I think in church leadership, we have a wrong definition of what health looks like. And so therefore, we propagate that definition, but it doesn't lead us to reproduction. So then all of a sudden we find ourselves kind of backing off from the topic. We, you know, if you've ever if you've ever been in a conversation with somebody on something that they know a lot more about than you do, your tendency is to let them do the talking. And so if I'm a person who's not confident in my ability to shepherd a church to health, then I'm going to let somebody else do the talking. And so we we don't start addressing it personally. And our tendency is then to try everything that everybody else does as opposed to getting healthier ourself."


Bert Downs, "So without going too far down that road, it's a fair axiom maybe to say that that the health of the shepherd or the leader has a huge influence on the health of the whole group at large."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah, it's everything. I mean, if you look at your scriptures, you look at Jesus. He's the most healthy shepherd. Look at his ability to reproduce. And every time the disciples got themselves into trouble, they walked away from the principles of Jesus."


Bert Downs, "And it's interesting. He oftentimes all the time. An artist often brings them back to a health issue. Exactly. So, Peter, hold up here a minute. Let's let's back up and take a look at this again. And there is that process that he goes through. Personally, I think one of the reasons that, at least for me and the people I've worked with a lot, we don't like to address it. And you've touched on it a little bit, but I'll use just a common term. It's messy. It's easier to address a program to say, I've got this issue and I know it's on health, so I'm going to find I'm going to find a book, I'm going to find Lindsey Owen, or I'm going to find Saddleback, or I'm going to find Andy Stanley or somebody who's going to tell me if I just learn this and take on this. This is going to solve that. And so I default over to getting smarter, if you will, rather than saying, No, this is different than that. I remember when I was 24, I was appointed as the principal of a high school in the state of Washington. That's pretty young to be a high school football. And the oddity was, you know, as is, I was successful at it. But but I did have the issues of health that I didn't address. And I remember about two years into it, the superintendent, the school district calling me in and sitting me down, literally saying, sit down. It wasn't a nice conversation. He's in charge. And basically what he said to me is if you can't learn how to how to respond better to authority, you know, you think you know everything and you don't if if you can't respond better to authority, you're going to shortcut all of the potential of your life. It was a very hard conversation, and I probably didn't talk to him for a month except when I had to. And but here's the thing. It was right when I when I finally got far enough from the conversation that the pain of it subsided. I looked into the conversation and said, you know, he's really right. How many how many times have I cut off a productive relationship because I was unwilling to deal with a major health issue? And I've often looked back that and said, I think that's it's so hard. That's why we we don't address it. But that's why it's so important all along the way. So. It's messy. It's difficult to deal with. It takes a hunk of us to get into it and those sorts of things. But but if you and I were going to process a a leadership team through this, we get a call from a church and the church says we're struggling with some things and we think these are major issues in our health and they're holding us back. How would we process them? How would. I'll I'll interject how I would do it, but let's. How would. Where would you take them? What would be your aim? How would you walk them through? Let's leave this as a a take away for these folks in terms of here's a process to look at. Where would you begin? How would you do it, Mark?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Well, I think the first thing that you always have to do when you're helping a church try to address their health issues is you have to come to terms with just the what is. In other words, they have to come to a a clear understanding that this is really our state. This is really the condition we are in. They have to actually be able to to get a good picture of what it is that they've gotten themselves into by the decisions they've made, by the programs they've run, by the the way in which they've conducted themselves as a church, the way they've related to one another, as a as a fellowship. And once they can come to terms with, okay, this is this is who we really are, this is the what is in our church. Then we can begin to ask the question what ought to be?"


Bert Downs, "So in the Southwest, the way the way that we do that, not the only way that it could be done is that is that we lead a church through a a self assessment process, a mapping process. Is that what you guys do?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah, that's a good way to get at the what is and to begin to fashion the what ought to be when we look at the what ought to be. You really have to ask three questions and you know, the first question you have to ask is what needs to stay? In other words, in all of this stuff, what's good? You know, this this needs to be here. This is exactly what should be here."


Bert Downs, "And the assessment will tell you some of that?"


Mark Hoeffner, "It will help you, you bet. And then the second piece is just what needs to go. There are things here that are not helping us be healthy. They are not helping us to be the church that God would want us to be as a New Testament church. And then what needs to change is kind of that third, that third category. Because when I can answer those questions, this needs to stay. This needs to go. This needs to change."


Bert Downs, "Let me let me stop you for just a second, because I think oftentimes in these processes and probably some of the folks that are in this conversation with us recognize this is a way we skipped two of the questions and we immediately focus on one. And that's the change question. Why is it important to do the other two?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Well the other two are real important? Because when we look at the what needs to stay, what we are really doing is we are we're acknowledging those pieces that have been blessed by God, those pieces that God has has given not only approval to, but he's actually aided us in the process. The things that need to go are you have to ask that question and you have to answer it because everything requires resource, whether it's thought or whether it's money, whether it's time. And any resource that's going out that is not on mission is resource that could be applied to mission, what needs to be added or those things that will put us back on mission. And so you're going to have to make change. And usually the greatest change you have to make is the changing of your mind."


Bert Downs, "Typically when we when we've worked with churches, oftentimes smaller churches, interestingly enough, and you begin this discussion, they almost always begin at the change part and they view it as something that's going to be added to what they already have. Right. So I remember one occasion we had a little group, wonderful group, and to their credit, they're doing amazing things now out of the mapping process. But but their biggest concern going into the mapping process was this was a church of 65 people that had 36 committees, if I remember correctly. And they didn't have enough people to to to fill all of the committee needs. And so they're saying, well, but if we if we make these changes, how are we going to do that and do this, too? Right. So so what we had to help them do, your point is we had to help them. See, you don't need all of those things. There are things here that have to go. Actually, almost all of them, I think that we had we were finished. There were three left. And dare I say at the end of it, they were a lot happier people."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah. It's one of the books that addresses the issue really well. A simple church. Simple church, You know, simple church just gets at the idea that your purpose is your mission, and your mission is your purpose. And so if those two things can't be linked perfectly together, then probably what isn't linked needs to go. And so if if, if what we're purpose seen to do isn't accomplishing mission, then that which we are purpose in to do needs to be gotten rid of."


Bert Downs, "Now it seems to me it's it's it's fair to say when you're saying all of this, I can I can actually begin to feel the discomfort for for people and talking like this."


Mark Hoeffner, "You mean all the people that just left out there?"


Bert Downs, "And just left out there that are going, oh, no, what is this? But but really, there's there's nothing to be embarrassed about in this kind of conversation. This is not unlike going through life and realize that you have stages when you become not well. Mm hmm. It back to your point, it's organic. If it's organic and we are functioning, we are functioning as redeemed people. But in a fallen world, then unhealthy should just be an accepted thing. We really are going to deal with it. And. And once in a while, we need a check up. I think going back to why we don't do it is that sometimes we feel like this is abnormal and we're the only people in the world who are facing this. And the truth is we're all having to deal with this. And if we can accept that, then we can we can deal with it productively. You have you had a previous conversations. You've talked about some foundation stones that that you work off of that that help the process. If we can jump, we've answered three questions and we can jump in, do foundation stones and processes. What are those? Yeah, let's see if we can't leave Those is another take away along the way here."


Mark Hoeffner, "When we're looking at trying to help churches get healthy, help them be on a mission to help a church begin to function in a way that has real traction, it bringing the gospel into the community. We kind of look at some foundation stones that that must be there for that that to take place. And the first one is just the gospel. In other words, the ability to to apply the gospel to every facet of our life and our ministry, our relationships. A simple way to look at it is if you get Jesus right, you get everything right. You get Jesus wrong. You get everything wrong. And so it's focusing on what the story of the Bible is all about. And that is a God who loves us, and he loves us so passionately that he gives us a savior who not only saves us from sin, but he saves us unto that which is healthy, that which is life abundant."


Bert Downs, "And that's crucial to see, isn't it?"


Mark Hoeffner, "It really is, because when I get the gospel right, it leads me naturally into what we call covenant community, which is the second foundation stone. In other words, getting Jesus right creates a relational climate that's healthy. That's right. Not only am I related to God, right, but I'm related to my wife, right to my kids, to my the the my co laborers in the church relationships begin to take their proper place."


Bert Downs, "So to to stay at the foundation just for a second, it's not fair to view it as a pyramid, but it is building blocks at least."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah they are interrelated in a in an in they have a certain linear piece to them, but once they're all there, it's, it's holistic but you can never move off of the gospel piece. Exactly. I mean it's just really sets the course. Yes. And if that ever gets off track, then the rest of it somehow is going to get perhaps even further off track. That's right. That's right. So so you're always you're always working back to the implications of the gospel in the centerpiece of the gospel, which is Jesus. Sure. Because when I get the gospel right, I get Jesus right. When I get Jesus right now, I know who I am because he declares my identity. When I know who I am, who I am in Christ. Now I can relate to you properly in Christ because I know who you are. And so that relationship begins to become healthy. That's what makes Koinonia, That's what makes a church, community, family. And that's why Covenant Community is a pledge to relationship. Well, that pledge to relationship starts with what God the Father did for us by sending his son. So gospel always leads into right relationships or what we call the second foundation stone, which is covenant community."


Bert Downs, "So just to not to linger here because I know time is going to work against us always. But but at that level, we're really talking about more than do you just give intellectual assent to this?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Correct. But, but you're actually letting this behaviorally begin to shape your life. Right. Exactly. Because the gospel applied is behavioral. In other words, I cannot I can't intellectually assent to salvation. I enter into salvation by relationship."


Bert Downs, "And yet, interestingly, we kind of live in the realm of church these days where perhaps we've been plagued by the giving of intellectual assent to something, but actually not adopting it as a as a life ingredient that shapes and drives our life. Is that fair?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah, because we've placed such a high value on on knowing in the context of assimilating information as opposed to the practice of behaviors that come out of truth. And so when I enter into a relationship, I have to practice truth. And to the degree that I do it well, I have good relationships."


Bert Downs, "We don't just share what we know."


Mark Hoeffner, "No. You mean like we're doing right, right now? That's right."


Bert Downs, "For sure. So let's jump up into that next level. That's the in the community. Right. And we've already unfolded that a little bit."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah. When we get community right, because we're applying the gospel to our relationships, it creates a platform for proclamation. In other words, I get to speak truth. If you think of the ordinance of baptism."


Bert Downs, "Now they have a question for you. Okay, so here's the deal. So if I don't get that platform right, then is the implication that it somehow impacts my ability to speak truth? Yeah."


Mark Hoeffner, "I mean, just look at how neutered our churches are when it comes to evangelism. You know, the ability for truth to address real life issues is not theoretical. In other words, if it's not taking place in community, then truth is not being applied in a way that it changes people's lives. And so when community is healthy and relationships healthy because we're applying the gospel correctly to those relationships, now all of a sudden the truths of God's Word speak to my marriage. They speak to my finances. They speak to how I raise my kids. They speak to how my kids respond to me as a as a parent. How we look at our worldview, how we define marriage. All of those things come from a truth platform. But that truth platform is afforded to us because we've done relationship really, really well."


Bert Downs, "You know, it's interesting that at the risk of sounding like a seminary guy and talking about what I know is there's a historian and sociologist who who wrote a great book on the early church called The Rise of Christianity and the first 300 years or so of the church where it went from virtually zero. Not quite, but almost up to, you know, there's arguments as to how many millions of people was but probably was in the neighborhood of 40 to 60 million people in the Roman Empire, which is huge. And how did they do that? So he looked at all of the things we've just outlined. And at the end of his work, which is a good scholarly work, he came to this conclusion. Here's how they did it. They lived it out and they shared it with the people around them. That's the only answer that he could come up with, which which is back to the power of community that the gospel reality became reality in the community and room relationship. And those people were able to live that viscerally and openly and to share it. And it made the difference."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah. That said, simply, when you look back at that era of church history, my how they loved one another."


Bert Downs, "Yeah, exactly."


Mark Hoeffner, "And that love was manifested in relationship and oftentimes under incredible persecution."


Bert Downs, "So there are a couple of more, maybe three more stones in this wall. Let's let's get those."


Mark Hoeffner, "As we think about this whole idea of being able to proclaim."


Bert Downs, "That's the third one."


Mark Hoeffner, "You've got baptism as the picture of that. In other words, when I when I go get wet in front of a whole bunch of dry people, I do that because Jesus told me to do that. Can I enter into that water by submission? But I also do it by way of of identification. I identify with Christ and in identifying with Christ, death, burial and resurrection to the waters of baptism. What I'm doing is I'm proclaiming a belief system, but I'm proclaiming it by an action, not by a not not by my words, but by my actions. And so the the key to a platform, a proclamation, is the fact that it is our behaviors that are proclaiming our words. Just follow it up. And if we have to use words, great. But if someone if we don't have to use words, so much the better."


Bert Downs, "So in a certain sense, I want to push this too far because there's a limit to how you can how you can use illustration like this. But I loved your comment of your getting into that water and identification is a piece of it in a certain sense beyond the act of baptism. You might say that you're always in the process of getting into the water again."


Mark Hoeffner, "Exactly."


Bert Downs, "So I have a conversation. With someone who's sitting next to me on the plane and knows nothing about Jesus, and I have to sort of get into the water again. I have to create my identity ignition. If that conversation is going to have any gospel aspect to it. We're never really beyond that. Are we in a analogous sort of way?"


Mark Hoeffner, "No, we're not. I picked up a hitchhiker yesterday. Who? From Hood River coming into Troutdale. He had a little cardboard sign, and he jumped in my rig. He threw his backpack in the back, and he got in, and I asked him his name. He said his name was Bob. He said, Bob, where you going? He said, I'm going to Rainier. I said, Where are you going, Rainier? I got to clear my head. And I said, Well, what's in Rainier that could clear your head? And he says, Well, you can get marijuana there. Oh, and I said, yeah, welcome to our state, state of Washington. And I said, Well, how do you think that's going to clear your head? And he says, Well, you know, there's aliens. And I said, There's aliens. And he says, Yeah. And I said, What makes you think there's aliens? Well, because there's so much evil around. And I said, You know, I really agree with you on evil. I don't agree with you on aliens. I said, What? What if all that evil comes from this this person called Satan? So we began to talk about Satan. Then we began to talk about the story of God in relationship to Satan. And then we began to talk about what really clears your head. And he said, the last time God tried to do that. So this is Bob, the hitchhiker who believes in aliens and who believes in marijuana. He said the last time God tried to do that, we nailed him to a cross. And all of a sudden I realized that here's a man who grew up in the church, who understands Satan, understands God understands the cross, but somehow he missed the gospel. So for him, he could never please this God by his performance. So therefore, I need to go clear my head with marijuana. Once we shared with him, your behavior is not what determines God's love. Now all of a sudden, the door for relationship with God was again open to him in the truck."


Bert Downs, "So you walked into the water again. And the good news is, is you actually drug him partway in with you?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah. And and it's the act of being in the truck together with the man that gives you the platform for proclamation. And so when when proclamation takes place correctly, because of right relationship to God and others. Now all of a sudden, we're shepherding. And good shepherding always has an evangelistic edge."


Bert Downs, "And it's more than words."


Mark Hoeffner, "It's exactly right. We actually are bringing the gospel to a lost community. And those initiatives are absolutely essential if we're going to be a healthy church, if we're going to shepherd. If those things aren't there, you're not shepherding."


Bert Downs, "So in a sense, we're bringing people in this process really through a look at important values. I mean, really, that's it. Do you really value what you value? And what does that mean in terms of how you then live out your life? Right. There are two more pieces and we need to move through them quickly. But let's let's give them to the folks. So we've got gospel, community, baptism or proclamation."


Mark Hoeffner, "Then shepherding. That always leads to shepherding because once truth is on the table in relationship, now we get to help people apply it. That's what shepherding is. Applying truth. Helping people apply truth. So when I will shepherd well, it's because I've executed this person's need and I've brought a relevant gospel to meet that need, and I've helped them to be able to apply that gospel to their life. Sometimes when I do that, I'm doing it with believers and it's just helping them mature and grow. Yeah, other times it's with lost people and now I'm evangelizing. So that last stone is evangelism. That's okay. So we got shepherding and then evangelism. So gospel leads to community. Community leads to proclamation. Proclamation leads to the opportunity to shepherd. And shepherding always has an evangelistic opportunity."


Bert Downs, "Which in fact brings you back to gospel. Always. So really, it's in some ways a closed system."


Mark Hoeffner, "And then what we like to say is the is the mortar that holds those stones together is communion. In other words, when we will remember Christ, when we will enter into covenant relationship with him. That's what just makes all of that make sense. That communion with Christ, that relationship with Christ, the beauty of being connected to Christ, makes participating in all of those areas wonderful. It's what we get to live for as Christians."


Bert Downs, "And you obviously have and we have to help process some congregations through this kind of thing. Just real quickly, what are what are what's an outcome that you see oftentimes when when people genuinely take on this process?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Well, the first thing that I think they they engage in on the believer level is they start to identify lost people in their sphere of influence, that all of a sudden they begin to have hope that these people can actually come to know Jesus Christ. So it changes their prayer life, it changes their conversations, it changes so many things. Because when when healthy shepherding is taking place, when those foundational stones are being related to the believer in the church, it brings hope for those that are in their world that don't know Jesus Christ."


Bert Downs, "So, many in this conversation with us this morning would identify that as as related to another area that we've explored together as churches. And that's a whole notion of Thomas Mercer's idea of oikos that that you do have a sphere of influence. And you're saying in that sphere of influence, if you process this, then that right down to the individual level, you're going to see a sphere of influence differently. You're going to begin to think about it, pray about it, engage it, those sorts of things. So that's a hopeful connection for everybody that's involved."


Mark Hoeffner, "When you're doing this really, really well. Then what you begin to realize is, is that part of what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life is helping you to manage your influence. And when we manage our influence really, really well, then what's happening is we are maximizing the ability to be able to shepherd. And so whether it's our children, whether it's our elders, whether it's the guys in our Bible study or our home community or missional community, whatever, whatever that sphere of influence is, how I manage that influence becomes absolutely essential."


Bert Downs, "But we don't often think purposefully about that. How do I manage that influence? What does that look like in the world of a Christ relationship?"


Mark Hoeffner, "Most of us have been taught to be responsible, and so we try to carry out responsibilities, thinking that by being responsible, we're mature. Responsibility is simply a byproduct of living healthy. In other words, I shouldn't have to practice being responsible. I just am responsible because I'm in the right health environment. And so we need to spend less time trying to be responsible and spend more time trying to manage our influence responsibly."


Bert Downs, "Well, at the at the risk of sounding responsible, okay, we do have to get at the end of this conversation for for the folks who are here for for some additional training along the way. Hey, let's leave him with a couple of takeaways and a couple of things just to remember. Not that we haven't already, but and I'll give you the last word on it. Okay. So I'll give them a couple of takeaways. We'll finish with yours. We'll say goodbye and let them move on to some way. More exciting things perhaps than this, though. We're we're honored that they were here to join us. Would be great if we could be there with them. It would make this a lot easier, wouldn't it? Anyway, just a couple that I have real quickly that I think has come up even in our conversation here. And one of them is, is that is that if you sense you're in a position of unhealthy or your congregation is you really can't teach your program your way out of that, You know, your your default will try to be what can I find new that I can teach them that will help or what can I find new that can become a program that will help? And really, it isn't any of those things. It's it's really coming back to your values and and evaluating how might living out those values, how are they being expressed? Are they really getting out? What I'm hoping for, like in in for the whole region of the south with church connection, if you got it to the bottom line it's it's healthy churches reproducing healthy believers and other healthy churches."


Bert Downs, "So if you look at yourself and say that's not happening, then you have to go back into your values and explore why that's not helping happening and what you need to adjust. So you can't just teach more about it. It really requires you to engage it at all, at a living kind of level, at the organic level. And I think the second thing that's akin to it is that it's easier if it's made a habit. You and I were talking and in advance and you gave a great illustration out of someone who figured out that if you can if you can make it a habit and you can make change almost the norm so that you're always dealing with health and always introducing things, then it's relatively easy compared to becoming very unhealthy and then trying to deal with it. So I would say that that one of the takeaways that I would love to give them is, is that figure out how to make this a habit, that how periodically you step back and actually look at your values and ask the questions both in your life and in your ministries and in your church at large is how are we doing? And and and to not be embarrassed about it because all of us need to do that. Mm hmm. So, add to that."


Mark Hoeffner, "Yeah, I guess the thing that I would add to that is shepherding. It's not programing, it's disciple making. Right. And so as a shepherd, I need to ask the question, you know, am I functioning holistically on a foundation that is going to reproduce life? And if not, I need to come back and reevaluate what is it that I'm doing? And then I need to ask question what needs to stay, what needs to go, what needs to change. So I guess one take away would be to assess my shepherding from a true shepherding model and not from some kind of a programmatic process or being responsible for program. The second takeaway I would probably say is is discern your influence so that you can manage it. Where do I have influence? Now? Some people cannot manage influence because they haven't earned enough respect to be able to influence. And so we that's why the scriptures say you don't lay hands on an elder too quickly, you see, because there is a there is a process of developing your ministry, becoming a mature shepherd, having a history of making disciples that then becomes the the sphere of influence that you carry forward into the into the, you know, into the years to come. And so I. Guess a second take away would just simply be, Do I have both an idea of who it is I'm trying to mentor, who I'm trying to train, how I'm empowering them in the in the ministry? Do I do I have do I know who I'm trying to reproduce myself in? And then second of all, do I have the tools in place to help me do that effectively? Do I actually know how I'm going to go about taking this person who has a certain level of maturity and develop them to where they get to use their gifts, talents and abilities in a healthy way."


Bert Downs, "So you've just locked us in to another session. That session would be could we could we be together, talk through what some of those tools would be? Sure. And that's for a whole other time. We're we're grateful that you've joined us. And let us start your conference this way. Mark, Thanks for joining the team that's sitting here watching us both and for investing yourself in them. We're grateful and certainly the Northwest is privileged to have you shepherding them."


Mark Hoeffner, "Oh, well, I'm glad to be here. It's a great place to to live in and minister."


Bert Downs, "So thanks again for joining us. And we're just excited for the rest of the day you're going to have. So go enjoy and God bless you."


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