Becoming a Healthy Church: 10 Characteristics

By Stephen A. Macchia
Grand Rapids : Baker (1999). 239 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Alex Montoya
12.2 (Fall 2001) : 270-271

Stephen Macchia, author of Becoming a Healthy Church: 10 Characteristics, is president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal and evangelism association in the country. He also teaches at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The author offers advice which grew out of his experiences ministering first as a pastor and then as the director of a ministry in New England. His desire is to see a healthy church in every community. For that he offers these ten characteristics:

  • God’s Empowering Presence
  • God-Exalting Worship
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Learning and Growing in Community
  • A Commitment to Loving and Caring Relationships
  • Servant-Leadership Development
  • An Outward Focus
  • Wise Administration and Accountability
  • Networking with the Body of Christ
  • Stewardship and Generosity.

In addition to supplying these ten characteristics, Macchia surveyed one hundred churches along with over eighteen hundred individuals. He concluded that healthy churches have the following: 

  • Love, acceptance, and forgiveness
  • Relational integrity
  • Hunger for personal growth
  • Shift from traditional to contemporary worship
  • Prayer
  • Relationship-centered ministry
  • Use of personal stories
  • Service
  • Networking

The author states: “The overwhelming unanimity of support for these ten guiding principles will make for vibrant congregations prepared to enter the twenty-first century with renewed energy and power. In order for the ten characteristics to be realized in the context of community life, they must first be owned by each member and leader” (25).

Church growth is not a pure science, nor is it to be reduced to a formula. Church growth is also a sovereign work of God. It can be very difficult and frustrating given certain circumstances. Having said that, this reviewer feels that much of what is found in this book is helpful in endeavoring to build a biblical ministry. Some of the material is obviously contextualized. Nevertheless, the Bible does affirm some of these characteristics. It is a book worth reading.