Maybe you have moved to a new town and are trying to find a healthy church. Maybe you have been with a church for years but are wondering if something is missing. It is important to know how to assess the health of a church. Numbers and shiny toys might not be the best measure.
John Knox said there are three indicators to watch for in a healthy church:
"...first, the true preaching of the Word of God, in which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the prophets and apostles declare; secondly, the right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, with which must be associated the Word and promise of God to seal and confirm them in our hearts; and lastly, ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God's Word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed and virtue nourished." Scots Confession
Preaching the Word - Is the sermon the pastor's position or the Word's exposition? The opinion of the preacher is no substitute for feeding on the living Word of God. The teaching will either stand on the rock of the Word or slip with accommodation to the world. A healthy church feeds on the Word.
Sacraments - A healthy church understands and confidently teaches its biblical approach to sharing the sacraments with the people. Baptism and the Lord's Supper, or Communion, are core activities of the Christian church. But along with these, this question is about the care of the people. Is there a system or culture in place to care for people in need? It doesn't have to be the professional staff or pastor. But it needs to be happening. When one hurts the body hurts and a healthy body responds to pain.
Discipline - Don't picture the Spanish Inquisition or the Sanhedrin lined up to judge a sinner! That's no good and not a sign of health. But this question prompts you to look for two things. The doctrine--the teaching of the church and core beliefs--should be easy to find, it should be sound, and there should be a system of accountability to ensure that all ministers and leaders believe it. Not all members, but all leaders. Your leaders should be able to recite the Apostles Creed without crossing fingers behind their back at any point! Second, is there a system of discipleship? Discipleship is how vice is repressed and virtue nourished. Can this church grow disciples?
These three marks are still a great way to walk into a church and assess its health. It may have 100 people or it may have 1000. If these three marks are present, the church is alive and healthy--a good place for your soul to grow toward Jesus.