4 Steps to a Healthy Church Culture
By Larry Barker
“Love, Listen, Learn, and Lead! That is why we are here!” When I heard those words at a recent Global Vision Summit with Dynamic Church Planting International, it resonated with my heart. It caused me to think through how important the order is and the process of creating a healthy culture in our congregations and ministries. These four ingredients are paramount to moving our churches towards being healthy and reproducing. Every church must be driven by the Great Commission and recapture their vision to live on mission for God!
First, Love! We need to love our congregations and our communities. When Jesus looked on the multitudes He was moved with compassion. When you look at the people around you, are you broken hearted for them or are you just angry at them? Love your city enough to get involved and see it transformed one changed life at a time. We should love living where we live and not be trying to just tough it out or living in survival mode.
What impact could you have for Christ in the schools, in city government, in times of crisis, in local restaurants, and with the local policemen and firemen, to name a few? We are good at scolding but how good are we at loving them? People need to know that Jesus loves them and we love them. They need to know how deeply we care about them and are committed to them. Love means we are excited to live as missionaries in our zip code!
Second, Listen! The key is to stop always telling and start listening. You show people how much you value them and care about them by listening to their story. Alvin Reid in ReVITALize says, “The churches I observe who need revitalization have tended to reduce the gospel to the most brief and simple of presentations possible and tend to share the gospel with people they hardly know…” Who do I know that needs a listening ear? Who needs a shoulder to cry on?
Most people have moved past mass production and are looking for relationships. Our society now lives in the coffee shops where they can share their stories in community. They do not want a sales pitch but rather a more comprehensive perspective of the gospel by explaining creation, the fall, and how they can be rescued through Christ alone. But this demands our willingness to sit down with them, listen to them, and build a relationship with them.
Third, Learn! If we love the city and community we live in then we need to ask some very important questions. What is our city’s history? What are the values of the community we live in? What dreams and aspirations do the people who live here have? How can our congregation minster to them in practical ways that displays the love of Christ? How effective are we at reaching our communities for Christ? What is working and what needs fixing?
We must fight the temptation to continue using methods that are no longer effective. Many churches appear to be more concerned about maintaining their traditions than in pursuing people outside their walls and bringing to them the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. When will we learn that the pain of slow death is worse than the pain of change? Moving a church from an inward focus to an outward focus is a major spiritual endeavor but is worth it!
Fourth, Lead! Here is the problem; many Christians believe their church exists for them! You hear from them, “What about me?” But spiritually mature Christians are asking, “What about them?” and are involved in the process of making disciples. The answer is not in scolding them because they are doing what they have been shown to do and what has been modeled. If living on mission were really valued than we would have already made the necessary changes.
The center of the church is Jesus Christ not us. Leaders in the church need to recall the membership to the reason we exist; to make disciples who make disciples! It begins by loving, learning, and listening to our congregations and our communities. Leading requires loving confrontation with the truth that maintenance, status quo, and being inwardly focus is living in disobedience to Christ’s commands!
Healthy cultures love, listen, learn and lead!