Last Monday I had the great honor of co-teaching a class at Oklahoma Christian University’s annual Bible Lectures with Dr. Nathan Mellor of Strata Leadership, LLC. Our topic was “How to Create a Healthy Church Culture,” and it was such a joy to facilitate a discussion among church leaders about this important subject.
The Bible text that formed the foundation of our presentation was Ephesians 4:1-16. In that passage, the apostle Paul provides a picture of the shared beliefs, shared values, and shared behaviors that converge to form a healthy culture that enables a congregation to fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20.
But creating a healthy church culture is not just the job of the church’s leaders; it is also something that each and every member of the congregation should be invested in preserving. So, here’s how you can do your part in creating and maintaining a healthy culture in your church family, according to Ephesians 4:1-16:
- Live out your calling to imitate the character of Christ (vs. 1-2). For the church to make an impact in its context, reach others for Christ, and display Christ for others to see, each member needs to reflect the character of Christ. When a Christian acts, speaks, and treats others in ways that contradict the gospel of Christ, the cause of Christ is hurt.
- Be a unity-builder instead of a unity-buster (v. 3). In John 17 Jesus prayed for his church to be unified because that unity would glorify Christ and make Christ known to the world. Protecting the unity of the church is a job for every member of the church, so make it your aim to be a member who is known as one who consistently acts in ways that sows seeds of unity instead of seeds of division.
- Root yourself in the theological truths of the Gospel (vs. 4-6). One of the key ingredients in the culture of any organization is the shared beliefs of the members of that organization. In Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul states several essential truths of the gospel that cannot be compromised. These truths are the building blocks of the church – its identity and its mission. So, root yourself in these truths, help your church family teach these truths, and protect these truths by lovingly confronting beliefs that are counter to these truths.
- Be an equipper and be willing to be equipped (vs. 11-13). If you serve in a role that is designed to equip the members of the congregation for works of service that advance the Kingdom of God, then do your best to fulfill the duties of the role with excellence. Also, every member of the congregation ought to be willing to be equipped, recognizing that he or she can learn and grow in the faith. This willingness reflects the type of humility that Paul mentions in verse 2.
- Embrace spiritual growth and maturity as a personal goal as well as a congregational goal (vs. 14-15). Refusing to grow spiritually and excusing a lack of spiritual maturity that leads to greater emotional maturity are two attitudes that will replace a healthy church culture with a toxic one. Today, it is popular in certain Christian circles to “embrace messiness;” but I think we should push back on this movement. Because, as one friend of mine puts it, “it’s good to real but it’s better to get well.”
- Be a contributor instead of a consumer (v. 16). Since the church is the people whom God has brought into his community through Christ, the culture and mission of the church is something of which every member should take ownership. God has given you talents, gifts, experiences, expertise, and wisdom that he expects you to share. When you share these things and apply them to the mission of your congregation in its context, the church has a better chance of influencing its surrounding community for Christ. So, don’t “go to church” to consume its goods and services; instead, always be looking for ways you can contribute to the church. Do your part.
Creating a healthy church culture propels the church forward in its mission, and if you resolve to do the six things mentioned above you will be part of the solution instead of being a problem the church has to overcome in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.