EVERY church has a culture. Church culture starts with the way leaders view themselves and their calling. It works its way down through the volunteers to the children, through everyone who attends or participates in the life of the church. It includes not just people but the way the church communicates, how decisions are made, the way bulletins are produced or the building is cleaned. Culture affects it all.
In Croatia, as in America and around the world, healthy churches have a healthy culture.
- Their leaders are selfless, self-aware, servant-leaders, men and women who invest themselves in other people, who give themselves up to fulfill the mission of the church.
- Their leaders are aware of and transparent about their own sins. They invite the people to hold them accountable. When people question their authority they respond with caution, humility, patience, and love.
- Their leaders motivate people through grace and love rather than fear or coercion.
- The members of healthy churches respond to and reinforce this type of leadership, and hold leaders accountable in a biblical way when leaders fail to be Christlike.
- Emerging leaders are more likely to carry the same selfless, self-aware, servant-leader DNA as their predecessors.
In Croatia, as in America and around the world, unhealthy churches have an unhealthy culture. Do you want examples? Think of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald. Sovereign Grace and C.J. Mahaney. Huge churches, celebrity pastors, ministries raking in millions of dollars annually.
Unhealthy cultures, abused members, ruined lives, destroyed witness.
Marks of unhealthy church culture:
- Their leaders are sometimes selfish, lazy, bossy, arrogant, men and women who use others to achieve their own goals.
- Their leaders are often more concerned with how they appear than with the inner reality of their lives. When people question them they react in anger and pride.
- Their leaders sometimes motivate people through fear and coercion, or manipulation and dishonesty.
- The members respond to this type of leadership; this is the world’s approach to leadership, and compliance is hardwired into our sinful nature (in culturally acceptable ways).
- Members do NOT hold leaders accountable in a biblical way.
- Emerging leaders are more likely than not to carry the same selfish, lazy, bossy, arrogant leadership DNA as their predecessors.
Recognizing a weak church culture
A church with a weak culture drifts from fad to fad.
“God commands us to worship on Saturdays! Everyone else is disobedient to God, we are the only ones doing it right.”
“No one truly understands the Bible except the people who know this ONE SECRET.”
“Burn all your commentaries and Christian books, stop listening to other preachers, and just listen to what pastor X says.”
Silver bullet of the month: Prayer of Jabez, the Bible Code, “The Anointing”, “The Vision,” etc. ad nauseum.
“We will only experience God if we fast from eating meat.”
“Real Christians don’t celebrate Christmas” (or listen to rock music, or do yoga or pilates, or go to movies, or play cards, or …)
“The only way God will bless you is if you tithe.”
“If you don’t have what you want it’s a result of demonic oppression. Memorize the names of these 25 demonic captains, and next week I’ll teach you the prayers to combat each of them.”
“If there are no signs and wonders it is not the gospel.”
“The only people who are truly Christian are people who look act talk pray dress worship eat breathe like us.”
Leadership in a church with a weak church culture looks like leadership in the world rather than looking like Jesus. Pastors and leaders demand that people address them by titles. Pastors and leaders use force of personality, dominance, threats, screaming, etc., to get their way.
Again, this isn’t a Croatian problem, it’s a human problem–see Driscoll, Mahaney, MacDonald, et.al. It’s a danger in Croatia and the USA and Canada and Mexico and Australia and everywhere around the world, anyplace where fallen, fallible humans are trying to lead churches.
Remember: spiritual gifts and the fruit of the spirit are two separate things. Spiritual gifts DO NOT REPLACE the fruit of the Spirit.
And guess which one (spiritual gifts of spiritual fruit) Paul says is more important for leadership in the church? (Hint: read Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3: they focus EXCLUSIVELY on the fruit of the Spirit–not the gifts–that a person must have to be a leader in God’s church.)
People in a church with a weak culture will drift in and out. They will “church shop.” They are always looking for and never finding the magic bullet, the one thing that will fix all their problems and make them feel close to God, accepted by him.