What are the characteristics of a church with a healthy culture? Let’s look at four of them.
First, the people in a healthy culture know the church doesn’t exist for its own self but for God’s glory. No farmer works hard to keep a field healthy just so they can say “Look! A healthy field!” They do it to produce a harvest. But we do that in the church sometimes. We work on systems, structures, and programs, then step back and admire what we’ve done, as if enjoying the admiring was the point. It’s not. A church that stays focused on itself is a mockery to God and His mission. We’re called to have more than a well-maintained facility, a strong budget, and a well-organized Sunday morning service. A healthy church exists to glorify God and to produce something of value for Christ and His kingdom.
These reasons to exist lead us right to the second characteristic of a healthy culture: Healthy soil produces a harvest. There’s a popular, but problematic notion that the only way to help a church become healthier is to find what’s broken and fix it. Certainly, there are benefits to doing that, especially when there are problems deep in the culture. Those problems should always be fixed. But if you have a healthy culture, staying in the mode of fixing problems is like the farmer with a well-plowed, but empty field. Fixing problems, by definition, keeps a church in maintenance mode. We’ve got to do more than that. We have to plant seed and nurture a harvest.
To move from maintenance into healthfulness we need lean into the third characteristic of a healthy culture—being a blessing to others. Like a healthy field, the harvest from a healthy church doesn’t stay where it was planted, it blesses others. We’re not just supposed to ministry in the church, we’re called to ministry from the church.
This leads to the fourth characteristic of a healthy culture. In addition to producing a harvest, a healthy culture produces seeds for next year’s harvest. As the old saying goes, “Anyone can count how many apples are on a tree, but only God knows how many trees are in an apple.” The healthiest churches don’t just produce this season’s harvest, they develop habits and practices that will perpetuate a harvest year after year. For instance, if your ministry departments are chronically short of volunteers or leaders, or if your church is constantly concerned about hiring people to handle the tasks of ministry instead of raising up your own leaders, you’re not planting leadership seeds for the future. Healthy churches equip disciples to lead the church from one season to the next.
Adapted from 100 Days to a Healthier Church: A Step-By-Step Guide for Pastors & Leadership Teams by Karl Vaters (©2020). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.