What is your church ethos? Ethos means the characteristic spirit of your culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and manifestations. Does your church carry out the values and beliefs that you so adamantly declare? Even if you feel like your church is not quite there yet, have you devoted yourself to being passionately devoted to teaching, prayer, fellowship, hospitality, generosity, repentance, and – to use the old term – soul-winning?
Your church culture is not your methods and programs but rather your very essence. It is who you are, how you live, and it creates an atmosphere of pursuing God’s best while refusing to settle for anything else.
Building a healthy church culture requires a devotion to biblical teaching and fervent prayer. It also requires developing a devotion to fellowship and community. Have you built an atmosphere of encouraging one another to love and good deeds? When you gather together are you praising God’s greatness and goodness or are you primarily griping and complaining about what you don’t like? Is your focus more on you and what you get out of the service or is it on how you can disciple, mentor, encourage others, and share the gospel? Are you more concerned with the style of the music than you are the beauty of Christ?
You grow, mature, and flourish in community when you are more focused on serving, helping, and encouraging others. It is not getting your seat, receiving your recognition, and meeting your needs, but it is loving your neighbor as yourself.
Community has been defined as knowing and being known, loving and being loved, and serving and being served. If you are not careful you can easily develop a “pseudo-community” where people appear to be warm and friendly but avoid transparency, accountability, and conflict at all costs. It is where you only speak in generalities and surface level topics such as the weather, sports, and work.
Biblical community involves authenticity. South City Church in Little Rock states that one of their values is “Authentic Relationships.” They say, “We want real conversations and real relationships that go deeper than a quick ‘How are you?’ on a Sunday morning. We want to live our lives with each other in such a way that we can be honest with our struggles and questions about faith and life. We want to be so committed to each other in our relationships and groups so that we can have accountability and confession as a regular part of our culture.
“We long for our people to know and communicate to those around us that at South City, it’s OK to NOT be OK, but it’s NOT OK to stay that way.
“Life is hard and we all face difficulties and disappointments on a daily basis. Why should we pretend that we have it all together, or that we’ve figured it all out when we haven’t? However, we know that God has. He is working on our behalf to use the brokenness of our lives to make us more like Jesus and to bring Himself glory, as He uses us in the lives of other people.”
“We also long to have a genuine relationship with Him. This is not a place to fake it. We want this to be a place where you can be you in the season or the struggle you’re walking though, good or bad. We want to come alongside you and remind you this life and STORY is not about you, but that God loves you and is working all things together for your good! Part of an authentic relationship is having hard conversations and leading each other to truth; that’s what real love does.”
Amen. There are no shortcuts to true biblical community.
Here are some steps to deeper relationships:
First, listen well and give people the opportunity to share. You never value someone more than when you are willing to hear their story and their struggles.
Second, use discernment in determining when it is best to discuss their challenges as a group and when to talk individually.
Third, pray about being authentic and real while remaining gracious, understanding, and forgiving. Remember, no perfect people should be allowed and all of us are broken. Then make sure you lead by example. Hold yourself to the standard of sharing honestly and with vulnerability.
In Culture Shift Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro state, “We believe culture is to the church what a soul is to the human body. It is an overall life force that the Holy Spirit uses to give energy, personality, and uniqueness to everything a body of believers says and does . . . it influences everything you do. It colors the way you chose and introduce programs. It shapes the way you select and train leaders.”
Developing a culture of biblical teaching, prayer, and community resists the temptation for the quick fix and instead looks to walk with Christ, to be led by the Holy Spirit, and to follow His Word every day.
The culture of authentic biblical community is described well in many verses of scripture. I Thessalonians 2:8 is one of them, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you have become dear to us.” Paul continued in verse 12, “We encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
Your church must learn to partner with the Holy Spirit in developing a thriving, vibrant, contagious, Christ-honoring culture.