You might have trouble believing this.
The culture of your local church is the greatest predictor of potential growth. Culture is sometimes a hard and abstract-like concept. I’ll try to explain it.
Culture is a general noun that we often use to describe the thought patterns and accompanying behaviors of humanity. It broadly includes their attitudes, beliefs, and values within a certain region and time. Culture is fluid in that it is often changing
Simply put, an unhealthy culture will keep a local church in a rut with only occasional positive movement.
Even worse, some congregations have developed a toxic culture. When that is the situation, it will take an abrupt and abrasive set of changes to bring life back into the cultural DNA of that local church.
I want to share 5 marks of culture that I see in growing congregations.
1. Regular invitations are normal.
Healthy churches have members with an intentional habit of looking for people to invite. They regularly extend invitations to friends, relatives, associates from work and school, and neighbors to “come to service with me this Sunday.” They understand the evangelistic power of an invitation.
That invitation often leads to a spiritual conversation which becomes a positive witness. That is actually an invitation for the unchurched person to come to Christ. In growing churches the pastoral staff keeps plenty of reasons in front of the members for them to want to invite others in. Once in a worship service, the pastor of a growing church will extend the invitation for a commitment to Christ.
2. Relative change is acceptable.
You should use the word change sparingly. But you know very well that growing organisms are consistently changing. Even if it’s slight changes that aren’t quickly perceived, change is constant and necessary for growth. The same is true for your local church.
Observe any growing congregation in your town, and ask an insider about them. You’ll soon learn that there is a steady flux of change which brings more people in to hear the Gospel. Those who are against any and all change must remember that Christ is always changing His Church. Christianity is all about change!
3. Real fun is okay.
All fun is not sinful. Healthy churches look for reasons to celebrate the goodness of God. They’re okay with an occasional clean joke from the pulpit. Smiles and laughter abound. Their joy-filled lives make them fun to be around.
Lost and backslidden people are not attracted to a joyless version of Christianity that looks like anything but fun. There is no biblical mandate that says Christians or their worship services have to be boring, stale, or lifeless. You can be holy and fun to be around. If real fun is okay in your church, there is potential for growth.
4. Reaching children is a priority.
Jesus loves children. Any church that loves Jesus should also love children. If children’s ministry is a priority, it will be reflected in the staff and financial reports of your church. When this priority is practiced, children will be brought to Jesus, and your church will have the favor of God.
I know there are some exceptions, but any church where children are not a priority has a limited shelf life. Personally, I don’t want to be a part of a local congregation with no little ones running around, making smudges where they shouldn’t, and dropping crumbs in the floors. Give me those good problems, and I’ll show you a church with a bright future.
5. Racial diversity is celebrated.
In most growing churches, diversity is celebrated. The blood of Christ knows no color lines! The love of God has no boundaries!
Diversity must take place naturally and cannot be contrived. So, whether or not a congregation is an exact reflection of its community is not my point. My opinion is that each race in your community should know that your church loves them, and they are welcome in your services.
When I see various shades of pigmentation in the pews and padded seats, I’m positive that these are my people. It’s a true reflection of the Body of Christ. In eternity, we will see that God has redeemed people of all nations, tribes, and tongues. We love people of all different colors in His Church.
This is list could be expanded. But, at least I’ve got you thinking about the culture your local church.
Even with all of the above and more positive characteristics in your local church, growth is not automatic. But if these are in place, it can take place with a lot less effort than if they are missing.
Why do I believe this? These cultural marks make for a healthy church and a healthy church is more likely to reach more people and assimilate them than an unhealthy church.