We’re now at the good part! After doing the necessary work of examining the signs and dynamics of toxic church cultures, it’s now time for a deep dive into cultures of goodness.
In Chapter 5, Creating a Goodness Culture, McKnight and Barringer cast this vision saying,
“If we understand the impact that our church’s culture has on us, we must not underestimate the importance of creating a tov culture. God designed all creation and everything in it – including you and me and our churches – for tov. Tov is the design and the ultimate approval rating from God” (94).
All tov comes from God. Goodness is his essence and activity. “God is tov and does tov – often referring to God’s covenant making and generous acts of salvation” (87).
However, in our pursuit of goodness, we must not miss one critical point. It is only possible through a life lived in the Spirit. When we look at the list of the Fruit of the Spirit, of which goodness is one, our inclination can be to try harder. We’re tempted to respond by gritting our teeth, bearing down and trying to be good as possible.
But fruit has never been formed by the hands of a person. Rather, when one tends to the vitality of the tree, fruit just happens. McKnight and Barringer elaborate, ” But remember, we don’t make ourselves into tov people. God transforms us through the power of his Holy Spirit for whom goodness is a natural fruit” (90).
How is God’s goodness formed in our lives? As we desire and seek goodness in our churches, we must keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). We cannot live in this way apart from His presence and empowerment.
As a leader are you creating space to be formed by the Holy Spirit? I believe that a key sign of a toxic church culture is when the demands of ministry crowd out space to live by the Spirit. Are you seeking God with your ministry colleagues and fellow believers? Is there space for Spiritual Retreats, Spiritual Direction, and/or mid-day prayer? There are many avenues by which we can cultivate this life in the Spirit.
We can’t expect our leadership and churches to have cultures of goodness if we’re not in conversation with the Spirit from whom all tov flows. How will you walk in step with the Spirit today, that tov may be poured out?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16
“The fruit of the Spirit is… goodness…” – Galatians 5:22
“If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:25