Jump Start # 3159
Psalms 119:97 “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
Since the Covid outbreak, many congregations have shuffled things around and rethought about many things that they had been doing. One of the things I’m hearing from several is the thought that the age of Gospel Meetings has just about run its course. I can understand that. Many have said that no one comes to meetings anymore and they can’t get their own people to show up. Because of that, they wonder how effective those events are.
Recently, I was in Alabama preaching. The congregation numbers around 100. We had day classes which they had never had before. The morning classes were attended by around 40 each day. In the evenings, the church building was packed. The singing was loud and passionate. And, after services, people hung around. They stayed and stayed and stayed, talking, laughing, hugging and sharing the joy they had in each other and the Lord. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such energy and excitement. All of this reminded me that there are places where these special meetings still work. I sensed a culture developed in which people loved to hear God’s word preached. It was such a blessing for me and such a refreshing time.
Now, all of this leads to “How is the culture in a church changed?” We are not talking about changing the Biblical pattern or introducing things that take us away from God. Not at all. We are talking at atmosphere, attitude and the warmth that one feels when they are in worship. Some places feel like you are sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. No one talks to anyone and you get the sense that no one really wants to be there. But in other congregations, the joy, love and desire for the Lord is so strong that when services are over, you just don’t want them to be over.
Changing the culture…how is that done?
First, the tone is set from the leaders and the pulpit. Gloom and doom, dark moods, and focusing upon everything that is wrong determines the atmosphere of a place. What’s wrong is talked about more than what’s right. More about Hell and less about Heaven. More about curses and less about grace. Now, a balance is certainly needed, always needed. But the focus ought to be upon how wonderful it is being in the kingdom of Christ. Put some smiles on the faces of those that greet people and make announcements. Put a little joy in those sermons. Remember, the word “Gospel” means “good news.” Some would say, “I have some bad news about the good news.” The leaders lead in the creating the spiritual culture and atmosphere of a congregation. The culture is a reflection of the faith and love of the leaders. Others catch on. Others catch it. But if the leaders don’t create the right spirit, culture and atmosphere, then darkness and gloom tends to prevail. People don’t like gloom. People don’t want to be around gloom. So, the shift needs to take place from having to be there to wanting to be there. Expressing public statements often such as, “Sunday is the best day of the week,” and then acting like it really is, begins to change the culture of a place.
Second, make the preaching of God’s word a positive. Bring in great preachers. Have them preach on great topics that the congregation needs. Talk up preaching. Make preaching a good thing. I love Your Law, is what our verse says. In Nehemiah’s day, the people stood when God’s word was read. A culture can be created that embraces the preaching and teaching of God’s word.
Third, do some special things that open the eyes to the word of God. Have morning classes. Have some evening classes. Right now, I’m teaching a morning and evening class on the book of Mark. Everyone has a Mark journal, which lists the text on one side of the page and blank lines on the other. We read a chapter and write down what stands out. We write down questions. We write down insights. We write how Jesus is presented. Then we get together and we talk about that chapter and share what we have written down. The class is rich, exciting and we learn so much. And, what is being done is that people are being taken to the word of God.
In our verse today the Psalmist tells us that he loves the law of God. That law was not Luke, Acts or Philippians. He was talking about Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy—those dreaded books that we don’t like to read. That was his Bible and he loved it. How blessed we are to have all of God’s word. We have the story of Jesus, from front to end. Developing a culture that loves God’s word is first. From that, a culture is developed in which people love God’s people.
Fourth, changing a culture in the home, work place or a congregation is hard. People are used to the way things have always been. They have the current culture in their DNA. And, to change it, the leaders have to buy into the new culture and then it is talked, preached, taught and emphasized over and over and over.
A few examples from my home congregation:
· Sunday is the best day of the week
· We are a Heaven Bound people
· Death is merely a door that takes us into another room in God’s house
· Face the direction that you are going
Those are more than just cute sayings—they have become a rich part of our DNA. Our folks hear those statements over and over and over. We believe those statements and from that it shapes our attitudes, motives and heart.
Just saying, “Sunday is the best day of the week,” one time won’t do it. But saying it every Sunday, month in and month out…and people start to see that. But it’s more than a statement, it becomes our DNA. On Sundays, people are showing up an hour before services begin. They want to be there. Bring joy and energy to worship is part of this. Getting everyone who serves publicly on board with this is important. And, in a period of time, everyone becomes a part of this.
The culture in some congregations is amazing. In others, there is some help that is needed. We create the spirit of a congregation. The reason why some are warm, inviting and welcoming is because that’s the way the people are. The reason other places are distant and cold is because that’ the way the people are. Change ourselves and the culture begins to change around us.