23 Jun '08
Unhealthy DNA in the church
Every congregation has unhealthy DNA. Sometimes it has a minor impact on a congregation's life and effectiveness. Other times, it has a major impact. Leaders must understand where the congregation is unhealthy, even if they choose not to attack the issue head-on.
Churches change slowly. They are made up of people who, as a rule, do not find change easy! Before we become impatient with those we lead, we need to remember how much time it takes for us to deal with issues in our own lives that need renovation.
One of the keys to transformation is the willingness of leaders to set the standard and commit themselves to healthy practices. Congregations are much more likely to respond when leaders set the pace. This is why healthy and unified leadership boards are far more likely to grow congregations that are healthy and unified as well.
When unhealthy practices are identified, church leaders should first look honestly at themselves and ask where they have either contributed to unhealthy practices or engaged in unhealthy practices.
It is not surprising that some of the most unhealthy genetics that congregations face are in the area of interpersonal relationships. Healthy relationships require a great deal of energy to build and maintain. It's no wonder that Paul regularly addressed the importance of good relationships in the letters he wrote to the early church.
It is my conviction, that, after bad theology, poor relationships within the body are the next greatest contributor to deadly DNA. The converse is also true: Almost anything is possible in a body that has healthy, God-honoring relationships.
We have all learned, from our families of origin, ways of dealing with people - some healthy, some not. Like families, congregations reinforce either healthy or unhealthy relationships by what they teach and allow, and particularly by what leaders model. This places a heavy responsibility on leaders to practice what they desire the congregation to practice and avoid what they want the congregation to avoid.
Leaders often get what they deserve from their congregations. Congregations that are relating poorly are often simply following the lead of church leaders who are unwilling to submit to one another and who do not live by godly principles Until boards agree to practice godly behavior, congregations will not follow. Almost always, the congregation mirrors the level of health or dishealth of its leadership.