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Developing a Church Culture of Goodness, Part 1

Carl Ruby

Part 1: Introduction

(Note from Pastor Carl: So far in my tenure as Pastor of Central Christian church, I’ve preached over 400 sermons. If God allows, I’d like to preach another 400 or so before retiring from full-time leadership. In order to do that, I need to periodically step away from most of my responsibilities as a pastor in order to find rest and care for my soul. I’ll be doing that for the month of June. One way I’ll stay connected during this time is to blog about some of the things I am reading. I’d like to start by sharing some thoughts about a great book called A Church Called Tov.)


For nearly 15 years, a person whom I have never met in person has had a profound impact on my faith and understanding of the gospel.  His name is Scot McKnight.  Scot is a prolific writer, blogger, and podcaster (Check out the blog Jesus Creed and his podcast Kingdom Roots.)  But most of all, he is a scholar of the New Testament.  Perhaps one reason I am drawn to him is that we come from the same background of Baptist fundamentalism. Some people work their way out of Christian fundamentalism by becoming more and more angry and bitter. Scot has shown me a different path, one based on becoming more gracious and joyful.

McKnight and his daughter Laura Barringer recently (2020) wrote a book called A Church Called Tov.  Tov is the Hebrew word for goodness that is used over 700 times in the Old Testament to describe God and his creation.  It’s a word that means pleasant, agreeable, or splendid.  The book is a response to churches and church leaders who are toxic and a call to resist toxicity by intentionally developing cultures of goodness where healing, redemption, and restoration can thrive.

Two warning signs of church toxicity are narcissism and fear-based leadership. During the last few years, there have been numerous examples of celebrity pastors being removed from leadership because they are mean, greedy, and abusive. These traits often lead to sexual misconduct, abuse of women, financial mismanagement, and gross mistreatment of support staff. Prior to their downfalls, these pastors often carefully crafted cultures of secrecy to hide their serious flaws from their congregations.

Another indication of a toxic church is that it values its public image over authenticity, honesty, and integrity. Churches and leaders who are toxic master the art of spinning the truth. When the truth about the flaws of the pastor or church begins to surface, the spin machine shifts into high gear with carefully crafted statements designed to obscure the truth rather than to illuminate it.  When a toxic leader is exposed, the typical reaction is preservation rather than repentance.

To counter these dangers, McKnight and Barringer provide a vision for churches steeped in goodness, churches that nurture the following qualities:

  • Empathy
  • Grace
  • People-first cultures
  • Truth
  • Justice
  • Service
  • Christlikeness

As I take a month to reflect on the future of Central and my future as your pastor, I hope that this series of  blog posts will help you to join me in thinking carefully about how we can

 work together to nurture an enduring culture of goodness at Central.

To follow Scot McKnight check out his blog, Jesus Creed, or his podcast Kingdom Roots.

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