A Culture of Change in a New Church

Cultivating a culture of change in a new church is of paramount importance. Incorporating this culture into the original DNA is a unique opportunity. Whereas we might compile a nearly endless list of the benefits, instead we will restrict our consideration to four summary benefits. Benefit 1: It promotes in the church a love for the Gospel.

The Protestant reformer, Martin Luther wrote this of the Gospel, “…at its briefest, the Gospel is a discourse (story) about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as Lord over all things…This is the Gospel in a nutshell…” Yet we—who have been forever enraptured within God’s covenant of promise—must not settle for nutshells. Compelled by the love of and a love for Christ, we want to hear all that we can of this Good News.

Everyone needs the Gospel. The Bible teaches us that because of sin all people are helplessly alienated from God, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21). Without a Savior to redeem us, there would be no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet by the grace of God there IS hope in Jesus Christ, who alone can reconcile us to God (Ephesians 2:13-18). His perfect life, sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection, and eternal plan bring hope to our otherwise hopeless and sin-sick world. What is more, the Gospel is also God’s ordained means to conform His people to the image of Christ. The Gospel saves and the Gospel sanctifies. For this reason, Paramount Church is committed to proclaim the hope of this Gospel and the surpassing riches of God’s grace toward us in Christ. However, the Gospel is not only about hope. Indeed, it is about much more. The Gospel is also about change.

As broken people in a broken world, we all need to change. God’s purposes through the Gospel are to redeem, change, mature, and complete us by His grace (Ephesians 4:11-16). Throughout the redemptive story of the Bible, the good news of Christ is defined by the word grace (Ephesians 2:11-15). The grace of the Gospel is two-fold. Grace is God’s unmerited favor which accomplishes our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is also God’s unmerited help which accomplishes our sanctification (Hebrews 4:16). We are entirely dependent upon the grace of God to save us, keep us, and change us into the image of our wonderful Redeemer. Thankfully, in the Gospel we find sufficient grace for every need (2 Corinthians 12:9). We have hope because God is at work to bring lasting biblical change to our lives.

As Paramount Church, we believe that this Gospel of grace is not only for those who are dead in sin and far off from Christ, but also for every person who trusts in Him (Romans 1:8-15). We are motivated to change through an insightful study of the Scriptures, personal ministry to one another, and through the caring culture within our church. Our highest purpose, then, is to display the riches of the Gospel as God transforms us into a loving community of believers. And this is how a culture of change promotes within the church a love for the Gospel. The more we come to see the Gospel as God’s Good News of change, as well as conversion, the more then we will see the beauty of the Gospel.

Benefit 2: It sets the church on a course toward maturity.

Naturally, the church planting milieu is a heavily evangelistic or conversion-oriented ministry. There is no authentic church plant that does not hold reaching new people as primary goal. The initial mission of a church plant, especially during the early years, is the evangelization of an unreached or underserved community. Phase 1 often includes a heavy emphasis upon gathering neighborhood research, designing ministry events, evangelistic networking and worship, and group-based outreach in preparation to launch the church. Additionally, if the church is planted in an unreached or under-served location where little evangelical witness exists, new church starts naturally tend toward evangelism. However, there is a necessary balance that must be maintained in the church planting context. It is a balance between a conversion-focus and a sanctification-focus. This balance within discipleship is necessary not only for the overall longevity of the church plant but also for the daily spiritual health of its members. As one church planting author noted, even Christians need to be evangelized because evangelism is exhortation and encouragement with the good news.

Due to the grassroots nature of church planting, new church endeavors may follow an evangelism first, discipleship second approach to ministry. Though evangelism is certainly chronologically first in God’s work of redemption, Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 1:28 places discipleship first in importance. In other words, the objective of New Testament church plants was not merely converting the unbelievers. Instead, the objective extended much further into the realm of growth unto maturity by acquiring biblical wisdom. Calvin adds, “This expression [in all wisdom] is equivalent to his affirming that his doctrine is such as to conduct a man to a wisdom that is perfect, and has nothing wanting; and this is what he immediately adds, that all that show themselves to be true disciples will become perfect.” Cultivating a culture of change will set the church on a course toward maturity.

Benefit 3: It restores to the church the privilege and responsibility to care for souls.

From the beginning of time, the privilege and responsibility to care for souls was joyfully deposited in the community of God’s people. Down through the ages—from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to David to Solomon to the Prophets to Jesus to the Apostles to the early Church to the Reformers to the Puritans—the care and cure of souls was within the jurisdiction of God’s people. However, with the dawning days of what are now the modern psychologies, a major shift came to the Church regarding soul care.

Over time, pastors and churches hastened the decline of biblical soul care by forfeiting their own responsibilities to the new “professionals.” The one-book approach morphed into a two-book approach. The one-book approach held Scripture—the word of truth—as the ultimate rule of faith and practice (and soul care). The two-book approach came into being through the adoption of a second word of truth comprised of psychological principles and theories. Of course, the term psychology did not originate with Freud and his crowd. A compound term (psyche- and -ology) we naturally equate with modern psychotherapy today, the term psychology first came into use during the Puritan era. It was based upon a Scriptural view of people, their problems, and solutions. Unfortunately, as psychology hit the Christian mainstream, psychology became known in a way far different than its original meaning.

In fact, as recently at 1955, the church was devoid of any comprehensive models of counseling. Since then, men such as Jay Adams, David Powlison, John MacArthur, and Ed Welch—along with organizations such as CCEF, NANC, and IABC—have led a resurgence of modern soul care known as the biblical counseling movement. Among a handful of notable objectives, those involved in the movement set out to return Christ to counseling and counseling to the church. The modern biblical counseling movement has experience a number of wonderful and necessary refinements, but there remains a long distance to travel if we are to one day see (if ever) privilege and responsibility for soul care returned to the local church. Today, one of the strong investments we can make to the restoration of soul care is to cultivate a culture of change in our church plants. The next generation of churches will either add to or detract from further advancement of the modern biblical counseling movement.

More specifically, on a local level, cultivating a culture of change in your local church will restore this privilege and responsibility for soul care. By this, may your church escape the trappings of the modern psychologies and become better prepared to care for God’s flock.

Benefit 4: It enriches the church with resources for fulfilling the Great Commission.

Finally, the benefits of cultivating a culture of change spill over the walls of the church and even into the unbelieving community. As will be explored below, a culture of change among Christians is instrumental in fulfilling the Great Commission. Despite our good intentions to love our communities, it seems we consistently drift back to preaching a simplistic version of Good News. In this simplistic version, the Gospel is depicted as a kind of “get out of jail free” card or a golden Wonka ticket into heaven. The richest part of the Gospel is lost. At the center of the Gospel message is a promise. Within the promise there is certainly the pardon of sin and the anticipation of a glorious future in heaven. But the promise is not only for the past and the future. God’s covenant promises, fulfilled in Christ, hold out a very real hope for today—the hope for change.

A culture of change within the church will propel Christians toward sowing a more articulate announcement of Good News throughout the surrounding community—an announcement of Good News to real people who have real problems. From a thorough understanding of lasting biblical change, believers will be better equipped to tell the whole truth of God’s promise to redeem as well as sanctify (change) a people for Himself. This is for what we are striving…

Rush WittRush Witt belongs to a church planting team in Columbus, Ohio. Paramount Church is focused on making the Gospel paramount and is committed to the role of biblical counseling in the local church. He is married to Kathryn and father to Hannah, Sophie, and Josiah, and another little guy to arrive in May.

CounselingZach Nelson