Recently, our staff read A Church Called Tov by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer. Tov comes from the Hebrew word meaning goodness. The premise of the book is to help churches create a culture of goodness.

The majority of the book addresses two specific churches and leaders, Bill Hybels at Willow Creek and James MacDonald at Harvest Church. Both of these pastors have made national news due to sexual immorality and abuse in a fear-based culture. 

The intent of the book to create cultures of goodness is needed. The actual writing of the book did not accomplish that, at least from my perspective. I did walk away with some things that helped me be a better leader. I also finished knowing that it is challenging to hide personal agendas. Here are my 5 Thursday Thoughts about A Church Called Tov.

Every Church Is A Culture

I have heard it said that culture eats strategy for lunch. That is because culture determines almost every action and outcome of an organization. The interaction of the people in the organization creates the culture. As new people come into that organization, the culture that is present shapes them. Character is a critical part of a church’s culture. Lack of character can destroy years of hard work. The church should strive for a Spirit-formed, Christlike culture.

They Had An Ax To Grind

One of the troubling things about the book was that it is pretty clear early on that the writers have an ax to grind. From my perspective, the clear desire to make their points about the failures of two specific churches and leaders dulled much of the good they could have accomplished from the book. It is difficult to accept guidance from someone who appears to have ulterior motives.

Criticism and Notices of Abuse Are Not The Same

Early in the book, they talk about how churches deal with criticism. They then choose to talk about allegations of sexual misconduct. Allegations of sexual misconduct are not criticism. Criticism is a much lower bar. If someone makes an accusation of sexual impropriety, they are not a critic. They are most likely a victim. Allegations and accusations are not a criticism, and shouldn’t be handled the same. It is no wonder victims do not speak up when we call it criticism.

Culture Is Not A Mega-Church Problem

They make the case that bad cultures are more prevalent in mega-churches than in small churches. The church I pastor qualifies as a small church, even though it is relatively large for our area. Typically mega-church refers to churches that average over 2,000 in weekly attendance. I have spent my entire life in and around churches much smaller than that. The majority of them are much smaller than 300. My experience is that toxic cultures and power-hungry structures are much more likely in a small church environment. These churches tend to be cliquish and have male-dominated leadership with usually one or two major power brokers. Megachurches make the news, but toxic cultures are just as prevalent in small churches.

The Goal Is Christlikeness

Ultimately the goal is Christlikeness. The primary role of the pastor is to shepherd people to look more like Jesus. This requires more than just preaching. That is only one facet of it. Becoming Christlike requires us to allow the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives and the life of our church. If the church looks like Christ, we are successful.

I had high hopes for this book. I was a little disappointed after reading it. As with any other book, there are things I can apply and things I will set aside. These are my thoughts about what I read.