Do churches (or other organizations) have character traits?
Much like behavior patterns, organizations as well as individuals have character traits and the organization will in many cases take on the character traits of certain leaders within the organization. The difference between character traits and behavior patterns is the character traits taken on by the organization may not be of “the official leader.” In the church, the character traits may not be of the senior pastor. In smaller churches for example, the character traits may be similar to those of a certain family or two in the church. In this situation, members of a particular family (or two) have had key decision making leadership roles in the church for a number of years and most other members have resigned to some of the family character traits becoming the church’s as well.
Example: If an influential leading family in the church has a disposition toward the education level of a pastor, the church will accept and adopt this disposition. I have witnessed this on both ends of the education spectrum: One church would not consider a pastor without a doctorate degree while another church believed that a pastor with a doctorate degree wasn’t spiritual enough to lead their congregation. In both cases I could see where this line of thinking came from– one influential member or family.
Another church for years allowed (I’ll call her) Linda to make decisions concerning the community. Her decisions were always negative toward the community. Throughout the community the church became known as “Linda’s church” and that was not a good reference. It meant stay away from that church. The church for a couple decades had faded into the background of Linda’s character traits.
I’ve been in churches where people would not make a decision or vote in a business meeting until they heard what “Dave” had to say. The Dave (or Diane) in your church may be a spiritual person, Sunday School teacher who reads the Bible through every year. Yet, that does not make Dave/Diane the expert on all subjects nor the person whom we follow in all situations, sometimes blindly. We are to follow God’s word. Our commission, The Great Commission came from Christ, not Dave. It is the gospel according to Christ, not Dave.
God has placed great spiritual leaders within our churches, yet He expects us to turn to Him and His word so that He can grow and stretch us as we make decisions, follow our leaders, and progress in our spiritual walk. Do not abandon your leaders, but always turn to God’s word and His Holy Spirit for his confirmation, not leaning on your own understanding. There is not one person alive on this earth who makes the right decision 100% of the time. God created us to be dependent on Him and interdependent on one another. God always has the higher seat.
Working with some churches I have discovered the person(s) who set the character traits for the church was no longer alive, but the trait lives on in the church and for years has had detrimental effects on the health of the church. Not all character traits are bad, but we must be careful when our character traits run the risk of dismissing or replacing the work of the Holy Spirit within our personal lives and the church.
Character traits are part of your personality affecting your behavior, expressing who you are as a person. As a church, character traits are those parts of your church body that cause you to act (or vote) in certain familiar ways. Waiting to see how someone else acts or reacts is borrowing their character, not utilizing your own God-given and desired traits.
What two actions are you willing to take to begin evaluating your own and your church’s character traits?