Overcoming a Toxic Church Culture : Scot McKnight

Overcoming a Toxic Church Culture - Scot McKnight - 53 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

What happens when toxicity seeps into the culture of our local church? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. Scot has written over 80 books, including a church called Tov, which he co-authored with his daughter, Laura Behringer. Together, Scot and Jason explore how we, as ministry leaders, can assess our churches and look for areas of toxicity. Scot also shares how we can overcome those toxic areas and nurture a culture of goodness.

Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!

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Additional Resource Links

A Church Called Tov – Forming Cultures of Goodness

Book “A Church Called Tov – What is the way forward for the church?

Connect with Scot McKnight – Twitter

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Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or just want to talk?  Complimentary Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession

Ministry Leaders Growth Guide

Key Insights and Concepts

  • Toxic church culture exists and is nothing new, but there are ways to overcome it.
  • Everyone needs to acknowledge and confess their sins, including pastors and ministry leaders.
  • Churches should be a place of truth-telling, honesty, and transparency.
  • In the age of social media, truth will be found out eventually. Hiding the truth only increases mistrust of the Church from those inside and outside of it.
  • Incoming pastors and leaders in churches should be assessed on their real, daily walk with God – not just on speaking ability and personality.
  • It takes time and effort to discern the culture of a church because it’s true nature is often under the surface.
  • Empathy is a good marker in those trying to create a Tov culture in their church. They may not look as successful as those with a narcissistic personality, but are very effective in showing grace.
  • Treat the people you are leading with grace and as another person made in the image of God. This leads to a culture of reciprocating grace and forgiveness.
  • Our standard of justice should reflect God’s law, not the law of the land. Justice is our conformity to the will of God – doing the right thing at the right time.
  • A discerning person will act quickly, efficiently and rightly when they see something happen.
  • Churches should have safe reporting conditions or policies in place so that other leaders and members can feel comfortable sharing if they see or experience something.
  • A Tov culture needs everyone to participate and work together toward the same goal of creating a culture of grace, goodness, integrity, and wholeness.

Questions for Reflection

  • Have I personally experienced a toxic church culture in the past? What was it like? How has it affected my view of and relationship with the Church?
  • When I reflect on my ministry, am I helping create a Tov culture, just coasting and accepting the current culture, or am I participating in toxicity? Are there changes I need to make?
  • When have I, as a leader, confessed my own sins, wrongdoings, and poor decisions? Have I been fearful in admitting my shortcomings? Why or why not?
  • How do I understand the concept of justice? Do I find it difficult to lead with justice? How can I better address and embrace justice as I lead?
  • How is following Jesus in real daily life evaluated in my life? In the life of other leaders in our church?
  • Does the culture of our church accurately reflect the priorities of the church? If I were to focus on creating a Tov-oriented church, how would it look different? What changes would we need to make?
  • How has God’s grace toward me impacted my grace towards others under my leadership? Are my relationships ones of mutual grace and forgiveness? When have I extended grace to other leaders? When have I received grace from them?
  • How does my character help or hurt the culture of our church? What will I do to develop my character as a Christ-follower?
  • How can I better realign my thinking to being a follower of Jesus as opposed to simply being a leader? What is the difference between the two?
  • What are some things I can do to start to facilitate a Tov culture in my church right now?

Full-Text Transcript

What happens when toxicity seeps into the culture of our local church?

Jason Daye
In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, I’m joined by Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. Scot has written over 80 books, including a church called Tov, which he co-authored with his daughter, Laura Behringer. Together, Scot and I explore how we, as ministry leaders, can assess our churches and look for areas of toxicity. Scot also shares how we can overcome those toxic areas and nurture a culture of goodness. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye 
Hello friends and welcome to yet another fantastic episode of FrontStage BackStage. I am your host Jason Daye. And as always, I have the distinct honor to sit down with a trusted ministry leader every single week to dive into a conversation and discuss a topic that we hope will help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy sustainable rhythm in both life and ministry. And we are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And each week along with this conversation along with the episode, our team actually creates a complete toolkit for you and the ministry team at your local church to dig in more deeply to the topic at hand. And you can find that at PastorServe.org/network, where you’ll find a number of resources, including the Ministry Leaders Growth Guide, with questions for reflection for you to talk through in your weekly staff meetings, or however you want to work on that to develop your ministry leaders at your local church. So be sure to check that out at PastorServe.org/network. And Pastor Serve loves to bless pastors and encourage pastors and our team of coaches are offering a complimentary coaching session to any pastors or ministry leaders. So you can check that out and find out more information at PastorServe.org/freesession. So please avail yourself of that opportunity as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, we ask that you give us a thumbs up and drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We’d love to get to know you and your church better. Our ministry team will be praying for you and for your ministry. So be sure to drop that in the comments. And then whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please take a moment to subscribe, to follow, to click the notifications button to be sure that you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And like I said, today is a fantastic conversation. At this time. I’d like to welcome Scot McKnight to FrontStage BackStage. Scot, welcome!

Scot McKnight 
Well, Jason, good to be with you. And thank you for this invitation.

Jason Daye 
Yes, brother, it’s so good to have you with us. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today. There’s no question that toxic church culture exists, that we have reports and testimonies, there are investigations that shine a light on this regularly. But toxicity in the church is not a new phenomenon. We know this right? There have been toxic cultures, within churches, throughout the history of Christianity. And so Scot, I’d really like to kind of begin here if we could, because it seems that a lot of society, not only outside of the church, but also a growing number within the church are somewhat questioning the validity of the church as an institution because of the abuse of power and these toxic cultures. So Scot, to begin, how can we responsibly address those uncertainties that many are expressing about the church?

Scot McKnight 
Well, if those uncertainties, that’s a good question, Jason, this is this is heavy, and it’s serious. If those uncertainties are connected to toxicity in churches, connected especially to leaders, then the first step is for church leaders to acknowledge and admit their own toxicities. So what we find so often is that those ministers, those preachers, those pastors, those leaders, who preach and teach, and evangelize a gospel that promises forgiveness, at the request of let’s say, admission, acknowledgement, repentance, however, you want to describe it. You know, fence and yard, you might have a more robust theory of repentance. So many people preach that message, but when it comes to their own specific acknowledgement of their own sins, they fail the church dramatically. Or they abstract it so much, that you go, you know, everybody’s guilty of pride, what’s the problem here, what really occurred? Or, you know, they they saw that I was wandering a bit or you know, something like that. And you go, let’s hear what really took place. The Bible describes people’s sins, warts and all, rather than airbrushing things out. So I think that the model of the church is to tell the truth. And I so I think that the first step that has to happen is that these leaders have to acknowledge their sins. And there is a tendency today, for many of them just to refuse to admit that they did anything wrong, because they think it will keep them from getting their next job. Well, they’ll get their next job, and then people are going to find out about what they didn’t admit, and then they’re going to be in bigger trouble because it was deceitful and lying. The second thing, I think, is we have to nurture, and even in some places create, cultures of transparency and honesty, on the part of everybody in the church and leaders included. You know, we are late comers to actually being Anglicans. And we are late comers when it comes to an actual liturgy in churches. But in our church, every Sunday, we publicly confess our sins. Now, we don’t get down and dirty about everything. But it’s almost like a reminder that we’re sinners, that keeps us closer to the fact that we are sinners. And then I think we have to create a culture that will allow this sort of thing. And then I think, third, that we as seminary professors, that we as search committees, that we as churches, learn and discern a better path forward, for finding the kind of people who are actually qualified to be pastors and leaders in churches, rather than just measuring, let’s say, a person’s preaching skills. I mean, that doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with quality leadership, quality mentoring, and a godly or, let’s say, a real discipled life. So I think we need to, I think it has to be approached from several angles.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s helpful Scot. It’s interesting that you talked about the kind of the assessment of a fit leader for a local church, right? Because oftentimes, we do put an emphasis on communication skills, right and that sort of charismatic personality around that, as opposed to who’s going to shepherd, who’s going to lead, who’s going to disciple. And so those tendencies are churches are looking for more charismatic personalities, oftentimes, and, as you say, kind of glossing over, airbrushing out some of those, those other things that aren’t quite as on the forefront. And so when we come down and hone it down to a local church context, and we’re kind of considering what pastors are experiencing. Because oftentimes, Scot, pastors inherit a church culture, right? So they picked up the call to serve a church, they arrived to begin their season of ministry there. The church has been operating years, perhaps even decades, before their arrival. And so sometimes a pastor steps into and we know that, that sometimes that culture, the last pastor has been ushered out because of dire situations, or challenges or difficulties, the new pastor arrives. So what are some ways that that a pastor can begin to really look at and assess the current culture of a church where he or she might be serving? Are there some warning signs, perhaps regarding toxicity that we should be on the lookout for?

Scot McKnight 
Well, this is a billion dollar question. If we had an immediate application that we could filter everybody through and then say and pop up all the answers, it would be wonderful. We don’t. So here’s here’s a couple observations about discerning the church culture. And actually, my daughter and I have a book coming out the end of September called Pivot that does some of this work for us some or helps people do the work themselves, but you know, there’s some illustrations. The first thing I would say is, it takes a while to discern a church’s culture. We compare a church’s culture to a tree, a peach tree, my daughter found a nice, cool diagram or whatever you call these things, image of a peach tree. And probably the most significant things are certainly, the most significant things for a church culture are underground in the roots and you can’t see them. What we see on Sunday are the leaves, and the branches, and the fruit. You may not be looking at the tree itself, you know the big, you know the tree, you’re just looking at the top, and that’s what people see. And they think that’s what the church is. But underneath is where things are really happening. And it takes a lot of work to discern what’s underground, you have to have tools that do this. And we’ve developed a thing called the Tov tool, which will allow people to ask questions in their church settings. And we recognize this isn’t some kind of official psychology test or sociology test. We’re amateurs at this. But it allows, it should permit conversations about topics connected to a Tov or a goodness culture. And it should provoke awareness of some toxicities in that church culture. And over time, if a church is patient, and transparent and honest, a church can begin to discover what kind of toxicities are in the soil of that church. For instance, a lot of churches are driven by ambition and competition. They would never say in there… what do we have today now? We have vision statements, mission statements and value statements, right? I don’t even know what some of these things mean. They would never say that one of our central values is competition and ambition. Competition with the local Baptist Church, or the local Free Church, or the local Catholic Church, or the local Presbyterian Church, they would never admit that. But it is driving the energies of so many people in the church. Money is actually driving, they want to get these kinds of people in the church that can afford it. If anyone’s ever planted a church, and let’s say they are a young family just out of seminary, 35 years old, and they want this man, this woman, I don’t know what your context is here, wants to pastor a church, okay? They realize that the money is running out. And they don’t want to be bi-vocational working at Starbucks, and having inadequate benefits and inadequate time to prepare sermons and to actually pastor at church. So they want to find people who have money, who can support the church. Well, nobody puts that in a value statement, we value people who have a lot of money, who can fund our place. But all these things are actually at work. And it takes a lot of effort and discernment to discover what’s under the grass, that is actually providing nutrients for the church. Toxicities can run about. Now, that’s just a few of them. But greed, competition, money, these are not fruits of the Spirit. They are not love and they are not grace. And when we get the right Tov virtues in the soil, we will produce healthy, tasty fruit on our trees.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, yeah. Now, that’s helpful Scot, and in A Church Called Tov, you and Laura, kind of talk through some of these, these areas that you can begin to nurture and foster a goodness culture in some of these pieces that are important. So share with us a couple of those because I know a lot of those revolve around you know, putting people first, this idea of grace, those types of things. What are some of those elements that a pastor at a local church should be looking to incorporate into their culture to be sure that they’re moving, not towards toxicity and abuse of power, but towards a more open, you know, Tov expression of the church?

Scot McKnight 
Well, you know, we thought about this, my daughter, and I did. Actually this was more my decision. She lets me make the decisions on Bible and theology, she finds stories. And what we discovered were marks of toxicity. And I found some of these in different ways. Laura made one or two of these as a category I think. And then I flipped those toxicities into what would be a mark of Tov. So instead of going to the fruit of the spirit, or the Beatitudes, or the life of discipleship, or the life in the Spirit, etc. For this book on the Tov, we just we just focused on toxicity characteristics and the flip of what that looks like in a Tov of culture. So let me mention a couple of them. One is empathy. I find that empathic people are like Jesus. I just read this morning, and I worked on the passage at the end of Mark chapter 10. Mark 10:46-52 is a story of blind Bartimaeus, who is the disabled man. And disability indicates it’s not just blindness, not just vision impairment. But it is also his social status. So he’s outside the city. And as he goes outside the city, he’s being as Jesus is leaving Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. The man is very noisy about wanting to get to meet Jesus. Of course, he can’t see where he is because he’s vision impaired. And the people around him want him to shut up. They rebuke him for this. But Jesus says, What’s going on over here, and they tell him. He says, Bring him here, bring him here. Jesus has empathy for people in need. And a Tov church culture is going to inscribe empathy from the top to the bottom. I don’t just mean that it looks like we’re really cool because we just have a homeless kitchen, but the pastor’s meaner than a snake, you know, to people that work under him. I mean, from top to bottom, bottom to top. Empathy is something we’re looking for in people and it is a virtue in the Christian world. It’s a virtue of Tov. The opposite of empathy is a narcissistic personality that cares only for itself. And this is so important. Narcissistic people can be extraordinarily successful at what they put their minds to. Empathic people are often not quite so successful, but far more impactful when it comes to Christian grace. Alright, so grace is a second one. Grace is, is a complicated, complex, complicated idea that has been simplified by many people in the Christian church in a way that I think is very unhelpful. But grace is connected to the idea of giving and generosity. And in the ancient world, and this has been demonstrated in a beautiful book, two books by John Barclay, one called Paul’s Gift. Another one is a shorter paperback version a part of that. It’s a second little like almost a long appendix. It’s an awesome book, too. But John Barklay’s idea is that grace is, let’s say, often an asymmetrical relationship. So with God is far superior to us, and we are subordinates, he gives us something. In the ancient world, when someone gave someone a gift, they formed a social bond of relationship. And in many ways, the person who received the gift became obligated to reciprocate with another gift, so that it became gift exchange. Gift exchange central is what grace is about. God gives us something. And we are now in a social bond relationship with God. And we return thanksgiving, we return praise, we return service and obedience. And it becomes an act because of a culture of giving. It leads to forgiving. And it’s, it’s a person who sees someone they’re working with. And instead of saying, You screwed up on the platform this week, looks at that person says that person is made in the image of God. They are gifted by God. And my responsibility as their director, their leader, we don’t want to use the word, boss, I don’t think, in Christian circles. My responsibility is to mentor this person to become better rather than to shame them and humiliate them because they haven’t achieved what we wanted them to achieve. In other words, in most of those cases, the person felt shamed, that someone wasn’t as good as they wanted to be. And they then shame in return, and that’s just totally toxic. So in a Tov culture, grace abounds in such a way that it creates reciprocating relationships of mutual giving, and receiving and forgiving one another in love and creates peace.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, I love that Scot. Just the give and the take because it’s that mutual relationship that I think oftentimes in leadership it it can, it can shift to not be mutual. Right? It can be a very top down approach. So I think that’s vital. Truth and justice are both key components of Tov, you know, within a church, and these are two that you touch upon. And you mentioned truth a little bit earlier. Yet, these are two, probably two of the bigger sticking points when it comes to overcoming a toxic culture and creating a goodness culture. And it’s odd, because we would think that truth telling should never be an issue. Yet we find that it is. And then it seems that oftentimes, Scot, it seems that truth telling becomes an issue, because people who are maybe kind of on the inside, are feeling like they need to somehow protect the church. And so they gloss over some of the truth, they’re not as quite as transparent, because they have this sense of, you know, protecting or shielding. Scot, can you share a bit about, you know, this dynamic with those who feel that they somehow need to protect the church?

Scot McKnight 
Yeah, I find that when let’s just say that something has happened in a person’s life, okay? Truth telling, means that you tell the truth, you don’t shade the truth, you may not tell the whole truth. You could say, he had a moral failure. And I think most people say, Well, you had an affair. And you don’t have to say it was with so and so, and so and so, and so and so, and you name the people. And that sort of thing, probably, in almost all cases, is going to do more damage than good. But you also don’t say, this person has been called to something else. You have to tell the truth. And I think there are two major reasons why churches don’t do this, both of which are wrong. One is they fear litigation. They fear that someone’s gonna sue them if they say something negative. And that can happen. Lawsuits can happen for slander, but usually they don’t win in court. So you don’t really have that much to lose in telling the truth. And you probably will damage that person’s potential career. And most of those people should have their career in damaged mode, because the way they’ve behaved. The second thing is they fear the reputation of the church. And, Jason, my experience with this is I think there are, you know, there’s diversity on some of these issues in the sense that it’s, you got to get into the original situation to know what to say. But in most of these cases, when a group is trying to protect the church’s reputation, by not telling the truth, it turns out to hurt the church more, when the truth is known. And in this social media world, it’s gonna be told, you know? I tell my students who are pastors, gonna be pastors, leaders in churches, I tell my colleagues, everything you say could end up on social media, so you just have to be careful. And you got to do, you got to say what’s right, and you need to avoid, you know, don’t say stupid things. You know, what’s the great line? That is that Anne Lamott, who said something like, a lot of these people whose behaviors have been broadcast, and complaining about people on social media should have not done those behaviors to begin with? So that’s, that’s the whole thing right there. Tell the truth. And don’t try to protect the church in a way that, ultimately, will prove that the church is not a truth telling culture. That’s the damage right there. And so many, I call them skinny jeans people, so many of the skinny jeans culture, have become cynical about the church, because so many in the church don’t tell the truth. And they say, Why should I trust them? They’re not truth tellers. So now, I’m gonna give you a personal example. Our seminary right now, the President just resigned. And our board and our and the ex president have told a story that the students uniformly do not trust because they know that that’s not, that that is such an angle on what happened, that it’s not really telling the truth. And the board is in trouble with the students because now they say, we can’t trust you to do the right thing. So we’re working on damaging a trusting relationship.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s a challenge. And that gets really real Scot. It has, large repercussions, because what what a group of leaders might think is protecting the institution, the church or whatever. As you said, as when it gets kind of found out, or when people who actually know the truth and feel that they’ve been deceived, that just paints a bull’s eye on the church and gives people almost ammunition to say, Well, why should we trust the church? So we’re not helping ourselves at all. It’s more of that kind of immediate, you know, fear of what might happen, and we’re going to try to contain it. But as you said, it tends to implode, right?

Scot McKnight 
Yeah, I know. I know a famous pastor. Now he’s, this is years ago, who it was discovered had an affair. And he admitted it. He went through therapy. He reconciled with his wife. And he then moved back into various forms of ministry back into the church, and became a dynamic leader, who could still write books with integrity, because he had told the truth of his own story. He did not lie about it. He did not deny it. And those people who get locked down into lying, denying, they’re the ones who aren’t trusted. I mean, there’s a well known Southern Baptist pastor, I think we quoted in the book. Paige Patterson, leader, you know, when he was brought forth, it was all deny, deny, deny, deny, deny. Well, you know, what are the chances that all these things are actually not true? There’s chances are zero. So therefore, it just hurts. It hurts people, his credibility, in situations where people need to trust him. So tell the truth, tell the truth. Justice. Justice, I often say, we can’t we have to avoid using the US Constitution to determine what justice is. Justice is the will of God and our conformity to that will. In other words, doing what God wants. And so I often tell my students that justice in a church, if you want a simple formula, is do the right thing at the right time. You know, it’s easy to admit that you’ve done something wrong when everyone knows you did it. In other words, where the whole social media is coming down on you, and they’re saying, you know, I saw this and I saw this, and you know. You go, yeah, that’s what happened. So in other words, they tell the truth because they’ve been found out. A more circumspect form of justice is to do the right thing at the right time. And it’s very difficult in church situations. And I’ve been involved with these where you see something and Wade Mullen says, it’s a perfect expression. Something’s not right. You see something you go, there’s something not right there. But you don’t really know what it is. And you don’t know the people you need to talk to, to find out what it is. Or you make one inquiry, and they say, Oh, it was nothing. That’s the way he is. And the next thing you know, it was actually a very big situation and you missed your opportunity. I find discerning people see something happen, and they act upon it quickly and efficiently and rightly. They don’t go to Twitter immediately. You know, they talk to the right person at the right time to bring this up. And it’s very difficult to decide when to act and when to say well, that’s not my situation to worry about. You know, I don’t feel like for instance, I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to investigate every pastoral story I hear. Alright, when we first came out with Tov, it was about I guess, it’s three years ago, something like that. Two and a half years ago. For about 15 months, my daughter and I combined heard between three and five new stories a week from people and I mean, sometimes I’d get three or four a day. So total, you know, we probably heard several 100 stories of church toxicity. I don’t feel it was my responsibility to get on the phone and call those pastors and call people. I can’t do that. That’s not my responsibility. So I would tell the people who talk to us that I feel like my responsibility is to listen to you. And to, if that’s what you want, just want someone to tell. Most of the time they want to know what to do. And I, I always tell people, even though even some of the advocates in my world would not want this to happen. I tell them to try to follow the process as much as possible. Is there a way for you to report this to someone who is safe? And a lot of churches do not have safe reporting situations or conditions or policies. And in that case, then they need to try to talk to the person. If they can’t talk to the person, they need to talk to someone who knows that person. Just try to work it so that your story can be heard by someone who can make a difference. And you know, you have to make discernments on some of these things. But I believe that we we need to develop better procedures in churches so that people can tell their stories.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, definitely, definitely. And I will say this, is one of the things that I’ve seen come out of conversations around books, like A Church Called Tov, and others that have been even published over just the last few years, is that it has invited the discussion, Scot. And so thank you for that, you know, it’s invited that discussion is invited that kind of shining a light in a positive way. Because you have the one piece where it’s the investigative journalism piece, right, where it’s splashing the stories. But then we need the other side of it, which is the side that you and Laura have helped with and sounds like you’re gonna be helping with even more with your new book. The side of, well, how do we move beyond the investigative story? And how do we bring healing and wholeness to the local church, right?

Scot McKnight 
Yeah. Well, we definitely have learned that we’ve given churches language. I mean, we identify language that people say, Yes, that was my experience right here. I mean, I cannot tell you Jason, how many people I’ve sat down with in the last three years, and talked about these issues. And they’re very much alike. But Laura, and I, I’m not one, I did not want to be an investigative journalist. I’m not that. I’m a professor. I’m a theologian. I love the church. And I want to help the church do better at this. So the most common questions after we wrote Tov, which was in a sense, expose, but more to describe characteristics of Tov, that can overcome characteristics of toxicity. The most common question is, what can we do in our church or our institution to build a Tov culture? So, we went to work on this, almost right away. And I had to do this kicking and screaming I have a book on revelations that I was working on, it took a long time to do, because of my daughter. I always call her a pest. She wanted to do this Tov book and it really kind of changed our lives. And now this Pivot book, you know, it’s called Pivot. It’s going to be, I think it’s going to be very helpful. And so we we have have tried to work on what people can do. You know, there’s no formula, you know, other than let the Holy Spirit flood your life so much that you live a perfect life. If we all did that, then we wouldn’t need any of these problems we read in these books. So as long as we’ve got humans who aren’t living by the Spirit, we’ve got opportunities here. And we talk about things like, you know, you have to discern your church’s culture. It’s not going to happen because you preach a series of sermons. It’s that you’re gonna have to work and figure out what’s actually going on. And you have to be honest and say, you know, we are driven too much by ambition. And we have a very ambitious pastor, and we’ve got to calm this down. We we’ve got to become. I have a couple of former students who transformed a church from numbers oriented to a spiritual formation church. They lost a lot of people in that process. It was a lot of work and it took a long time to discover what they were actually doing. One of the things that I’m really big on is that character… one of the great businessmen, I think his name is Peter Drucker, has a statement that culture eats policy or something like this. Right strategy for breakfast. And, you know, I’m no Peter Drucker, but I would say this, theologically, spiritually, character eats culture, that eats strategy. Character matters more than culture, and character matters more than strategy. And I say this all the time, if we have Tov people, doing Tov things, we will have a Tov culture. And so what we need to focus on is character in people, in our leaders. You know, our example, because he’s dead, and because he’s unimpeachable is Mr. Rogers. Every church deserves a Mr. Rogers as a model of the kind of character we need. So we talk about character, we talk about example. eople learn more by following a person than by reading a book. So my line is education is about emulation more than information. That’s tweetable. And I think, I think we need to work. And then we need to start building coalitions of people who listen to one another enough that we can form pockets of Tov in a church. And it’s sort of like, see, dirt underneath your grass, underneath the tree, that if you if you can restore some toxic area over here, and you can restore some over here, eventually, they can grow together, and form a large mass of Tov that can create a much more fertile and healthy tree. So those are just some of the things that are in the book, along with the Tov tool, that we hope will help churches start thinking about building a different kind of culture. And it’s very important, this is not top down stuff. It’s not going to be a top down activity. Yes, the leaders can, let’s say strike the first blow of the importance of Tov, our culture. But it’s going to take people buying in, owning it, and working together for a culture to rise where everybody’s practicing the right things, so that a culture arises that becomes a constraining influence on people who come in, that makes them want to do what’s Tov, rather than what’s toxic. You hang out with toxic people, you’ll become more toxic. My parents always taught me that. I grew up in fundamentalism. They were scared to death of drinking beer, and going to movies. So they didn’t want me to hang out with people who drank beer or went to movies. I never got the movie thing was never all that big a deal to me. But, if you hang out with those people, yeah, I had a lot of teammates, etc. who were into pot in those days. And they weren’t my friends. And I think I’m grateful that I didn’t, I wasn’t influenced by that way. Because had I, you know, had I gotten involved in that culture I don’t know what would have become a me. So anyway.

Jason Daye 
Good, that’s good. No, and I think some of that, that’s coming out in this new book, which I love, Pivot you said right, this fall? A lot of that shines a little bit of hope on the things because this is there’s definitely some heaviness around this topic. So Scot, kind of as we wind down here, I want to leave you just a little bit of time to speak some hope and encouragement to your brothers and sisters who are serving as pastors and ministry leaders. What words would you encourage them with, in light of of the heaviness of all of this?

Scot McKnight 
Well, the first thing I would say is, you know, be a Christian. I’m struck by the inappropriateness of emphasis on being leaders. I’m not saying we aren’t leaders, but we’re followers of Jesus. I want to emphasize followership, not leadership. I think people read the saying of Jesus in Mark chapter 10. You know, when he criticized the disciples because they want to sit at the left and right, James and John, and we read this as servant leadership. But you know, this is not a passage about leadership at all. It’s a passage about followership, it’s about discipleship. If we focus on followership and discipleship, I think we will become the kind of leaders that we should be. I believe that character is what will shape the church in a good way. So be a Christian, in all your ways. And that means for me, we need to cease being driven by numbers. By, you know, butts in the pews, bills in the plate, baptism and baptisms in the water, and buildings on the campus. Those are not the measures of Christian discipleship. Serving one another, justice, peace, love – these are the things that we can focus on. And my plea with these leaders is, let your life be shaped by being a follower of Jesus, and let your followership lead you to the pulpit, lead you into your office, to be the kind of person you’re supposed to be with people and whatever you’re called to do.

Jason Daye 
I love that Scot. Love that, brother, thank you for making time to hang out with us. If people want to connect with you. With your blog, I know that your your blog is great reading, if people aren’t familiar with it. What are some great ways that they can connect with you, brother?

Scot McKnight 
Well, I have a substack account now. I still do a little bit at the Christianity Today, the Jesus Creed site, but they’re actually getting rid of blogs. So that’ll be gone before too long. So I have a substack account, I have a Twitter account. And I have a Facebook page or two what it was called, I don’t even go to one of them. So I don’t even know if it’s there. Scot X McKnight is my Facebook. But Scot McKnight, one T in Scot, in all those places on Twitter, Scot McKnight, at Twitter, and then my substack, Scot McKnight, whatever it’s called substack.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, we and we’ll have links for everyone in the toolkit for this, so and also links to A Church Called Tov. And so you can find that at PastorServe.org/network, you guys can find all those links to connect with Scot and all this great stuff. And then Scot, whenever Pivot releases, we’ll have to jump back on and have a conversation. Yeah, I’d love to do that. Because you and Laura are obviously putting the pieces together to really help churches and leaders and pastors and ministry leaders really process through this. So we certainly appreciate your heart and and it’s been a cool thing, Scot, because I’ve been reading your writings for years and years and years, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with you in the past. But, you mentioned kind of how A Church Called Tov was a book that you weren’t necessarily looking to write, right? Laura said, Dad, come on, we got to do this. But then it kind of has blown up and has created, you know, a huge discussion and conversation much needed. And so I thank you for your your voice in this conversation. Continued voice you and Laura both so looking forward to Pivot in the fall. All right, brother, God bless you. Bye bye.

Jason Daye
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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