My uncle is a retired pastor of a Baptist church that he served for over 30 years. As I get more involved with abuse prevention within the church, I often find myself deep in conversation with him about his years spent in Christian ministry and the challenges that the church as a whole has faced and continues to face today.
This time, as we sat together over coffee, we lamented the horrific stories of abuse within the Indigenous residential schools in Canada, noting the connection these stories have to the church. Continuing our conversation, we tried to comprehend how abuse can grow within spaces that are to represent a caring and loving God. While what happened at the residential schools is an extreme example of abuse that is heartbreaking for Christians to come to terms with, it certainly highlights how far we have fallen from the original design God had for us when he created the world and all its inhabitants.
During the past several years, a significant number of church leaders have been removed from office as issues of abuse have been brought against them. Consider the recent revelations about author and speaker Ravi Zacharias (see bit.ly/wakeofzavi); Christian apologist, author, and speaker Bill Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Church; or James McDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel. We are living in a season of deep disconnect as a community of believers. Why? Because we have structured our churches in ways that allow narcissism and abuse of power to thrive. To dismantle those structures, we need to make space for a new form of community—one built on goodness, on respect, and on the other characteristics of leadership Jesus himself demonstrated for us (see Phil. 2:7).
Recently, the Christian Reformed Church’s Safe Church Ministries invited Scot McKnight, author of A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture that Resists Abuse, to its webinar series to talk about a new way forward for the church (bit.ly/ChurchCalledTov). He spoke of the Tōv way. As McKnight noted, “Tōv sometimes means beautiful—it’s used many times in the first chapter of Genesis for what God thought of his creation. Tōv means ‘excellent’ and sometimes means ‘God’s tōv design.’ When it summarizes a person’s life, tōv means a flourishing, faithful moral character. God is tōv. God’s design is always tōv. God’s redeemed people are to do tōv.”
This fall, Safe Church Ministries will host a book club featuring A Church Called Tov. The book club will meet Mondays at 7:30 p.m., starting Sept. 27. We invite you to join in this important conversation about how we can foster church cultures that resist abuse by registering at bit.ly/TOVbookclub.
Together, we can create a church built on tōv.