A Leader’s Most Critical Task:  Creating Culture

Orginally published on Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 9:14 AM
by Todd Rhoades

John Burke writes: "As leaders in a post-Christian society, our job is not making people grow or change. God is responsible for the growth, for changed hearts, but the soil is the responsibility of the leaders. Our task is creating the right soil, a rich healthy environment, in which messy people can come as they are and God can cause the growth over time. But have we considered the cultural soil needed for a healthy Christian community in a hard-packed, post-Christian society?"

He continues on at the CatalystSpace web site.

Defining Culture
First, what exactly is culture? Culture could be defined as the glue that holds any social unit or organization together. All life requires the right environment for healthy growth. Clearly this is true of plant life. Research confirms the family culture most influences a child’s healthy growth toward maturity.

In Christian community, culture encompasses the normal practices and behaviors of people as they determine what, why, or how they act or interact. Culture creation forms the texture of relational life in a local church. James Alexander notes how “the culture becomes highly ingrained to the point of becoming invisible to the members of the organization. That is why it is so difficult for group members to talk about their culture, because it operates at a level below our normal consciousness."i

Because culture is largely unseen, we are mostly unaware of the cultural soil we have created. Yet culture affects lobby conversations, attitudes of the “in group” toward newcomers, how patient believers will be with messy unchurched visitors, how people live and do life together. Culture answers the questions our generation first asks: “Do I want to be like these Christians?” “Do I fit here?” So what can leaders do to shape the culture?

Leadership Mindset
Creating culture begins with the mindset of the leadership of a church. Often what leaders need is not a new strategy or methodology to implement, but a mindset shift. As the leaders interact with others, they model the culture much as parents model the creation of a family’s culture. What do you and the other leaders in your church currently model culturally?

Does your leadership think with the mind of Christ? The religious establishment hammered Jesus for letting people “come as they are.” Jesus said “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13 NIV) Are you friends with any of the messy, unchurched people you are trying to serve? If not, what does this say about the mindset of leadership? What do you consider as most important to the effectiveness of your community? How do you model this for those you lead? As your views and attitudes shift, the culture will morph.

Public Vibe
The “vibe” of the public service or group meeting also serves to create culture. The look and feel, the quality factor, the style of music, the way people speak and dress and interact publicly are very important. These elements signal to others what you are like, what to expect, and how to act. This public aspect of culture must be contextualized more than any other aspect to the tastes and language of the unchurched around you if you want to reach them.

Nola came to Gateway exploring faith and emailed, “I have been to your church three times now. I have tried to describe the experience as ‘alive’ and ‘authentic’ but even these words do not quite define it.” She’s picking up messages of what Christ-followers are like from the vibe.

What messages do people pick up from the public vibe in your community? How well are you communicating the timeless truths of scripture in the language and style and musical preferences of the surrounding culture? If your unchurched neighbor said he wanted to check out your church, would you feel embarrassed or nervous or excited? Your answers signal to you as a leader something about the culture you’ve created.

You can read more here… John talks about visioncasting and organization.

HT:  CatalystSpace.com

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  There are 3 Comments:

  • Posted by

    “But have we considered the cultural soil needed for a healthy Christian community in a hard-packed, post-Christian society?” “

    Yes, Yes and YES!
    We are starting to see growth, not in Christians who church hopping but in non believers who have “messy” lives and real needs.

    I think in creating culture, we have to promote good health.  And that means confronting the sacred cows and idols among us, the dysfunctional patterns we have of relating, the unspoken rules we’ve established that are not Godly or healthy, but man made.

    And it also means become outward focused vs inward.

  • Posted by Paul

    I think one of the greatest challenges churches face is to create a culture of acceptance and a culture of spiritual growth.  They seem to conflict with one another.  On the one hand, you want to develop a culture where everyone feels accepted no matter where they are in their spiritual journey and regardless of how messy their lives are.  On the other hand, you want to develop a culture where people are not satisfied with where they are and want to become more like Christ.

    We’re trying to say “It’s OK to be where you are, but it’s no OK to stay where you are.” Usually churches are good at one half or the other, but not both.

    Another challenge is to create a culture of acceptance without creating a culture of permissiveness.  For example, it’s difficult to develop a church that will be accepting of a unmarried couple that is seeking God but living together and is also able to make it clear to Christians that living together is harmful and not God-honoring behavior.

    I’d love to hear from pastors and leaders who have successfully developed cultures in their churches that have been successful at this.

  • Posted by Gary Sweeten

    I have studied healing growth communities for many years and see that as the primary task of all ministry in every era. There are two classic signs of a healing/growth culture. One is called, Communitas and the other is Healing Charisma.

    Communitas occurs when a community accepts and loves a new person warts and all but loves them so much they will not let them keep the warts. Otherwise thers is no healing and no growth.

    The second is Healing Charisma which means that the charisms of healing are in the community itsself including the broken persons. It is NOT limited to the leadership. It is not hierarchial or arising from credentials.

    When practiced, the community culture is self sustaining, expanding and building itss own new leaders from within.

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