Your Church "Culture" Needs All Five Gifts And A Unique DNA

If you are leading a church, then "culture" matters.  

The problem is defining what "culture" means and, more importantly, how to evaluate it.

Having been in churches with dysfunctional cultures and healthy cultures, I believe I have a good starting point for evaluating and developing a church culture.

But first, what is "culture," and why does it matter?

"Culture" for a group of people is like "character" for an individual: it's how you behave when no one is looking. Character for an individual emerges as the sum of beliefs, values, and operating principles that one will do without onlookers or the promise of praise.

It's the opposite of what Jesus took religious leaders to task for in Matthew 6:5

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

The passage doesn't condemn the praying in public. It is the heart of being "seen by others." It's the performance and the appearance. Character is what is revealed when we're not attempting to perform, but being real, away from an audience.

"Culture" for a group is like the "character" for an individual: it is how a group behaves in truth and in reality, not giving lip-service to how they should be, not attempting to meet appearances. Culture are the automatic rules a church body takes when there is no enforcer of the rules.

It truly is the character of the body. Often times, the blindspot emerges when a church will say it believes in one thing, but acts differently.

One church had leadership stand up and say that they treated members like a family. Yet, when they had to act this way, they didn't. They resorted, as most churches do, with corporate HR-style management, damaging their witness.

Culture is the unrehearsed, natural response a body makes to actions, to challenge, to "foreign objects" entering the body.

For this reason, it is both hard to script and define.

However, I believe that there are two simple but important vectors that define a church culture: the outward artifacts of "one anothering"; and the enforcing pillars of the spiritual gifts according to Ephesians 4.

In the church that had an unhealthy culture I had been at, the litmus test failed in both cases. The capacity to "one another" found throughout Scripture was sorely lacking; but the ability to identify and cultivate this was because of a crippled expression of the Five Fold spiritual gifts.

In other words, the true health of the church depends on its ability to "one another": encourage one another; love one another; bear one another's burdens. (Here's a link to an infographic which lists them all). 

Consider the degree of "one another" the symptoms of a church's cultural health. As I go through them, I can see areas where I, myself, have failed; but also have been failed in unhealthy churches. 

The symptoms, however, are the same as the regiment. For example, I recently took my WellnessFX blood tests and saw that I was high on my cholesterol, again. Yes, I have been eating bacon regularly, in part, because my two baby girls (4 and 6) have such a hard time eating breakfast that I try to give them something with the highest density of protein and fat in the smallest morsels.

This is a symptom. The regiment, however, to correct this has nothing to do with the results. It would be like telling myself, "Lower your cholesterol." The regiment is more rigorous exercise (perhaps adding resistance training to aerobic).

So it is with improving church culture.

There may be little love and patience but telling people to do this, such as through sermons or placards, is probably not going to change much.

The regiment is to activate and encourage the Five Fold spiritual gifts of leaders and the body.

Because these gifts build the church according to Ephesians 4, they are what will develop the culture.

Each gift plays an essential role.

In fact, a leading indicator of a church that goes into decline will be the absence of healthy expression of the Five Fold. So it was with this particular church which ultimately closed and died: the Five Fold were given lipservice, and so the "one another"-ing was anemic.

How well leadership activates the Five Fold predicates the development of a healthy "one another" culture.

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