Changing the Culture in a Church

I just read a great post on the challenge of changing the culture in a church. It draws on Brene Brown’s 10 questions for figuring out an organization’s culture.  The post ends with the question, do you know what you need to change a church’s culture?

This is such an enormous challenge, and the challenge is unique to every church because every congregation is its own culture, that my first and gut reaction is, “I have no idea what I need.” From my own experience, I can say some things I think would be on that list: time, determination, prayer, friends, outsiders willing to give unvarnished critique, a deep sense of purpose.

And biblical discipleship. Unlike other organizations, for whom a list like the one I just jotted down might be equally applicable, the church is created by the Word of God and renewed by the Word of God. This is the essence of the great Reformed motto: the church reformed always being reformed according to the Word of God. In a church, cultural transformation does and must happen hand-in-hand with biblical discipleship.

This has two parts: a desire to study the Bible, and a desire to follow Jesus. Those two don’t necessarily go together, but they must go together for cultural and personal change to happen. When I say that biblical discipleship is key to cultural transformation in a church, I mean small groups of people regularly gathering around scripture intending and expecting to be changed by the Spirit working through the Word. (This could be in a small group Bible study, or in a sermon) In their minds are questions like, what is this text saying to us in our time and place? How is this text shaping us for our life, today, with God and neighbor? Does it affirm some of our practices? Does it critique our practices? How is it calling us to change? What is God calling us to do now, and how do we do it?

This “model” for cultural transformation is SLOW. It happens organically, over months and years. It happens in a context of trust. It happens in dependence on God’s Spirit to bring the necessary insight, conviction, and courage to change. It cannot be planned cleanly or mapped on a strategic timeline. It does not yield a vision statement in 6 meetings. But at the end of the day, it is the way God promises to change the church.

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