Changing a Culture

09-01-22-icebergSome of the church leadership people met with Dave Herman, (our “Transformation Coach”) this morning and I created a few diagrams to help explain some of the things he shared. Although we talked about quite a few other topics, most of the conversations centered on changing a culture.

I think it’s important to first define culture. For the purpose of this conversation, we are not talking about the culture at large but rather “organizational culture” and specifically our own church (Lake Jackson FUMC) culture. In my “Christian Leadership” classes at CBS, we learned that organizational culture is defined as “that which is assumed.” People assume things to be a certain way because a culture has told them so. Assumptions are made based upon the way things have always been done within the culture of that particular organization. Culture is an understood (and mostly agreed upon) set of rules by which everyone plays within that organization. Culture was also described like an iceberg. The way an organization does things (what is seen) helps us understand it’s culture, but there’s usually a lot more under the surface. You can change what is seen, (like core values or mission statements) but without changing the cultural support, nothing will really be different. The look may change, but the direction and momentum remains fixed because culture carries so much weight.

Anyway, here’s the first diagram:

01 Changing a Culture

The congregation is represented by the blue line and the leadership by the green.


Church/organizational culture is portrayed by the purple wave which flows in and out of it’s members as a story. The church culture is very difficult to define (a wave) because it is ever-changing and organic in nature. Culture is created, reorganized, and understood by the average member throughout their lives. When they hear stories of things going on in the church or are reminded of memories of the “good ol’ days,” they instinctively define the church by those stories. Although it changes often, the church culture is mostly defined by who the people are, and what they’ve done in the past. This results in a status quo or good ol’ days mentality. Some of the members, are also leaders. They may not hold positions, but they have influence and others hear their stories with greater appreciation.


03 Changing a Culture

The leadership of the church is called by God to direct, empower, and equip it’s members to live out the story of God rather than the story of the status quo. They should be mostly concerned about the future of the church and should speak a new story into the lives of it’s congregation. A story which represents the calling they believe God has placed upon them collectively. The red wave represents this “God story.” It’s also important for this story (vision) to be clear, concise, and compelling. (not like a wave)

I should be clear to say that the purple wave may very well be Godly too, but it is fluid in nature and much less defined. Setting a church on a specific course requires strategy which calls for definition and focus.


05 Changing a Culture
Too many church leadership teams function the wrong way. They call members to join them. Yet, in the servant leader model, the leaders are called to serve their members – step out of their positions to work alongside them. In doing so, they build relationships which allow them to gain influence. Once that influence/relationship is built, the leader can tell the new story and begin to have an impact on the culture from the ground up. A leader serves. That means culture is formed as leaders kneel.

06 Changing a Culture

As those relationships grow, the members, become leaders/interpreters/proponents of the new story which they have seen lived out in their leaders. Pretty soon, enough members have become a part of the new story that the church culture approaches a tipping point. Then the culture truly begins to be shaped by the new story/vision as it ripples through the congregation. Unfortunately, there will always be a few people who will never join the new story. When the whole culture changes around them, they find themselves trapped. Some will leave the organization. Others will just go into hiding, hoping that the new story will fail so they can come out and say “I told you so.” Some will just live out the rest of their lives in bitterness – always trying to regain their personal story. The good news is that God’s story has room for everyone! Some (the disciples) will choose to follow while others (the Rich Young Ruler) will hold on to their own and miss out on God’s best.


I’m excited to be a part of a new story here at Lake Jackson FUMC. I pray that I can be one of those green X’s who will serve this church family by humbly telling a new story and seeking to love in such a way that the culture, community, and my friends will know Jesus more.

Just a final note of thanks to Dave Herman. This is very insightful information, which will benefit us greatly as we seek to be a part of God’s work in the transformation of His church. I also want to apologize if I have misrepresented him in any way. The explanations are a combination of his words and my own thoughts. Dave, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I get it mostly right?

Another Culture given the Gospel

I’m so glad that there are Christians all over the world who are trying to interpret the Gospel message to all sorts of cultures. I just discovered a new version of the Bible that’s written in the “Manga” format. For those of you who aren’t familiar – Manga is that Japanese animation that fills complete sections of your local bookstore.

I ordered a copy of the Manga Bible to use with the students in our church. It’s an interesting way to consider the scriptures and in general, it’s pretty accurate to the original. (There is certainly some creative license used, too.) Anyway, I just think it’s cool that like Jesus, the Gospel message is becoming more and more incarnate in different cultures.

Pretty cool animation of David and Goliath on the cover, huh?

Lessons from a Juggler

I have a friend, Jonathan Root, who is a professional juggler/comedian. His team has 5 International Championship Titles and 3 World Records. You can check him out at www.rootberry.net. Recently, we’ve been having a conversation on facebook about leadership and juggling. I just thought I’d share some of our conversations with you guys here. Although most of the ideas expressed here are his, I’ve marked specific things he said in blue. The rest is just my ramblings about it all.

I started out asking him the basic question, “How is juggling like leadership?”  Here’s his answer:

9:16am Feb 26th
Juggling is not like leadership. Juggling is a means to entertain people. I use juggling to draw and keep peoples attention. Then I use the juggling and comedy to relate to them. A pastor, a speaker and entertainer (in this case a juggler) are all trying to effectively communicate with their audience. If you cannot communicate with your audience then your message will be ineffective. And the message we bring is the message of salvation so we cannot (afford to) be ineffective in communicating our message. This has probably led you to more questions so feel free to ask.
Root

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As our discussion got deeper, it became clear that he is passionate about communicating the gospel effectively – much like a pastor or Christian leader.

Here are some of the main lessons I learned in our conversations.
1. Juggling and leadership are all about practice. “Focused practice
make an excellent juggler. Trying the same tricks over and over till
you hit them every time is an art.”
In leadership, I’d have to say that the same is true. The more you lead, the better you become. The difficult thing is that a true leader is seeking to do something like it’s never been done before, while a juggler is trying to be consistent about doing the same thing over and over.  Still, even in a new situation, all of our past experiences or practice helps to guide our decisions as we lead. Practice is all about developing skills.

2. Like leadership, in juggling it is critical to not watch the ball hit your hands, but to watch a ball until it
starts to fall then you know where to put your hand.
In leadership, this is similar to the way that a true leader watches culture and the movement of God so that he can lead others to place themselves in the right place to serve Him. Watching the ball until it starts to drop is all about vision.

3. Professional juggling requires attention to details like directions to venues, time management for making flights, and constant improvement/development of your show. Otherwise, you’ll eventually burn enough bridges that you won’t be able to book anything. I wonder how many churches have found themselves in this place? It seems that our culture feels pretty “burned” by the church and I’m not sure it’s completely fair to them, but it’s still true none-the-less. It’s important for the Christian leader to seek constant improvement/development of the people (the church) too. Leaders must be managers too.

4. There is something called a “squeeze” in juggling where two balls end up landing in the same hand at the same time. These are not done very often because they are so difficult, but according to Jonathan, “you have to want to do them.” There are a lot of things in the church that we like to avoid. When a true leader’s vision requires a “squeeze,” he goes for it. No matter what the difficulty, like Moses, he finds the courage to follow God through the Red Sea’s parted walls of water. God saves us through the “squeezes” not from them.

5. Juggling is an art. The best leaders in juggling are the guys who are good at putting it all together – Routining the juggling, mixing in comedy and having it all relate to the audience so they laugh and clap. In those moments the audience experiences more than just juggling. There is a sort of “art” to leadership too – when everything comes together under the right leader there is something that can’t really be defined – something that transcends the task at hand – something that goes beyond the vision. True leadership “feels” God’s timing and transcends our humanity.

By the way, here’s a clip of Jonathan and his friend Bill from their shows.

Folded Cloth

Napkin My youth minister, Joe, sent me an e-mail that was pretty interesting today. I’ll have to study up on it to check on it’s validity, but here’s what it said was talking about:

John 20:6-7 says, “Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.”

According to this article it’s notable that the cloth was folded. It is certainly interesting that the Bible actually places such emphasis on this fact that it clearly spells it out for us in the midst of this incredible story.  Here’s why – Evidently in Jewish culture, when a Master was finished with his meal, he wadded up his napkin which told the servant that he was finished and the plate could be cleared. However, if he wasn’t finished yet, he folded the napkin telling the servant that he wasn’t finished and would return.

With this same imagery, Jesus told us that he wasn’t finished and that he would return. Cool Stuff!!

Vintage Jesus

Here’s an article describing Jesus that I found on Mark Driscoll’s (a pastor I like to listen to) blog.


Meek_mild_as_if_1 Jesus

No one is more loved or hated than Jesus Christ.

Jesus was born in a small town to a poor, unmarried teen mother roughly 2,000 years ago. He was adopted by Joseph, a simple carpenter, and spent the first thirty years of His life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with His dad.

Around the age of thirty, Jesus began a public ministry that included preaching, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending people who were marginalized because they were perverts, drunks, thieves, and such. Jesus’ ministry spanned only three short years before He was put to death for declaring Himself to be God. He died by shameful crucifixion like tens of thousands of people had before Him.

Curiously, His résumé is rather simple. He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from His home. He never held a political office, never wrote a book, never married, never attended college, and never visited a big city. He died homeless and poor.

Yet He is the most famous person in all of human history. More songs have been sung about Him, artwork painted of Him, and books written about Him than anyone who has ever lived. Furthermore, billions of people from the nations of the earth worship Him as God. Even unbelievers are constantly reminded of His influence since we measure time around His life. Our calendar is divided into the years before and after His birth, which are noted as BC (“before Christ”) and AD (anno Domini, meaning “in the year of the Lord”).

No army, nation, or person has changed human history to the degree that Jesus the homeless man has. The symbol for Jesus, the cross, has become the most famous symbol in all of history. Even rapper 50 Cent and old-school rocker Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses recently wore one around their necks at the MTV Video Music Awards. Jesus has become a part of American fashion.

Every year, the media is filled with discussions about Jesus. Musicians like Kanye West cannot help but sing about Jesus even if they do not worship Him as God. Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ set a single-day box office record. No one is hotter than Jesus – even 2,000 years after He walked the earth. Even the mundane magazine Popular Mechanics had a cover story titled “The Real Face of Jesus” a few years back in which they attempted to determine what Jesus really looked like (complete with short hair, unlike the myth that he had long hair).

It seems that everyone has an opinion of Jesus. The following quotes are a smattering of what great figures in human history have said about Jesus:

  • Mahatma Gandhi: “I cannot say that Jesus was uniquely divine. He was as much God as Krishna, or Rama, or Mohammed, or Zoroaster.”
  • Adolf Hitler: “In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.”
  • Larry King “was once asked who he would most want to interview if he could choose anyone from all of history. He said, ‘Jesus Christ.’ The questioner said, ‘And what would you like to ask Him?’ King replied, I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.'”
  • John Lennon: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock and roll or Christianity.”
  • Carlos Mencia: “You know what, I became more Christian after I saw the movie [The Da Vinci Code] because, I, you know, as a Christian, I was like, you know, Jesus died for our sins he suffered. But now that I know that he’s married, I’m like, wow, did he really suffer. Poor guy.”
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: “Jesus died too soon. If he had lived to my age he would have repudiated his doctrine.”
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Socrates died like a philosopher; Jesus Christ died like a God.”
  • Joseph Smith: “Mormonism is the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ; of which I myself am not ashamed.”
  • Mark Twain: “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be—a Christian.”
  • H. G. Wells: “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”
  • Oprah Winfrey: “There couldn’t possibly be just one way . . .” [Lady in the audience: “What about Jesus?”] “What about Jesus? . . . Does God care about your heart or does God care about if you call his son Jesus?”
  • Malcolm X: “All white people who have studied history and geography know that Christ was a black man. Only the poor, brainwashed American Negro has been made to believe that Christ was white, to maneuver him into worshiping the white man.”

People tell us all sorts of things about Jesus. He was rich. He was poor. He was black. He was white. He was God and not God. He was a liar who told the truth, born of a virgin who was a tramp. He rose from the dead or else escaped death to shack up with His girlfriend. Even within Christianity, a goofy trend recasts Jesus and the faith; apparently, a new kind of Christian has emerged.


Maybe we should do a series soon on “Who is Jesus?”

What do you guys think?