Chances are you have a very well thought-through mission and vision.
And that’s fantastic.
But have you ever thoroughly thought through the culture of your organization?
Here’s why that matters:
Your mission and vision determine the what and the why of what you do.
Your culture determines how your organization feels and behaves.
And, in most cases, your culture trumps your mission and vision. Often without anyone saying a word or even realizing it, you can undo a great mission by having a terrible culture.
If you’ve ever struggled with why a compelling mission and vision haven’t taken you further, maybe it’s time to look at your culture.
The truth is simple: A bad organizational culture will kill a great organizational mission.
Yes, You’ve Left Great Missions Behind Because of a Bad Culture
You’ve already left great missions behind because of bad organizational cultures.
You went to a home design store that had the exact product you needed, but you left because the staff didn’t care or because the owner treated you poorly.
You avoid a certain location in a restaurant chain you otherwise love because the staff always get your order wrong and the restrooms are rarely clean.
You didn’t stay long at the company you first worked for after graduating, not because it wasn’t in your field (it was), but because you really didn’t like the people you worked with.
None of these problems are really mission or vision problems. At their heart, they’re cultural problems.
And if you think about it, you probably have a few places you visit regularly not because you even like the mission or vision, but because you like the culture?
Ever go to a coffee shop or favourite restaurant when you weren’t all that hungry, just to hang out? Miss your college days because you loved the people you were with? I sometimes go to my favourite bike store even when I’m not buying anything because I love the vibe and conversation (and even the smell). That’s culture.
Your problem often isn’t what you believe as an organization, it’s how you behave.
(By the way…because culture problems are often people problems and sin problems, the phenomenon is wider than just church. So even if you don’t work in church, some of these signs might seem uncomfortably familiar.)
Here are 5 signs your culture needs to change:
1. You judge the culture around you, rather than love the people in it
For some strange reason, most of us in the church today are known for our judgment more than our love. This is almost criminal, as Jesus said that the defining hallmark of his followers should be love.
It is impossible to judge someone and love someone at the same time. Certainly, you can discern that there are issues. But to judge is to put yourself above someone. (I would cite scripture here, but I think we all know the Bible couldn’t be clearer about not judging outsiders).
Somehow we’ve flipped it. We let people on the inside off the hook and judge people outside. And then we wonder why our church isn’t growing and why our church is serially unhealthy.
Many churches aren’t growing because people judge more than they love. It’s human nature to gravitate to people who accept us (this explains everything from gangs to clubs to friendships), and I believe the point of the cross is not judgment but salvation through Christ.
If you lead a Christian church, your mission is to reach people, not judge people.
Even if you love people, someones Christians have this weird habit of behaving in ways that are just…strange.
When there is a significant gap between how you talk to people in the grocery store and how you talk to people in church, it’s a sign you might have a cultural barrier that new people will find hard to surmount.
I realize people have traditions, but sometimes these traditions get in the way of the mission. If nobody can understand what you’re saying because you speak in Christianese or some kind of insider code, well, how do you expect people to feel a sense of belonging before they read your book of code (which by the way, nobody bothered to publish).
I don’t want to have to convert people to my culture. I’d rather see them converted to Jesus.
When you need to convert people to your culture before they convert to Christianity, your mission is at risk.
3. What you think is contemporary, isn’t
Of all the lies we tell, the lies we tell ourselves are the most subtle and deadly. Far too many churches make a lot of changes to how they behave and declare themselves ‘contemporary’, when the truth is they just sound traditional in a slightly different way to outsiders.
If you’re trying to be a contemporary church (and I realize not everyone is), get some outside feedback as to whether people who don’t go to church really connect with your culture and style. The fact that your ‘people’ like it simply creates a self-perpetuating community.
4. You handle conflict poorly and indirectly
Conflicted churches rarely grow. And, unresolved, sustained conflict will kill almost every organization’s mission in the long run.
Ironically, churches should be the best at resolving conflict. Often, we are the worst, despite some incredible biblical instruction on how to do it.
If your church has years (or decades) of continual infighting and never resolves conflict directly, just one question: why would anyone join you?
5. You have a justification for every bit of criticism you receive.
Sometimes people love their not-very-effective culture.
Churches that are great at never changing their defective culture often have a handy justification for every suggestion for improvement that comes their way.
In fact, often that justification comes with a bit of arrogance toward the dummies who ‘just don’t get us’.
Sadly, a closed and mildly arrogant attitude will often shrink a group until it becomes a closed minded ‘us against the world’ kind of attitude. That’s too bad. Because Jesus died for the world too many church leader resist.
Unfortunately, many young believers – and some older ones, too – do not know that there will be times in every person’s life when circumstances don’t add up – when God doesn’t appear to make sense. This aspect of the Christian faith is not well advertised.
Is it a sin for a Christian to have a drink of alcohol?
It is an important question for our time. Millions and millions of Americans have been brutalized and devastated by the abuse of alcohol. I have had to deal as a minister with the shattered lives that occurred through the addiction and abuse of alcohol. This is not just an American issue but I live here so I will talk about what I know.
I am going to make some preliminary remarks and then do my best to back them up with the Scriptures and reason.
1. Jesus did make wine.
His first miracle was turning water into wine. I have heard many pastors that I respect go to great lengths to demonstrate that the wine that Jesus made was basically non-alcoholic. They talk about how the distilling of alcohol didn’t really happen until centuries later.
Problem: People got drunk in the Bible. There was such a thing as “strong drink” beginning in ancient times. Therefore, the argument that the wine that Jesus made was almost non-alcoholic seems farfetched to me and to most Bible scholars.
I don’t think Jesus made wine to have a party or to even enjoy it. I think He did it to demonstrate his divinity. Nonetheless, I am sure the people enjoyed it.
2. There has been a HUGE paradigm shift in American Evangelicalism concerning drinking alcohol.
It is hard to believe that most pastors now advocate drinking in moderation compared to how I grew up. Abstinence was just about THE litmus test for sanctification! The party line was almost “We are godly because we don’t drink!” That idea, although extreme, was a reality.
I think the reasoning behind it is simple: if you don’t drink you won’t ever have to worry about abusing alcohol. That is a decent argument. However, there has been a grace revolution in our thinking over the last 20 years. I think this paradigm is for the better but it opens up the can of debate that can lead to disunity. Sometimes debate is worth the possibility of disunity. Sometimes.
1 Cor 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”
I love what John Piper said in a video I watched a while back. He intimated that although there is grace and “tee-totaling” is a choice not a law, as pastors we must not be cavalier in the advocacy of drinking alcohol.
I think there are way too many Christians that just blurt out a quick “yes” or “no” without really thinking through the complexities of this question. I used to be one of them.
I do NOT want to present the advocacy of drinking alcohol in a cavalier way. We live in a culture of addiction and abuse. Drunk driving, teenage alcoholism, child abuse stemming from drunk parents are HUGE issues. Moderate drinking CAN lead to alcoholism. It is a possibility so we must be extremely careful.
3. It is a sin to cause another person to stumble into addiction.
Romans 14:20 “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.”
If a mature Christian’s freedom causes a person to fall headlong into sin then it is wrong. This is not a warning for people who walk in grace to be stifled because they are worried about legalistic Christians criticizing them. This is a warning to make sure that we never destroy the work of Christ in a believer’s life by abusing our freedom.
The $10,000,000,000 question: Is it a sin to drink alcohol?
1. No, it is not a sin to drink alcohol.
I cannot find anywhere in the Scripture a defining verse or passage that says that alcohol is intrinsically evil. I have read tons of books, articles and sermons on this subject and I have never been satisfied that alcohol is intrinsically evil. If so, then taking Nyquil is a sin. So let’s ask a better question than this one.
2. Is it wise to drink alcohol?
Not necessarily. For many, many people it is unwise to drink at all. A person’s background, disposition and environment must be factored into this discussion.
Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
What this passage means is that wine and beer are powerful and one must not be led astray. The fact that one could be led astray by these liquid entities should give every Christian a heart check.
I have heard often people comparing overeating to overdrinking. Here is the difference: if you go to Cracker Barrel and eat 6000 calories of saturated fact you are not likely to get pulled over by the police because of your fat saturation level. You are not likely to drive into a mini-van and kill a whole family because of it.
There is the possibility that you may have gastrointestinal issues that cause the people in your vehicle to vomit but you won’t be going to jail for manslaughter. You are just guilty of air-quality slaughter.
3. Is it unwise to drink alcohol?
Not necessarily. A Christian can enjoy a glass of wine or a glass of beer and it not cause havoc in the world. Here are a few verses that my super-fundamentalist pastors never preached on when I was growing up.
Psalm 104:14–15 “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”
Ecclesiastes 9:7 “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”
Isaiah 62:8–9 “The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.”
4. Is it a sin for a Christian to drink in public?
I think the correct answer to this question is going to be found in the context of each unique situation.
Remember that we are not talking about getting drunk. We are talking about having a glass (or 2) of wine or beer.
If, by drinking a glass of wine, a Christian selfishly causes a weaker Christian (a former addict or one who may have an over proclivity to become one) then the answer is yes. Don’t guess and don’t go there would be my strong recommendation.
If a Christian is sitting down to a nice dinner with their spouse or friends and has no fear or guilt about drinking a glass of wine but has faith that God has given them freedom to do so then the answer is yes.
Romans 14:22-23 “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
I have not addressed every single issue on this subject but I have tried to give us a “helicopter ride” over this subject. The possibility of fallout is okay with me because I really believe that a pastor must dive into the complex issues of our time with honest questions and thoughtful answers.