Leadership

Changing an Established Church’s Culture

by Josh King

Lead Pastor, Second Baptist Conway (Conway, AR)

Culture eats strategy for lunch – or is it breakfast? Either way, a bad culture will kill a good plan. We all know that. The classic example is Chick-Fil-A – great food but phenomenal culture. We as the Church have great food. We have the best food. Living Water, bread of life, that is what we serve. If you want to go a little less Jesus-jukey, we have community, forgiveness, encouragement, the very best food. The problem though, is often we have the worst culture.

When you lead a church you may see this, but you also may be frustrated in how exactly you can change it. You may even wonder if one person can change the culture of an entire church. I say you can, especially if you are the Pastor but even if you are not. I’ve seen the culture set or changed by one person a few times. Some of those were good a few were bad but all of the culture setting paths had similar mile markers. Here they are.

  • Model what you expect. We all know leaders that expect a work ethic they just don’t live up to. They will preach being on time as they run in late. They will demand servant leadership as they pull into their designated parking spot. If you don’t model it, they won’t do it. 
  • Write it down. Our church calls it the Family Values – seven values we want to see in the lives of each person that calls our church family. By writing them down we can continually point back to them. Don’t expect people to pick these things up by osmosis. These documents will evolve over time and that’s OK, but start somewhere. Ask yourself what would be the (less than 10) characteristics that would make a church Christlike, then write em out. 
  • Say ’em and then say ’em again. Preach a sermon series through the values, talk about one each leadership meeting, post them on the wall, share it with the choir and senior adults and students. Just keep talking about them. Say them until it is just part of your collective vocabulary. I will regularly hear members and leaders use the phrase “one voice” in our halls and meetings. That is how you know the culture is taking root and you can expect to see fruit in the near future. 
  • Celebrate publicly every chance you can. Make it a regular feature of each church gathering to call out groups or individuals that have embodied one of the values. It can be a quick little word or a major announcement but as we all know, they will repeat what we celebrate. So make a big deal when you see someone Speak Love or Cooperate Sacrificially. It not only sets the bar; it is the best reward you can give the one who is carrying the culture forward. 
  • Correct missteps. When you have the values written down you can more effectively let someone know when they have done something that conflicts with the culture. Small things matter. It doesn’t need to be a full blown thing, but a quick word about how a comment was not “speaking love” or how showing up late is not “redeeming the time” will help to keep everyone aligned. 

The good news is that it doesn’t take a long time to align the culture toward common values. It just takes intentionality. I encourage you to spend a little more time, especially at first, working on culture than you do working on strategy. The results will last longer and the ride will be smoother.

Josh King has been the Lead Pastor at Second Baptist Conway (Conway, AR), since August of 2018. Prior to moving to Arkansas, he had served churches in Texas full time since 2001. His experience includes student ministry, serving as Associate Pastor, and Lead Pastor. Josh is a proud graduate of Criswell College in Dallas, Texas and holds both a Bachelors Degree as well as a Masters. Both are in Biblical studies and ministry. He is married to Jacki, a passionate and talented women’s minister, and they have three sons, Haddon, Leland, and Amos.

Leadership

The Good Ambassador

by Jeff Crawford

Lead Pastor of Ministries, Teaching Pastor, Cross Church (Springdale, AR)

I recently had the opportunity to preach from 2 Corinthians 5 as part of a teaching series we called My Mission. One phrase from one verse has had a lasting personal impact upon me and how I view my role as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That one verse is verse 20 and that one phrase is:

“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

As followers of Jesus, our standing affords to us many privileges as citizens of the Kingdom of God, not the least of which is that we are joint heirs to that Kingdom with all the benefits of adoption into the Royal Family. But there are also responsibilities, namely the responsibility to serve as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom.

The role of ambassador carries with it a certain understanding, or at least it should. And that’s really the point of this post. 

Thinking about it all from a worldly geo-political point of view, let’s say that I was the United States Ambassador to Spain. That would mean that while I am a citizen of the United States, I would live in Spain.  I would also shop in Spain, drive the streets of Spain, eat the food in Spain, and I would probably even learn Spanish. But most importantly, I would build real relationships with real people in Spain.  All for a single purpose: to represent my country, the United States of America. You see, an ambassador doesn’t represent himself or herself. If I were the ambassador to Spain, it would never be about me; it would be about the United States, about the current president who appointed me, and about the government that sent me. I would be there to represent them. 

I would also be about the business of something else, something very important. In fact, the primary role of any ambassador is to deliver a message. In the same way that an ambassador represents the one who sent him or her, an ambassador also speaks for the one who does the sending. This is critical; vital, even, to the life of the mission. 

Back to our example:  if I were the ambassador to Spain, I would be very, very careful with my words. I would have a crystal-clear message from the president of the United States and it would be my job to keep that message pure. I would have talking points and I would, as they say, “stay on message.”  This means that I would not be on Twitter blowing off steam about how I felt about some restaurant in Spain that gave me poor service. To do such a thing would make the one who sent me look bad. It would also risk cutting off important relationships with Spaniards who love that restaurant. What I’m saying is that as an ambassador to Spain, it doesn’t really matter what I think about some particular topic. It doesn’t matter my viewpoint on the politics of Spain. It’s not about me. Let me say that again:  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. It’s only about the one who sent me and about what he thinks and about what he wants me to say. I am only a mouthpiece. A messenger. My conduct and my words must be designed to reflect, in the best way possible, the one who sent me.

By now you surely know where all this is headed. Pastor, you are an ambassador of the Kingdom. You have been sent by the King to live in “Spain.” Your words and conduct out of the pulpit are actually, at times, more meaningful than what you do or say in the pulpit. I am continually shocked and disturbed by what my fellow ambassadors feel free to say in the world of Social Media. It’s as if the mantle of ambassadorship is taken off hung on the coat rack when logged on to Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. My fellow laborers, I appeal to you, be very careful what you say when roaming the streets of “Spain.” This is a divided world we live in.  I think it may be more divided than in anyone’s lifetime. EVERYTHING is political. It doesn’t really matter what you personally think about guns, or walls, or this president, or climate change, or you name it. Once you lay down a personal position on any of these topics and more, you have surely alienated as much as 50% of your audience before you even begin to deliver the message of the King. A good ambassador would never want to do such a thing. The message of the cross is offensive enough by itself. It doesn’t need help from you turning people off before they have a chance to hear it. Remember, it’s not about what you like or you think or you believe about this or that. It’s only about the King and the Kingdom. God is making his appeal through you. 

Live this. Preach this. Social media this. And lead your congregation to be excellent ambassadors alongside you.

Jeff Crawford, Ed.D., is the lead pastor of ministries and teaching pastor at Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, a multi-site megachurch and one of the nation’s fastest growing churches according to Outreach magazine. Dr. Crawford is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and the author of three books, the most recent of which is his debut novel, Finding Eden. He and his wife Julie (also of OBU) have two married adult children and two teenagers living at home, with their first grandson arriving in December.