Cultural Architects

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Dr. Paul Borden
Rocky Mountain Church Network

Taken from Growing Healthy Churches February 2014 E-Newsletter




In accomplishing their mission, congregations interact with three cultures. They are our national culture, the congregation’s local culture and the individual culture of each congregation. However congregations also deal with three other cultures in how they are organized to accomplish their mission. The first is the organizational culture itself, the professional culture of the pastor and the leaders and finally the geographical culture related to the location in which the congregation exists.

The organizational culture relates to how people within the congregation interact with each other. One example might be how problems are handled. In a few congregations they are dealt with in an open manner in which the problems are stated and the solutions focus on issues not personalities. In other situations (too often reflecting majority of congregations) problems are dealt with in a passive-aggressive manner. Some congregations function from a guilt perspective while others handle things with a sense of grace. In other cases congregations may have a scarcity mentality in regards to resources while others come from an abundance perspective. Wise pastors, who lead well, know they must understand the culture of the congregation first, before determining how to deal with problems in ways that reflect Biblical behavior while producing unity around the mission and vision.

The professional culture relates to how the pastor views the pastoral role and how the congregation and its leaders view the role of the pastor. The first question that must be determined is for whom does the pastor ultimately work? The right answer to that question is that the pastor works primarily for the chief shepherd not the sheep. However, many congregations do not believe this as demonstrated by the day to day expectations they have for their pastor. Another issue is the pastor’s primary responsibility. Is the primary responsibility to provide care for the sheep or to lead the sheep, even when such leadership requires “tough love”. Another key question relating to the pastor’s role is the growth of the congregation. Is the major criterion of evaluation the spiritual growth of the believers who already are part of the congregation or is the criterion evangelistic growth that generates a growing body of new believers that are now growing spiritually?

The third culture that must be dealt with is the culture of the community and the impact the community’s beliefs and values have on the congregation. Recently I was in a larger congregation in a small isolated community. The congregation had gone into a “bunker” mentality about reaching out since everyone saw the community declining. I pointed out to them that there would be over 5,000 people, just like them, living in the community five years from now. There would also be thousands more who were not like them, still living there in the future as well. Wise pastors help congregations embrace Biblical thinking and the resulting behaviors whether the values and beliefs of the surrounding community support such thinking or oppose it.

Wise pastors that are effective are ultimately cultural architects. They help congregations embrace the mission by first helping them understand the internal cultures. These pastors then lead congregations to leverage the various cultures in which they find themselves to accomplish the mission.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]