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"How to Shift Your Church’s Culture"
by Tom Goodman
March 30, 2006

Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro wrote Culture Shift to help church leaders bring healthy change to their churches.  To introduce you to the insights of these pastors, I’ve created the following “interview,” with answers drawn straight from their material.

Robert and Wayne, what do you mean by “culture shift”?

When we talk about making a culture shift, we are talking about changing the default.  To take an example, on most computers the default font size is 12 point.  If you prefer generally to read print that's a little larger, say 14 point, then you have to permanently modify the default setting.  If you change it just for the document you're working on now, then the next time you use the computer, bling!  It's back to 12 point again.
Culture shift is a lot like that.  You try to instill a new program in your church, and you think you've succeeded, and then the next week—bling!—everything has reverted to the way it was.  If this happens week after week after week, you have not really shifted the culture at all.  You need to find the cultural default and reset it by doing hard work that involves not just you but other church leaders, and ultimately everyone in the congregation.  Over a period of time, this culture shift occurs, and a new day will dawn.
So, why is it important to create a “culture shift”?

You can have the right religious words.  Your personal Bible may be underlined from cover to cover.  You can spend your whole lifetime doing church activities.  You can even be an official church leader.  Yet with all these good things, you could miss the kingdom of God.  You could think that what you're doing is for the kingdom, but it might not be so.  What is God's kingdom?  It is the point at which you come under the rule and reign of God.  It's where you trade the treasures of this world and an attitude of looking out for yourself in exchange for the treasures and priorities of God.
So, what does this have to do with LeaderLines readers?

A transition in culture requires fresh leadership.  In Israel's case, this meant a new leader whose life and values exemplified a new culture that was about to be constructed.  Numbers 27:15-18 puts it this way:  "Then Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 'May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.'  So the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him."'  In every case, shifting a culture requires a fresh approach from leadership (whether the existing leadership or new).
Is a culture shift easy?  What challenges can we expect if we lead a shift in our church’s culture?

In the case of a local church transitioning its culture, it may feel like war from time to time.  To succeed, the answer to the question "Is it worth it?" must be "Yes: I desire a rich culture where an authentic spiritual community lives out kingdom values in powerful ways in partnership with the living God."  More important, how much less than that standard is acceptable to you?  If you are still trying to convince yourself that you can solve a culture problem with a series of patchwork quick fixes; be warned, such an approach always fails.
Like Joshua (or Joshua's leadership team), you've got to believe that God has promised you a land.  You may wrestle with traditions, structure, staff, and board.  But kingdom values can help bring them around, and a unifying culture will result.  Eventually it will release its potential.  There is hope.  Believe it.
As LeaderLines readers, I encourage you to read a longer excerpt of this book (here), or purchase a copy for yourself!  As I’ve told you many times before, I believe I’ve been called to Hillcrest to lead a great renovation project: the renovation of the heart, the renovation of the program, and the renovation of the look.  A “culture shift” is another name for the “renovation of the heart.”  Thank you for your leadership-partnership in this process!


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