Monday, February 18, 2013

Look Before You Lead: How to Discern & Shape Your Church Culture

Dr Aubrey Malphurs has created a significant work on the culture of the church.  Very few have attempted to define the culture much less address the essential impact this has on our functioning within the church. 

Many have approached evangelism by trying to enculturate groups with their particular culture.  That has very little impact in raising the level of Christ-likeness over the long term.  Others have tried to reduce evangelism to simply getting people “converted,” i.e., making a decision for Christ.

The tough work is always to disciple people and that requires changing cultures.  Dr. Malphurs gives us a comprehensive view of culture.  On pages 28-31 he gives us 37 characteristics of culture in the first “layer” of understanding and I’m sure that is not exhaustive, though each one is important. 

In Chapter 4 he gives insights on the second layer, or values.  This section is worthy of spending considerable time in prayerful study in order to discern what a church’s values really are.  After fifty years in ministry, I have yet to encounter a church board who really understood their own personal values, and very little of their church’s values. 

In Chapter 5 he moves on to discuss core beliefs.  Core beliefs, not stated doctrine or theology, determine how we act in real-life situations.  On page 60 he gives ten reasons why beliefs are so important.

One measure of great leadership is the ability to define your current location on the spiritual journey.  If you don’t know where you are or who you are, it’s nearly impossible to plan a strategy to move forward.  Dr. Malphurs gives great insight on discovering a church’s culture and a pastor’s culture; both are essential understanding.

The second half of the book provides the process for shaping the culture.  I love his term for pastor as the “culture sculptor.”  With the large appendix he includes many tools to help accomplish the transformation of culture.  While he has presented much of the academic insights, none of this can be accomplished without the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  We all naturally resist change, but God can energize us to truly fulfill the Great Commission.

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