All churches, especially those churches that have been around for any length of time, have a certain culture, that culture is often times tied deeply with the church’s traditions. Years and years of letting the paid professional minister do much of the work in the church became the culture or the norm in most churches. Visit the sick? That’s what we hired him for. Teach the class? That’s what we hired him for. Teach the children? That’s what we hired her for. Change the light bulb? We are baptists we don’t change anything.
When we go back to the New Testament church we see rapid growth. Thousands were coming to know Christ. The church in Jerusalem was exploding. So the apostles realized something had to happen in order to minister to the church. Welcome the deacons! So deacons were appointed as servants to take care of the widows and orphans to serve the church. The pastors’ role was one of equipping the believers to serve, to do ministry.
Many churches now are getting back to the New Testament way of doing church and the members are becoming the ministers. To change that culture takes time, it won’t happen overnight. As we make a change in culture we also make a change in the systems. The old system was the paid minister does it all, a one man system, or a selection committee system.
Sue Mallory in her book, The Equipping Church says this about systems and culture: “While systems are often written down, cultures tend to be passed down through relationships. (Another way to put it is this: Systems are in books and cultures are in looks.) While reading the published “organizational chart” of leadership positions in a church will tell you about the system, asking a question at a congregational meeting and observing the one toward whom all heads turn will tell you about the power flow in the culture. Systems can often be analyzed from outside the church; cultures must be understood from the inside. Healthy and wise change rarely happens apart from deep cultural understanding. Christ’s gifts of people (and the gifts he gives to people) can change the church from the inside out. Systems, good and bad, offer a structured description of what we are trying to do; the culture is who we are and what we actually do. Though systems and culture are not identical, they must work in harmony. When they cooperate and support one another, healthy growth, positive change, and transformed lives are all possible.”
A church may have a system on paper for their ministry. It may look like an organizational flow chart but does it really flow like the chart says it should? Is there a power broker(s) that isn’t on the flow chart that everyone looks to instead of looking to the system that is in place? If that is the culture of the church than the church is going to have to decide to change the culture to match the system and this may not make the power person happy or the church may even lose him/her. Does the church system say “we all serve” but in fact only a handful of members serve? System doesn’t match the culture.
If the culture has to change to be more in line with the Word of God the question to ask is “are we willing?” Systems are on paper and are easy to change, rewrite, and the ignore. Culture, when it starts getting tweaked, isn’t easy to ignore and a church has to be willing, if the goal is to be more Biblical, to stay the course through the change even if it means there may be some members who leave along the way. If it’s important enough to get to health as a church than it may mean losing some members along the way.
Is the church willing to change the culture to be more in line with the Bible no matter the cost?
Are the pastors willing to stay the course even though it may get tough for a time?
Culture doesn’t change easy but when it does change the church will be healthier as a result.