The Church as Creature of the Word, Part 2

Part 2 of a conversation with authors Eric Geiger, Matt Chandler, and Josh Patterson about their recent book, The Church as Creature of the Word.

This post is features Eric Geiger, vice-president of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay.

Eric is putting forth a leadership challenge about the atmosphere and culture of your church.

Opening illustration: The culture of mountain climbers at Mount Everest. It takes weeks and months of planning and preparation. The mountain-climbing culture turned bad. A man, David Sharp, was hiking his way back down from Everest, through the “death zone.” He sits down to rest in Green Boots Cave (named for a man who perished there with green boots). 40 mountain climbers making the ascent, seeking to achieve their dream, pass by David Sharp, who is dying. All 40 passed by him, but left him to die in order to not abandon their journey. The mountain climbing community was riveted by the events. Some blamed systems (lack of evacuation plans, rescue teams, etc.). But the founder of Everest mountain climbing said it was the culture of the mountain climbing community that was wrong.

You can tell what is of first importance, not by looking at the confession, but at the culture. It’s not your confession of faith of your church, but the culture of your church that reveals what is of first importance.

There’s a difference between simply believing the gospel in your confessional statement and standing on the gospel in your church culture.

Culture is massively important. It’s the overpowering alpha male in the room. If there is a conflict between your confession and your culture, the culture typically wins.

If your confession says the grace of Jesus is big enough for any issue or any sin, but your culture is closed and cold and looks with disdain on people who open up about their struggles, then people needing grace will not find it.

If the confession says we will live as missionaries, but the culture of the church determines success by how many events take place at the building in a week, then the culture will trump the confession.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

Your church’s culture is your church’s personality. It’s the values and shared beliefs that drive the behavior of your people.

The church in Galatia is a good example. They drifted from their confession in their culture. Any time we seek to supplement the grace of God, we supplant the grace of God. They moved toward a culture of creating “levels of righteousness.”

A true, healthy church culture has alignment between the confession and the practice of the people.

You’ve got to inspect your church, to see if the gospel has made its way into the fabric of the church. An example: Budgeting season. Discussions about giving are good. Is the gospel impacting that discussion? If people are not being generous, then perhaps the culture is drifting from our confession that “though He was rich, He became poor for your sake.”

Another example: You need volunteers for children’s ministry, etc. You can do a campaign and a ministry fair. But what if we should first ask, “What’s the culture of our church?” Have we brought people back to the reality that God stepped onto this earth, grabbed a basin and a towel, and served us by washing our dirty feet?

The need is to come back to the gospel in order to influence the culture of the church. The culture is always teaching. We need more than a confession immersed in Jesus. We need a culture immersed in Jesus.

Read Part 1 of this series here. To read Part 3, go here.

Read more from Trevin here.


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Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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