The Importance of Values in Shaping the Culture of Your Church

Our church, Victory Church in Manila, was planted 28 years ago. Steve Murrell, the founder, is an American missionary who wisely built by creating a culture of discipleship, which for the last 12 years has caused the church to grow at an annual average rate of between 22 percent and 26 percent. During our earlier years, the church had growth spurts of up to 40 percent, even 60 percent. And all of it—our past and current growth—has happened in healthy ways.

In my opinion, Steve’s most significant accomplishment lies in that the church continues to grow, even though he has transitioned out of the church’s day-to-day operations and now spends most of his time traveling in the United States and around the world to oversee other churches. Steve is a master at empowering leaders. Leaders like me, who are responsible for overseeing the church, can walk into one of our services, and no one would have any clue as to who I am because I only do two services in one of our locations. It testifies to a strong culture that has empowered multiple layers of leaders. I attribute that to the discipleship culture Steve and our leadership team have built.

Values + Vision + Language (over time) = Culture

What is culture? Loosely defined, I think of culture as something people do without thinking. Consider any culture—American, French, corporate, family or church. All consist of things the people in that culture do without thinking. For example, Americans don’t think twice about watching Sunday-afternoon football. It’s part of their culture. The French don’t debate over whether they’ll have wine for dinner. Apple executives make no bones about the value of simplicity in design and the need for excellence. Think of your own family and the things you do without thinking. Now imagine a church that doesn’t think about evangelizing people to turn them into disciples but just does it because it’s part of their culture.

All too often, churches build by focusing on mission, vision, system or process. These things in and by themselves aren’t bad. However, culture is the more powerful change agent because people will do it without thinking twice. It’s just the way they do life.

Whether it’s American, French, Apple’s, your family’s or your church’s, culture emanates from what we value, which inevitably becomes the way we see life (vision). When communicated consistently over time, what we value becomes the culture of that people group. Like all other cultures, Filipino culture is shaped by what the people value, how they see life (vision) and their language. Done over time, these factors eventually shape their culture, or the way they do life.

So shaping culture starts with what we value. When I say “values,” I’m not talking about the slogans or taglines we print on church bulletins or the words we post on the walls. Values are simply the things that are most important. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

That’s why values are the starting point; they emanate from the heart. I’m convinced that all of the decisions we make knowingly or unknowingly are based on what we value. Consider the food you eat, the clothes you wear and the things you do. These things shape our culture. We do them and spend money or time on them because we value them more than we value other things.

At the end of the day, life is a series of value exchanges. When Christians don’t read their Bibles or involve themselves with kingdom activities, they have traded these values for something they value more.

Herein lies the role of leadership: to clearly define what is valuable; to cause these values to form the way members see life (their vision); and to relentlessly communicate these values in as many ways possible.

But instead, we often go after instant results—focusing on systems, processes and programs. We don’t want to build on culture because that takes time. What we don’t often realize is that even when we take this “immediate gratification” approach, we’re still building a culture—one that’s based on instant results.

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Joey Bonifacio

Joey Bonifacio

Joey Bonifacio is Director for Asia of  Every Nation Ministries. Every Nation is a worldwide family of churches and ministries that exists to Honor God by planting Christ-centered, Spirit empowered, socially responsible churches and campus ministries in every nation. He is a member of the team that oversees  Victory, a local church in Manila and a movement of churches in the Philippines and the Senior Pastor of Victory Fort at Bonifacio Global City. He is Chairman of the Real Life Foundation, a Philippine based NGO that provides educational scholarship to the underprivileged. He is happily married to Marie for 30 years now and has three adult sons, Joseph who is married to Carla, David and Joshua. And adopted a cute little dog named  Vito.

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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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