It’s amazing how “a culture of” lingo has been trending over the last couple of years. And for good reasons. The understanding of culture, especially with regard to congregational leadership, is very helpful. In fact when I pitched Church Unique in 2007, there were no popular leadership books with the title “church and culture” in the title. My working title for the book’s contract was:
OOZE VISION: How to Shape Church Culture to Guide Church Growth.
Since Church Unique, there have been at least five significant book titles (there are several others) that have tried to leverage the idea of “culture” in the title:
- Cracking Your Church Culture Code, by Sam Chand
- Building a Discipling Culture, by Mike Breen
- Look Before You Lead, How to Discern and Shape Church Culture, by Aubrey Malphurs
- Creating a Missional Culture, by JR Woodward and Alan Hirsch
- Contagious Generosity (Culture of Giving) by Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard
So, the natural question seems to be, what kind of culture is most important? Does a culture of leadership trump a culture of discipleship? If I am working on a culture of mission, do I need to work separately on a culture of generosity? How many “cultures” am I supposed to be working on anyway?
Let’s start by eliminating the easy ones. As much as I believe in a culture of leadership and a culture of generosity, these are clearly subordinate to the biggest ideas of the church’s identity. Simply put God does not command us to go into the world and make leaders or centers of generosity. (More on Jesus’ use of leadership terminology.)
That leaves us with a culture of discipleship or a culture of mission. What is more important?
I don’t think there is an objectively correct answer to this question as much as there is a practically useful answer depending on your context. In the current context of North America in 2014, I believe the more useful answer is a culture of mission.
Why? There are four primary reasons:
- Most churches can easily mistake a programmatic culture for a culture of discipleship. Therefore the terminology doesn’t wake them up to their problem. A culture of mission has more teeth.
- The term discipleship tends to connote contextually, although not biblically, an inward or internal church focus. A culture of mission forces you to grapple with the people far from God whom you are poised to reach.
- A culture of mission subsumes a culture of discipleship so directly and clearly, but gives broader application to the nuances of each church’s application of mission. Mission is a bigger idea than discipleship in this regard.
- A culture of mission more clearly integrates all of the functions of the church better than a culture of discipleship. Again, this is not necessarily true at all times and places, but I believe there is a slight advantage to seeing it this way today.
Clearly a culture of mission and a culture of discipleship should take us to the same place. But I think it is more possible for a church to think of themselves as good at making disciples and be unclear on mission, than for church to be crystal clear on mission and not be focused on making disciples.
Another way I would support this point, is to ask the question, “What was in Jesus’ mind when he selected his first disciples. Mission or discipleship?” I did a fun post on this looking at three disciple-making catalysts in the life of Jesus.
I am dying to hear your thoughts. What do you think?
Read more from Will here.