How Words Can Help Change Your Church Culture

Words create worlds.  Language shapes us and forms us.

For example:  When I say, “Let’s go to church,” what does that statement reveal about my understanding of the nature of the church?

Sometimes as leaders we are called to help people move from one deeply held perspective to another.  Words help make that shift possible.  Words build a staircase that allow people to move from where they are to where God wants to lead them.

In leading that kind of “perspective shift” at the Church, I recognized that a portion of our staircase was a little shaky.  It needed to be rebuilt.

Let me explain:  in pursuing a God-inspired vision which we call “One Church, Regional Impact” many have asked, and to some degree are still asking, “Why?”  I began to recognize that some did not understand the “Why” behind the “What”.  I realized, because of my work with Auxano, that this was a Values issue.  Words create worlds.  In this case, words articulate the answer to “Why?”

Here’s how we define Values as Missional Motives at the Church:

“In any given day there are a thousand things clamoring for our attention, a multiplicity of motivations that move us.  What we value will either direct us back toward center or divert us from what is truly worthwhile.  Values are the motivational flame of the church.  They are the shared convictions that guide actions and reveal our unique strengths.  These motives answer “Why do we do what we do at our church?”  They are springboards for daily action and filters for decision-making.  They distinguish our philosophy of ministry and shape our culture and ethos.”

the Church Leadership Guide

[Old]  Values

[New] Missional Motives – where everyday life becomes so much more

Growth – We value a lifelong journey with Jesus that results in individual growth and kingdom expansion.

Ordinary+ because ordinary people connected to Jesus share in Christ’s extraordinary mission.

Relational Service – We value people and the opportunities to meet their individual needs as an expression of the Gospel.

Step+ because simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.

Authenticity – We value genuine relationships and a sincere Christian lifestyle/behavior.

Friendship+ because friendships infused with Jesus expand the reach of true community.

Creativity – We value innovation in ministry.

Generosity+ because generosity empowered by Jesus fuels a contagious, others-centered culture.

Every Person a Missionary – We value the personal privilege given to every Jesus-follower to help others live life with Jesus every day.

Home+ because a home centered on Jesus becomes the epicenter of an active life of faith.


Here are 3 reasons why we are rearticulating our values.

The Motives behind our Motivational shift:

1)  Our values could be any church’s values.

They did not clearly express OUR unique motivation.

>> Ask:  What uniquely motivates your church?


2)  They didn’t help us answer the “Why”.

We were never using our value statements as an answer for people when they asked “Why?”

>> Ask:  As a leader in your local context, what “Why” questions are you answering?


3)  The words that we chose were not catalytic or compelling.

People did not want to speak them out loud.  They did not inspire anyone to participate in creating the culture that those words were trying to shape.

>> Ask:  Are your values serving as a motivational flame for your people?


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Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

I am Jeff Meyer, and I start fires. Ever since that basketball game in college when I came off the bench and lit a spark for my team, I have carried the nickname "Fire Meyer." (Until that point in my career my jersey #22 never saw the floor in an actual game. Perhaps the #22 was a symbol of my life calling: 2 Timothy 2:2?) I live to see sparks ignited and connections made. I long to see the church wake up and live. I long to see Jesus-followers display passionate commitment to Jesus. Jesus' invitation to follow Him was an adventure of epic proportions. Can we recapture that today? I long to see communities transformed into healthy places of wholeness. I believe that communities are transformed when Jesus-followers are stoked and respond. Perhaps you've heard it said that the church is the hope of the world. I believe that a responsive Jesus-follower is the hope of the world. "Igniting connections" is my way of setting off some inspirational sparks; sparks that ignite a passionate response to the call of Jesus.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
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