It was during this first stage of Church Planting that I realised how important it was to have team members with us. We had led a bunch of people to Jesus, but it was basically just my family that were used to being around Church. Our Church culture was basically unchurched.
The culture was dictated by the unchurched, and from time to time I would have the odd Christian come to me to tell me that our Church wasn’t even Church. It looked nothing like Church.
Part of that was due to the fact that the Christians were super traditional. Part of it was that they had never been in a Church that had more not-yet-Christians than it had Christians. Part of it was that the Christians that we did have had a ratio of about 10-1 in favour of new Christians to disciple-makers.
This meant that many of our new Christians slipped through the net. It wasn’t until later in the journey that some of our guys actually started behaving like Christians. Even to this day our services are quite stayed and quiet. I’d love it to be raging and crazy Pentecostal, with words of prophecy and healing each week, but they are just not that way inclined.
Having said all of this, there were some things that became part of our DNA from the word go. In this part of the series I’d like to share how we did that, and how we have tried to shape the culture of our Church since.
By the time we arrived in Lincoln my wife had already fallen in love with the city and never wanted to move again. Within a few months my children had made some friends in their new schools and never wanted to move again. My dream of planting hundreds of Churches was going to have to happen without me moving anywhere.
Luckily I am quite a proclaimer and so from the very first meeting at our Church I have been telling everyone that we plan to plant a Church on each estate, in every village and in every town in Lincolnshire, eventually raising up Church Planters to spread out and saturate our nation with new Spirit-filled Churches.
From the word go I have been letting our congregation know that we expect them to be Pioneers in their workplace, school, and in their village or estate. This has led us to a place where we have a Youth Pastor who feels keen to plant another new Youth Church, an older couple who have fallen in love with a seaside resort who would like to pioneer a new Church there, and a young family who have recently moved onto another estate and are keen to be the guys who pioneer a new Church there.
Those that can’t move, want to pioneer new groups and ministries in our current location. Thanks to that early bias for pioneering, and the lifting up of the Pioneer spirit, we have now cultivated a DNA of pioneering in our Church.
You will unknowingly do the same with your own congregation, or group. The words you say and the things you lift up will become part of the DNA in your Church. Let’s just hope it’s not something negative like being judgmental.
People will copy the way that you behave. If you ask your congregation to be loud in worship, but then no-one can hear you, they will barely sing at all. Similarly, if you ask them to show grace, but then you take them off the kids rota every time they say something inappropriate, they’ll just become judgmental.
Again, I’m not telling you that you should be fake in any sort of way, but somewhere, somehow, someone needs to behave in a manner that you believe you want the culture of the Church to go.
They won’t share their faith if you’ve never done it. If you don’t share stories of God’s provision, they’ll never expect that God will provide for them.
One of the key thoughts that we need to get as leaders is that it’s not always about us either. If I’m the only person in Church that is holy, then the new Christians will think that only Pastors are holy, and that the rest of us don’t have to be. You’ll need to challenge some of the faithful in your team or congregation to get out of their comfort zone, or to up their game, from time to time.
If you’ve ever been around me during a ministry time you’ll notice how I often just tell people to get on with praying for others. Sometimes people get scared when I tell them to prophesy, but it can’t just be that the Pastor has the gifts. It needs to be shown that we all do.
Tell the reserved fella on the front row to pull those nails out that are holding his feet to the floor and start dancing like he’s filled with the Spirit.
It can take a while, and the majority of new Christians might not look like Christians until you’ve gone way past fifteen members, but discipleship is often the key to getting the Church to start behaving like they are saved.
Interestingly I only recently noticed that our Youth Church had turned into Church like you’d expect if you went to any other Church in town. They worship together, and then they sit down and listen to a whole preach. Sometimes they even complain if your preach isn’t long or deep enough. They want longer times of worship, and they are keen to have some prayer time.
It wasn’t long ago that they would be in and out of the meeting, getting drinks, going to the toilet and generally being quite restless. Our first plant was the same. For a long time they would be popping out for a cigarette, making themselves cups of tea and popping to the toilet during the worship and preach.
We just had to have a chat with them every now and again and explain what it means to be in love with the Saviour and to put him first in their lives.
Eventually it becomes the culture and then newcomers tend to just conform to the dominant culture.
The final way that you can create a culture is to inject leaders from outside of your team. We haven’t had much luck with this. Our Church was successful in winning the lost, but pants at bringing in new team members.
We tried bringing in a worship leader once in an attempt to bolster the heart of worship in the Church. He was great, but he probably wasn’t quite the right fit for us, and he thought so too.
However, if you can find someone who adds to who you are, then bringing them in can be a great way of creating a culture amongst the community. You might have a family member who can come along and bring some culture, or you might have a friend. If you’re part of a large network you could put something out on the grapevine to see if you can find the right person.
In all of this creating culture business you need to know one thing – if you don’t do it deliberately, you’ll do it accidently and once it has set, it’s very hard to change. So be intentional with how you create a DNA in your new community.