Unpacking Kingdom Culture
To get a handle on the elements of Kingdom culture, we began to look at the impact of any culture and how to understand it. We have found it helpful to think of culture in five areas. They are interconnected and overlap. They reflect, together, cultural DNA. Just like a DNA helix, they imprint everything you think, say, and do. The mission effectiveness of your church, as we have come to understand it, is greatly dependent on the DNA of Kingdom culture among the people.
The five components, in summary form, are as follows: (1) values — what you demonstrate is important, (2) beliefs — what your life reflects you understand as truth, (3) attitudes — the posture of your life before God, (4) priorities — what you will consistently do first, and (5) worldviews — how you understand the world and the way the world works.
When you focus on Kingdom culture, as taught by the Master and His immediate followers, you can see the five components quite clearly. But when you apply them to local churches — not so much! What follows is two examples of Kingdom culture drift for many churches.
Example one: the recruitment of volunteers to complete a task. This is “life as usual” in many churches. It sounds harsh, but most volunteer operations use people to fill a task. From the perspective of Kingdom culture, it’s clear that God wants people to experience divine fulfillment — which is more important than getting any particular task accomplished. In Kingdom culture, people don’t have jobs, driven by a need. They have a calling, driven by their spiritual gifts. They aren’t recruited to a ministry, they are discipled into the work. Again, this is not meant to be critical of any church, just insightful.
Example two: the church decision-making structure often reflects high control. Many churches have boards, committees, votes, congregational meetings, even — in some churches — Robert’s Rules of Order. In the Jesus culture, the movement is low control. The New Testament movement, like every revival, was out of control — humanly speaking. Before you get concerned about church disasters that come from low control, you should include the Kingdom balance: high accountability. This is reflected in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15-17 about confronting one another. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, adds commentary to this culture: Christians are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). An analysis of many churches is insightful: low accountability allows gossip rather than confrontation. Some churches even encourage anti-“high accountability” by having a “committee” (high control) to hear grievances about the church staff, without the church staff present!
Healthy Churches are Possible!
Our analysis demonstrates that culturally healthy churches are more effective in outreach and mission. We developed metrics that measure nine categories of spiritual health. (Only nine, simply because we wanted to be able to monitor the data.) These nine categories are a sampling of Kingdom culture. When those in worship are surveyed every six months, these nine categories show a significant increase in spiritual health. While the survey does not reflect every dimension of a Christian lifestyle, it is a dramatic start in the right direction. This is great news for anyone who loves the Body of Christ.
The growth of Kingdom cultural vitality takes time. Our work with churches shows a tipping point in vitality after about three years of guided growth in Kingdom culture. The time length is counterintuitive to most church leaders. Why? Because our secular culture is all about a quick fix. You may recognize that Jesus spent about three years with His disciples. Honestly, it’s a hard sell for church leaders to focus three years on becoming rather than doing. It just works!
Most church leaders want to purchase programs, which implies a top-down approach, starting with fanfare from the pulpit. Again, read Jesus. He even asked His disciples to keep quiet on occasion. We have discovered that real change occurs from the bottom up, a movement through relational invitation. That may remind you of one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: patience. Jesus spoke regularly of planting seeds and harvest. Growing Kingdom culture is organic, like planting a garden.
“Yeast” is the centerpiece of what we do to help churches. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like yeast in bread. What does that say? Yeast is practically invisible. It takes time — and it changes everything! Remember when Jesus warned His followers to watch out for the “yeast of the Pharisees”? What was that? It was the culture of rules, regulations, a religion of burden, of programs, of works — not grace, not relationships.
What scholars say about Jesus’ use of the concept of yeast is interesting. The word reflects “unconscious influence.” Think about that. Kingdom culture is not another program. It is about who you are and who you become. It is a 24/7 lifestyle, not an activity. It’s not about programs, it’s about empowering (discipling) people to be Christ, every day, everywhere.
This leads to exponential growth of the local church, sometimes called a revival. So, what is God saying to you? And what are you going to do about it?
Byline: Kent R. Hunter is the founder of Church Doctor Ministries. His most recent book is Who Broke My Church? 7 Proven Strategies for Renewal and Revival.