Culture Change

The end of the college basketball season – like the end of any sports season – usually involves several high profile coaching changes.  Some coaches are “let go” because of not meeting the school’s expectations, like Ben Howland at UCLA. Other coaches are offered bigger and better opportunities because they exceeded expectations, like Andy Enfield, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast University, being offered the head job at USC (though it’s hard to imagine that he will ever have a more exciting ride than what the Eagles provided this season!).  Often times these transitions are accompanied by talk of making a “culture change” at a particular school.  Similar language is often used in discussions of bringing in new management or leadership in the business world.

Though the word usually goes undefined, it’s not hard to intuitively grasp what a “culture change” involves.  It means developing a new mindset or a new attitude in regards to the task at hand, whether that task is winning basketball games or boosting a company’s productivity.  As I understand it, a culture change does not simply mean following a different routine or a new schedule.  For example, a new coach can put new drills in place at the beginning of practice, but if the players and assistant coaches engage those drills with the same complacent attitude that carried over from last year’s losing season, it won’t necessarily result in improved performance on the court.  Somehow the coach has to inspire his team to not simply change what they do; he has to inspire them to think differently about what they do.

I think the church could benefit from a little culture change.  Somehow, we’ve got to learn to think differently about the mission of the body of Christ.  Our consumer-driven culture has created a mentality which says that the church leadership – particularly the church staff – are supposed to “produce” ministry while the people in the pews are supposed to “consume” ministry.  And, the moment the product being offered stops “meeting my needs,” then I, the consumer, will go elsewhere to find a better product.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Church leadership (including yours truly) always needs to be held accountable for fulfilling our responsibilities.  But ministry is not the work of the paid staff; ministry is the work of all the people of God.  In the New Testament church the people were not expected just to show up and consume the services of the professional clergy.  They couldn’t, because there were no professional clergy!  In the New Testament church, the people were the church, plain and simple.  The whole people of God were called to take the whole message of God to the whole world.  In whatever their walk of life, where ever their daily routines took them, they were the church – always and everywhere.

The consumer mentality is so deeply ingrained in us by the culture in which we live that it will be hard to overcome.  We are trained and shaped at every turn to think of ourselves primarily as consumers – as people who exist to have our needs met.  People often say that they come to church to “be fed.”  Well, yes, good spiritual nutrition is important, and if those of us in leadership are not providing it, we need to be held accountable.  But “being fed” is never an end unto itself; we are nourished for the purpose for doing the work of the gospel.

I can only imagine Andy Enfield’s success at Florida Gulf Coast University had to do with something deeper than simply running more efficient basketball practices.  Somehow, he managed to convince the kids who played for him that they really could win.  He got them to buy into a mentality in which they saw themselves as winners in the highly competitive world of college athletics. He brought about a culture change.  A similar truth holds for us at Bayshore Baptist Church.  We can tinker with new worship styles and new committee structures and find ways to run more efficient business meetings, but if it is not accompanied by a similar change in how we think about what we are called to do, it won’t amount to much. It all needs to be accompanied by a shift in our mentality that begins to see every person who is part of this family as responsible for the health, vitality, and success of this church.

The good news is that the New Testament provides one testimony after another to the fact that this kind of shift is possible.  The people who lived in the immediate wake of Jesus’ resurrection were, amazingly enough, open to being pushed and pulled in new directions – to changing how they thought about themselves, their world, and their God.  They moved out from the disappointment of the crucifixion to engage the world with the good news of resurrection Sunday.  Let us pray that the same resurrection Spirit catches fire in us this Easter season!