“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” so said Peter Drucker, apparently.
It’s true. Whatever our strategy is, no matter how strong it is, no matter how well discussed and diagrammed it is, it’s effectiveness depends on the culture of the organisation with that strategy. Put simply the culture of a church or organisation is where our strategy either stands up or falls flat on its face.
For example, as churches and church plants we can have all the cleverly strategized plans we like for reaching the lost. But unless our heart as a church, unless our culture loves the lost in a way that engages with them, evangelism will always feel like hard work. It will always be something we have to create an impetus for, or guilty people into doing, rather than being something that naturally flows out of the overflow of the love of Jesus we experience.
It’s equally true of everything we do in the church, be it pastoral care, Bible teaching, training, discipling and so on. We can have all the carefully crafted, colour coded, and laminated strategic plans for those things we want but we need to create a culture where those things happen or it will never happen consistently. And creating culture is not done in a moment, it is done in a thousand moments, it’s not done in the planning meeting but in the everyday grind of the reality of life together. It is not the result of one conversation but every conversation. It’s not something you create instantly but cumulatively through prayer and time studying and applying the Bible together and building each other up. Culture is the result of the gospel being at work in us and through us bearing fruit.
And here’s the scariest part it can be so easily lost. Cultures drift. We see that in the letters to the churches in the New Testament. We see it in the people of Israel in the pages of the Old Testament. What was a healthy culture that ministered out of an overflow of God’s love and mercy in obedience and service can so easily become a functional yet heartless going through the motions.
Culture is hard to create and easy to lose. But culture is what counts in the church. The long slow obedience of faithfully teaching God’s word, praying for people, pastoring them, discipling them, guarding them, over time creates a God loving and glorifying culture that in turn overflows into a people loving and serving community. But that’s not short term, talking strategy may give us a buzz, it may make us feel productive, but long term it is culture that eats strategy for breakfast. And culture is not about what you say but about what you are, it’s not about what you plan but what you do. Culture creates instincts whereas strategies create targets. Culture is the product of our everyday choices and actions to follow Jesus and love God and one another as we see Jesus and become transformed more and more into his likeness.