Years ago I heard the quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The point was the culture is a much stronger force than any strategy or plans we make. So the book I just finished reading, “Culture Shift” by Wayne Cordeiro and Robert Lewis addresses this. The book takes a look at the importance of a healthy church culture and outlines different ways to intentionally develop one. It’s a good read, and I think you’ll enjoy it. Here’s synopsis taken from the book. 

Culture is the most important social reality in your church. Though invisible to the untrained eye, its power is undeniable. Culture gives color and flavor to everything your church is and does. Like a powerful current running through your church, it can move you inland or take you farther out to sea. It can prevent your church’s potential from ever being realized, or—if used by the Holy Spirit—it can draw others in and reproduce healthy spiritual life all along the way. 

Want to change the future of your church for the better? It starts with acknowledging that regardless of how your church looks now, it has billion-dollar potential. The potential is found in your culture—the real and true culture of your church, not the quick- x culture you may so often be tempted to try. When you, along with other church leaders, accept that your key role is to be a steward who releases this deep spiritual potential into the lives of your people, the culture you desire will develop. 

A church’s culture represents the intersection of three values you are to steward: God’s kingdom agenda, who you are, and your unique setting. These are the foundational elements of a church’s culture. When church leaders get in touch with God’s kingdom culture, begin to live it, and figure out how it can be expressed in their locality, then a new, rich, culture inevitably emerges. 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Sow a thought, you’ll reap a desire. Sow that desire enough, you’ll reap an action. Sow that action enough, you’ll reap a habit. Sow a habit and you’ll reap your destiny.” It all begins with a thought: how you think about your church determines what you see and the culture you create. 

Christian shepherds with leadership gifts should be called upon to identify the primary flywheels of their church’s culture. These main gears are the ones that trigger other gears. Whatever the configuration of the secondary gears, if the main gear stops, hundreds of other gears stop. If the main gear cranks, the machine keeps moving. On the other hand, a small gear can stop or break and the others will keep cranking. Many times pastors and other church leaders put time, energy, and finances into the wrong gears and miss what the main gears are. 

Even if you have not yet identified your church’s culture, others have. Culture announces its identity through everything you do. The values of your culture—stated or unstated, thought out or unintentional—shape the feel, behavior, and attitude of a congregation more than anything else. 

How well have you identified your church’s culture? If you don’t take the time to identify its dominant values, you won’t be able to evaluate whether they are the values you really intend to express. Nor will you be able to check your alignment. For instance, how consistent are these values for yourself, for your congregation, and for all those with whom your church comes in contact? We use the term totem to help you identify your values and make them seen and heard. Silent but powerful, these values remind people in the most positive way of who they are and who they can be. 

By changing your church’s culture, you are releasing your church’s future. The rst step in the transformation is to identify your current culture. Doing so defines your starting point. We have found that four ingredients bring a church’s culture into focus: (1) leadership and values, (2) vision statement, (3) symbols, ceremonies, celebrations, and (4) you as leader. Mixed together, these ingredients produce the culture of a church. If there is commonality, they not only mix well but reinforce one another. The result is an even stronger overall influence of clarity and power. On the other hand, if these elements clash with one another in some way, the result is confusion, conflict, and a repelling influence that undermines clarity and power. 

Your church’s leadership is the personification of your church’s culture. The leaders are the living totems who influence others by demonstrating what the kingdom of God could look like as expressed through a particular church. But the Holy Spirit, who is at work in every believer, wants the rest of the church to become living totems as well. The breadth of your church depends on how many living totems you can develop and release. Great leaders have a unique ability to create many living totems who live out the values that the leaders have perceived and objectified for the congregation. 

The overall progression to lead a congregation through a culture shift looks like this: 

  1. Identify and believe God’s promises about your church’s potential.
  2. Model kingdom culture personally.
  3. Enlist allies to champion the culture shift. 
  4. Focus on “what we’re becoming.”
  5. Compare the vision of the future to present reality. 
  6. Outline a specific, doable pathway.
  7. Help it filter through the Church, and learn from feedback you receive. 
  8. Stay focused on transformed people, and on those receptive to change. 
  9. Make heroes of people who best represent the kingdom values.
  10. Celebrate every success, and give God the glory. 

The culture shift begins by believing in the potential of the people God has already given you, and then releasing the right culture through them. As the culture grows and matures, it transforms your church from the inside out. In the end, people all over town will begin to say, “Is something different about that church? Simply come across a few of its people, and you’ll know.” 

And when that happens, you will say, “Glory to God!” If the culture changes, everything changes including the future. 

Interested in reading the entire book? You can get it here: