Culture: Counting the Cost – Part 1

As we ramp up our discussion on church culture as we move closer to the first week of March when we will gather in Orlando for Exponential, one of the first points we need to tackle is counting the cost of making those small changes that will create a more significant impact. On the flip side, we need to dive deep into what it will cost if we don’t make those changes (Part 2).

We’ve already talked about how the church is meant to be a living, moving organism. The early church only had letters written by the apostles to go on. Those letters shaped their faith tremendously, ultimately, with the fruit of thousands upon thousands coming to Christ. The boldness and fearlessness they received by the power of the Holy Spirit are what allow us to have access to the Gospel. The early Christians started a movement – The Church. And the Church is still moving and evolving for the glory of our risen Savior.

The Cost of Changing the Culture in Your Church

I’ve been in church my entire life, and one thing I know to be true is that change happens very slowly. I was on staff at a church where we rarely, if ever, talked about discipleship (although “making disciples” was in our tagline). After about eight years into my eleven years at that church, a dialogue started, and I remember being so full of hope. Perhaps, my church would become about something more than the Sunday gathering. I craved those deeper relationships found only in discipleship-style relationships.

While there is something to be said about moving culture slowly, at some point, there will be a shift, and not everyone is going to like it. Here are a few things you could lose in the process:

1. You may lose friends.

When the Holy Spirit has captured your heart and given you clear vision for where He wants to take your church, your friends are likely not going to understand. People you thought would always be there may leave.

Job is an extreme example of this. Job is under attack from the enemy. He loses everything. His friends think Job must be a colossal screw-up. What did he do wrong to make God so angry? These “friends” encourage Job to curse God and die. Job insists upon his innocence, and in the end, his friends are nowhere in sight.

2. People will leave your church…

…especially if you or your lead pastor does not communicate the vision and mission clearly and often. Additionally, the pastor can’t just talk about the mission and vision. He or she must live it! In conversation with staff and church attendees, the pastor must speak passionately about the direction/journey on which God is leading.

Think a moment about the zeal the early church had for Christ – so much so that many of them laid their lives down for the cause of Christ. In fact, in those first years of Christianity, when new Christ-Followers would go out to get baptized, they were essentially marking themselves for martyrdom. The Romans were always looking and seeking ways to destroy what God was doing.

Now think about your own zeal and passion for Christ. If you feel like your relationship with Him has become dull, pray and ask Him to renew the truth of the Gospel in your heart and mind. Your church, community, and beyond needs you to carry that passion.

3. The money may dry up.

It’s a natural effect. When people leave your particular church, it cuts at the church’s finances. You may struggle to understand how you are supposed to do the work you’re supposed to do with fewer and fewer resources.

I would encourage you here. I have never seen anyone forsaken by God for obeying Him. Does life get more challenging? Yes. But consider this training for your faith. If everything in life comes easy, the money is always there, your kids never mess up, etc., you will never learn what it truly means to have that supernatural trust you obtain only through faith. (Read Romans 5:1-5).

The Personal Toll

This list above is, in no way, all-inclusive. What I didn’t mention is the emotional and mental toll some of these losses could mean for your heart. You are not a machine. You have genuine connections with people, and the loss of those people-connections can hurt emotionally. As you move and others remain stagnant, the temptation will be just to forget the mission you’re on and settle for the status quo. But I can tell you from experience that there is no greater joy and contentment in life than walking in obedience to the Holy Spirit. You will learn that He is indeed all you need, and what He will eventually turn around and do is grow your capacity for love. People will begin to show up, not just in your church, but people who want to support and cheer you on will be there.

Remember that all of us here at Healthy Growing Churches are here to help you along your journey through various offerings. We understand that cultural change is challenging and tough, but not changing could have grave effects for those in your community. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion as we talk about counting the cost of NOT changing.