Culture Trumps Strategy


One of the reasons that churches fail to change or be effective is the leaders change the wrong things.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. -Peter Drucker

In their book Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and ChurchesPeter Greer and Chris Horst point out corporate culture is tough to pin down. It’s difficult to define. But it sure is easy to feel. Culture is just “what happens.”

Every church says their strategy is to welcome new people, help people meet Jesus, grow in their relationship with Jesus, develop leaders and plant churches. Yet, for a very few churches is this reality.

Most churches do not see guests, new believers, baptism’s or disciples.


Their culture fights it.

So what do you do? How does a pastor change a church?

Go for the culture. Define the culture you want. Then go for that.

Don’t tell me that your strategy is the great commission if you aren’t seeing anyone start following Jesus.

Peter Greer said, “Leaders cultivate corporate culture within faith-based organizations just like they cultivate their own spiritual lives.”

You must create boundaries, policies, rules (whatever you want to call them) to keep the culture you are going for clear and on track.

You must celebrate the things that matter most, that help you accomplish your culture.

If your culture that you are going for has new Christians in it, celebrate when that happens. If it is baptism’s, celebrate when they happen. Tell stories. Show videos. Preach sermons.

Don’t leave it to chance. Too many pastors seem content to leave their desired culture to chance and hope that a strategy will enable to accomplish their vision.



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Why do You Do What You Do (Lesson on Vision from Starbucks)


One of the most important questions every person, leader, organization must answer is “Why do we do what we do?”

If you don’t know the answer to this question, anything is fair game or a good idea. This question answers how you spend your time, spend your money, how you deploy volunteers or staff members. If it is not clarified from the top on down, an organization or church will languish.

The answer to this question empowers people and helps them to know that their contributions matter, are needed and are making a difference.

I recently saw this at Starbucks.

One of the things we’ve done for years at Starbucks is order a large smoothie for our kids and split it into 3 small cups. This helps us spend less and give our kids the amount that they need.

Last week, Katie ordered it that way (as we’ve done for almost 5 years) and the barista said, “we can’t do that.” When Katie asked why, the barista didn’t know. She just said they aren’t allowed to that.

What makes this interesting is how Starbucks has always trumpeted “say yes whenever you can to the customer.” They will remake drinks if they don’t taste right, give out free water if you ask for it and on and on.

Needless to say, knowing this it seemed odd.

Then, we went to a different Starbucks the other day and ordered it again and the barista said, “we can’t do that.” Again, Katie asked why and she didn’t know. A manager jumped into the conversation and said, “we can’t do that because we’ve been taken advantage of.”

Here’s where a lack of a clear why destroys a company or church, scarcity comes in. Volunteers and staff aren’t sure what is okay. You say, “always say yes” and then create rules. Fear grows and things stagnate.

Now, will Starbucks go under because of this. No.

Think about my family though and what Starbucks will lose: In the past we’d spend $5 on a smoothie we split into 3 cups. Now, I’ll order 3 tall waters for free. I’ll still get the cups, the straws and the sleeves because my kids love those. The difference? I’ll take money from Starbucks instead of giving it to them.

Running your organization or church through scarcity or a lack of why is destructive. Do you need to be wise? Yes. Make money to survive? Yes. But those who seek to protect instead of give away or be generous quickly find themselves scrambling to keep what they have. Our culture loves generosity, not scarcity. In churches, God blesses generosity, not scarcity.

Links of the Week

  1. Harvard Business on 8 ways to communicate your strategy.
  2. Dispelling myths of expositional preaching. I love expositional preaching and these are definitely myths.
  3. Leadership network on Finding and developing a campus pastor.
  4. Shaun King on Stressed out pastors, crazy sins, and the death of pastor Zach Tims. This is a great, and sad look at what it can be like for pastors and how a church can help.
  5. 13 things Perry Noble would tell church planters. Great list here for planters or those thinking about it.
  6. Joe Thorn on Preaching like a man on fire.
  7. Tim Chester on 12 reasons to give up porn.
  8. Glenn Stanton on The link between premarital sex and divorce.
  9. Can parents make faith for their kids last?
  10. Tim Chester on Is your dining room table on mission?
  11. Jen Smidt on A wife’s testing ground.
  12. Great singleness, great marriage & great sex.
  13. Bob Franquiz on Why you have no leaders in your church.

Links of the Week

  1. 10 power principles on church strategy. These are 10 principles we work hard to keep in mind at Revolution.
  2. Tony Morgan on It’s about life change, stupid.
  3. Ed Stetzer on Missing the missional mark.
  4. If you are on twitter, here are 111 can’t miss twitter tools.
  5. Perry Noble on the Difference between a coach and a critic part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.
  6. Clayton King on How to pray for your pastor. I can’t tell you how important it is and how grateful Katie and I are when people are praying for us.
  7. Tim Keller’s review on The Shack. Great review of this book. As always, Tim says it better than all of us.
  8. Scott Thomas on How can a loving God allow devastation in Haiti (and in my life)?
  9. Ten reasons churches stall. Great article on how to keep your church healthy, vital and growing.

Next Series: No Perfect People Allowed

This fall, we are preaching line by line through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). It is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon and covers everything from heaven, hell, marriage, money, prayer, fasting, forgiveness, and what it means to follow Jesus.

To go through this sermon, we are breaking it into 4 smaller series. The first series is called No Perfect People Allowed.


Many people in our culture love Jesus, but can’t stand his followers or his church. Why is that? How can so many people be enamored by Jesus but have such a distaste for those who claim to follow Him?

Somewhere along the way, the church got away from what Jesus was all about, got away from his core teachings. In this series we’ll look at what Jesus calls his followers to and how that plays out in our daily lives, as well as what that looks like for us as a church. We’ll specifically get into the mission of Revolution and why we exist.

Here’s how this series breaks down:

  • August 29: Come & See (Matthew 5:1 – 2)
  • September 5: Come & Die (Matthew 5:3 – 12)
  • September 12: Go & Tell (Matthew 5:13 – 16)
  • September 19: Impossible (Matthew 5:17 – 20)

Revolution’s Target

A little over a year ago I was reading Why Men Hate Going to Church and felt one of the clearest callings I have ever felt. Most churches, without even trying are geared towards women. The way small groups are done, the types of ministries that people can help with, the way preaching is done, the title of messages and series, as well as the kind of songs that are sung.

After spending some time praying through what I felt, as we talked about Revolution it was clear, we need to target men. We need to call men to be men, to fulfill their roles, to raise up men. One thing every study has ever proven is that if you get the man, you get the wife/woman and kids. If you get the woman, you get the kids and most of the time, the man stays home. For us it isn’t about being cool or even growth as much as we clearly know we are called to this.

We started asking, what do men look for, what does the Bible call them to be, what kinds of sermons and titles would appeal to them, what do men value? At Revolution, we want to be action oriented, we want to be doing something, church is not about sitting on your hands watching the parade go by. When we think through sermons and titles, we ask “Will this appeal to a man?” Again, this appeals to women as well, this does not mean you don’t think about them.

We are also right now thinking through how to do small groups through this lens.

As we looked at who was at Revolution and the city of Tucson (55% of the city is in the 20 – 40 age range) we said, “Our target is 20 – 40 year old men.” That doesn’t mean people out of that age range or gender don’t matter to us, they do. That also doesn’t mean people out of that demographic arent’ welcome, they are. It also doesn’t mean that if you aren’t in that demographic you won’t like Revolution, because you might. We have a good amount of people outside of that demographic. Revolution is 50% male and around 15% is older than 40.

What this means is that when questions come up about what to do at Revolution we ask 3 questions:  1) Does it help people find their way back to God? 2) Does it fit into our strategy, will we stay simple if we do this? 3) Does it reach our target?

Revolution’s Strategy

As I’m getting ready for our next series, I’ve been thinking through our vision, strategy, target and where we are headed as Revolution.

Last week about vision and promised that I would share what Revolution’s strategy is this week. Our strategy comes from a desire to be simple. This is important to keep in mind. One of the things that many churches wear as a badge of honor is how much they do. It is ironic since most Americans complain how overloaded their lives are. Between their jobs, marriage, hobbies, throw kids and their activities into the mix and it is easy to see why burnout occurs in everyone from mom and dad to the kids. I remember one church I worked at and I was in a meeting and the one pastor said, “Your family can be at our church 7 nights a week.” I raised my hand and asked “Is that a good thing?” The looks I got, you would have thought I swore or something. Obviously, I didn’t know the definiton of a good thing.

Our strategy is simple, we want one everyone in our church to do 3 things, and we explain these using 3 dots. We want everyone to come to church on Saturday, to be in a small group and to use their gifts inside and outside of the church. Right now, we do 4 things:  worship gathering, small groups, outreach, and kids ministry. Someday, we will add a student ministry, but that is it. Will it always be this way? I don’t know, but right now it is.

We want to do 4 things (someday 5) and we want to do them well. That’s it. The problem is that when you do a lot of things, it is very difficult to stay focused on your mission. Things become blurry and you aren’t sure what is important because there is so many different things going on.

Here is what happens, if you add something, that means the people in your church must decide between 2 things and which they will give their time to. Most leaders would say that of the two 2 possibilities, one is great and the other one is good. One of the things we did was to take a look at the Bible and see what the New Testament church did and what people did, what Jesus calls Christians to be. They gathered for worship/teaching, community and they served/reached out.

For more ideas on this, check out the book Simple Church.