Strong Church

“The Church is poised to make its most significant contribution to this world yet.”
4th Working Assumption, Farming Church Presentation

Ever have a flashback while you are preaching, teaching, or otherwise making a presentation? Recently, as I came to this 4th Working Assumption in the Farming Church Presentation, I flashed-back to a coach training course from 2006. The course was an introduction to assessment for those of us who would do Leadership or Executive Coaching. The Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI) was the particular memory flashing back. This excellent inventory evaluates the strength of an organization’s culture, as the name implies. Company employees answer questions about norms, standards, expectations, practices, roles, etc. All these combine to form the culture of the company. The outcome includes rating the company as “strong organizational culture” versus “weak organizational culture.” Strong organizational cultures tend to retain employees longer, especially motivated, high-performing employees.

Presenting the 4th Working Assumption above is what triggered this flashback. On the one hand, I find myself believing now is the perfect opportunity for groups of people (congregations) to rise up and demonstrate what it looks like to be organized around love. If this world ever needed groups of people (congregations) who are unafraid, who are courageously moving forward, working for reconciliation, renewal, and hope…it is now. If the world ever was experiencing the perfect storm wherein the Church could fill the gaps; wherein who and what the Church is about is just what’s needed…it’s NOW. So, that is my 4th Working Assumption which I believe with all my heart. The Church is poised to make its most significant contribution to this world yet. And, this is what the world needs from the Church…a most significant contribution.

While this is what I believe, I also live with eyes open. Were we able to administer the Organizational Culture Inventory to churches, I’m nervous about what we would find. My suspicion is we would find weak organizational culture in way too many churches. Too many are unsure of who they are and what they are about. What holds them together is traditionalism and a sense of duty…motivators surely to run dry in the near future. Sure, these churches may be hard to change, only because of their recalcitrant emotional and relational systems, not due to a strong vibrant culture. In order to make our most significant contribution to the world yet, we must be a strong enough organization to meet the challenges and stressors which rise up when we engage with our communities.

Ironically and fortunately, churches are perfectly poised to become Strong Culture Organizations due to one particular asset….Covenant. When individual disciples join a church, they make commitments which roll into one big commitment called covenant. When disciples in a congregation form a covenant faith community, then we hear statements like:
• “We are in this together, come what may”
• “We expect ups and downs as we move along, yet that doesn’t threaten our connection with each other”
• “We believe we are placed in faith communities in order to learn to love others, fulfilling the New Commandment of Jesus”
• “Since we are committed to each other, we can discuss the challenging issues of life, knowing we are in this together”
• “We can take mission-congruent risks, since we are sacred partners in this covenant relationship, providing support for each other while we stretch”

On the flip side, we all know what faith community looks like without covenant relationship. When challenge, growth, and stretching opportunities arise, consumer Christians shuffle off to other congregations. They have no idea this is a covenant-based faith community.

So what about your church? Suppose we were able to administer the Organizational Culture Inventory. How strong is your covenant with one another? How we answer these questions directly influences how strong our engagement with this broken world will be. Strong culture churches are secure enough with each other that they can step out in faith, knowing they have one another’s backs.
My prayer this week is that we will become the kinds of organizations who blow the lid off the scale on the Organizational Culture Inventory. Covenant is a part of who we are. Let’s reclaim our covenant understanding of church, becoming the Strong Culture Organizations our God is calling us to become. Through the grace, love, and power of Jesus Christ, may it become so.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle Leadership Associates