Culture Building Memo #3: It’s all about the culture

“What’s the future of disciplemaking in my church?” Tom asked. “I want to be a disciplemaking pastor. However, if disciplemaking depends upon me than it will dissolve in our church when I leave or retire. We must build a culture of disciplemaking.”

Ron and Mary experienced this insight’s reality in a dramatic way.

For two years, Ron and Mary had invested in a pastor and some key people in his church. Imagine their surprise when the pastor announced that he would be leaving. Would their efforts collapse? Too often, the vision of disciplemaking would leave with the pastor. Something different happened in this church, though, the Lord had built a culture.

Ron and Mary, with the pastor, had created a disciplemaking team. A group of ten congregational “influencers” had been discipled and were discipling others. They maintained the disciplemaking ministry during the pastoral transition. When the call committee interviewed pastoral candidates, this team had a voice in the selection. God gave them another leader with a like-heart for the Great Commission. The culture had been built through a team that embraced a disciplemaking vision beyond the work of the original pastor.

How do we know when a Great Commission culture has been established? Culture happens when we’ve moved disciplemaking from the ministry of a few to the passion of the many. Culture happens when disciplemaking has moved from the periphery to the mainstream. How do you do this? Two simple principles can build a culture.

The first principle is ownership. A disciplemaking vision must be owned by more than the senior pastor and staff. Ownership is created by a shared need and conviction. Conviction is gained as people discover together the biblical imperative of making disciples. We “own” what we discover. In the example of Ron and Mary, many owned the ministry of disciplemaking and influenced the selection of a future pastor.

Ownership is also built through experience. Theory or exhortations about disciplemaking must be replaced by people “feeling” that they’ve been discipled. In other words, disciplemaking has been modeled. When disciplemaking is felt, it will be owned and practiced. Until it is felt, it remains a nice theory or another exhortation that goes unfulfilled.

The second principle is a fourth generation. Pastor Rich is close to birthing a fourth generation in his church. He has discipled some men who are now discipling some men. When this third group “reproduces” themselves then a culture is being built. Generations indicate that the ministry is something more than just what Pastor Rich does. Disciplemaking is no longer the ministry of the few but the many. It’s now becoming the culture.

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