In my previous blog post, I shared how leaders establish culture through what they teach and model, as well as by what they pay attention to, reward and sanction. I want to continue the topic of creating culture by looking at Christ.
A Thought Experiment
Imagine Jesus is the leader of your church—Hopefully he is!—in a sense similar to when he walked this earth.
– What would you experience?
– What might you feel?
– How might you belong?
– How would you know you belong?
– What would happen if you failed or did something wrong?
– What would happen if you succeeded?
In contrast to the cultural milieu of ancient times, which we can describe as highly stratified, having clear definitions of who’s “in” and who’s “out,” allowing only certain people to lead based on birth and social status, and an environment where religion happened through maintaining the Law (Jews) or appeasing the gods (Romans), Jesus prophetically welcomes the “sinners,” disregards all stratification (eating with the “unclean,” “clean,” poor, wealthy), invites the unexpected to lead (fishermen, a tax collector, women) and demonstrates God’s kingdom reign (shalom) through good news, healing, deliverance and ultimately through conquering sin, death and Satan.
For those whose lives were languishing or squelched, whether because of demons or other spiritual, emotional, or physical sicknesses (or some combination thereof), Jesus offered release and participation in a fully flourishing life. This kingdom-of-God-oriented community was to partake fully in God’s triune life and extend this life to others.
Establishing a Flourishing Culture
In my studies of the gospels, I note a pattern of four behaviors Jesus models in order to establish a flourishing culture.
1. Authentic Engagement
Jesus traveled, ate, slept, drank and ministered with his partners. He knew people’s hearts, concerns, disappointments and joys. He also allowed others to know him. “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.” No secrecy. No hiddenness.
2. Invitation to Participate
Jesus invited men and women to participate in God’s reign and share that reign with others, even when they didn’t have it all together, even when they inevitably would fail. No special lineage, schooling, gender, or social status was needed.
It’s one thing to participate, it’s another to have the authority and power to do so. In addition to an invitation to participate, Jesus gave this power and authority. Later, Jesus and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to empower those who first witnessed Jesus’ life. This same Holy Spirit empowerment extends to us.
Jesus corrects life-squelching beliefs, attitudes and actions. He called the Pharisees hypocrites because they had lost sight of God’s compassion and love. They would rather a man suffer with a withered hand than for that hand to be healed on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath because it’s better to “do good” and “save life.”
The above behaviors established a flourishing culture—a reproducing, life-oriented environment where anyone could experience God’s true heart. These patterns provide a framework for us, too, for our modeling, teaching and attention, to create a flourishing culture.
We will explore these ideas further in my next blog post when we look at the levels of culture.
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