Why mission is culture before structure

What culture are you part of??

Having spent a lot of time abroad recently, I have often found myself speaking about “culturewhilst processing my new experiences and relationships. It is seemingly agreed that culture and cultural values can be defined by observing the following aspects of life in a community or society: language, thoughts, arts and sciences (which are essentially the most refined forms of human expression), spirituality, social activity and interaction. Each of these certainly represented a point of difference to me whilst living in a different country. Essentially everything is different!

 All this has made me realise that, when establishing a new culture in a Missional Community, the values of what I am trying to grow must pervade and be evident in every aspect of that group of people. In recently starting a new community, I have also seen what a challenge this can be! Our word “culture” was actually first used in Late-Middle English to describe a piece of land that had been tilled or ploughed. I think this is helpful picture to have in our minds when we find it hard or exhausting and the change is slow! It takes consistent time and effort.

The main missional values that we tried to establish in this particular MC were love and service. This involved a slow process of getting people to engage with opportunities to serve mission “projects” around them that were already happening and using it as an opportunity to learn to think about others in a more missional way in their primary mission context; in this case young adults. It was exciting to see the change in people over the course of a few months as they began to adopt a culture of loving and serving those less fortunate than themselves and asking the question of “How does this apply to the rest of my life?” I think this is the point where it became part of the culture as people looked to make mission part of their whole lives and not just an event. Over time and in small ways, it became part of the language, thoughts, expression, spirituality and activity of the group.

My observation would be that, as leaders, we also need to be so aware that what we consistently model is what sets the culture of our community, because we are the ones that define it. This has got me thinking about the following;

Which values do we want to define our culture?

Do we talk about them?

Do we model them in our lives?

Do we give others invitation/challenge to practise them as well?

I think once we have “tilled” these cultural values into our communities, it becomes so much easier for people to grow and become fruitful and see mission become part of our lives and not just our diaries.

Images courtesy of xedos4 and Bill Longshaw