A Culture of Hope

Hanging in a hallway of our church offices is a beautifully framed text, with flourishing calligraphy, which simply says, “Caring relationships are key to the life of every endeavor.” This is one of the core values of New Hope Oahu.

Healthy relationships are so important to the Lord that he would rather we didn’t have church without them. Jesus said that if while offering a gift on the altar we remember a disjointed relationship, we are to leave the gift and go and make it right and then come back and offer the gift (Matthew 5:23).

Good relationships are what the Lord works through to do his work through his church.Those who suffer with cerebral palsy have the frustrating struggle of a bright mind that knows what it wants the body to do, but their muscles won’t respond to the impulses of the brain.

The body of Christ can suffer from a similar dysfunction when the body does not cooperate with the head, the Lord himself. If we are going to reach the world we first have to heal the body so that we can work together. The church becomes a beautiful expression of Jesus when the relational health of the church is high.

Jesus sent out His disciples two by two so that others could see the Good News in their relationship. If the Gospel isn’t credible in our relationships it will not be valued by others. The most extravagant and expensive gift ever purchased was done through the cross when Jesus died to give us healthy relationships with God and each other. We must be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in our teams to make our message more attractive.

Healthy relationships grow when the climate in our teams is healthy. To change, the church leaders need to change the culture.

Think of it this way; years ago my wife and I stopped in at the Grand Ole Opry for a little taste of bluegrass guitar picking. We wanted the experience of Southern hospitality, so we checked ourselves into the Grand Ole Opry Hotel.

The Dixie sun brought the outside temperatures just under the broiler zone. But when we opened the grand hotel entrance we were swathed in cooling breezes and a plantation ecosystem of waterfalls, magnolia blossoms and dangling ferns. Because the climate was controlled, sensitive plants could grow. I turned to my wife Anna and said, “This is the church!”

She said, “Honey you’re delirious from heat stroke. This is a hotel.”

I said, “No—this is what the church should be. What would be dying outside is thriving inside of this healthy climate. We need to create an ecosystem to keep hope alive. Then what can’t grow in the world will grow in the church because the climate is right.”

In my church, New Hope, I want to create a climate that is exactly what our name says … New Hope. We need a culture that enables hurting people without hope to find new hope in our church. How can leaders of teams change the culture of their ministry?

First determine the culture you want in your church. Our church’s core value statement came from dialoguing with over 300 people on our teams as we asked, “What do we value here at New Hope?”

Secondly, as a leader, decide that you will live out that culture. If you want acceptance, be accepting. If you want excellence, do your best. If you want accountability, be accountable. You will teach what you know but ultimately you will reproduce what you are.

Thirdly, encourage the culture of caring relationships everywhere you see it growing. Instead of looking for what is wrong, first celebrate what is right. Make heroes out of those who model the culture well.

Finally, continually correct back to the core values. Let the focus of correction not be what you as a leader want, but what your core values call your church to become.

Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest would erect in their communities totem poles carved with animals each symbolizing something their tribe valued. Maybe it was the strength of the bear, the vision of the eagle, the stealth of a fox, etc. The animals were stacked in an order of importance to shape their community. Everyone who walked into the village knew immediately what that community lived for.

What are the totems of your church? What do you value most? Take some time to think through your church’s totems together with your team. As you change your culture your church too will change.

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