Looking back, looking forward: Cultural Evolution – Part 2

Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing a series of blog posts written by Egil
Egil_Elling_pictureElling (@egilelling), from Stavanger, Norway. Egil is a good friend of 3dm, a gifted leader, and a man of integrity.  In Autumn 2011 Egil Elling took on the role as lead Pastor of IMI Kirken, a large local church, following Martin Cave who had led the church since 1979. He’s married to Hildegunn, and has two children , Elia (3) and Frida (1). They have lived in Stavanger for six years.

Each of Elling’s posts reflect on the process of taking an existing church culture and foundation, and building on it to further the Kingdom of God.  If you haven’t already read the first post we recommend reading it here before continuing with Elling’s second post.

In the first post Elling  looked at how we can use what God has already done in our church as a starting point for looking forward. He shared how communicating vision in accessible language is a key part of building on what’s already been established in the local church. In this post he looks at how we can materialize our words into concrete practices and begin to disciple others in those core beliefs and practices.

Turning words into Reality

Words alone don’t create culture. They have to be materialized into concrete practices. In order to experience a culture it has to be made real with actions, habits and practices.

Who needs discipling in our Core Values?


What are we passing on?

As a staff team we began to think about reproducing disciples, and creating a discipleship culture. We were challenging each other by asking “Who are you passing your life and your competence onto?”

Many of our staff found this challenging for two reasons. The first was that they needed to find and identify the people to disciple (Who), and the second was that they needed to know what they were passing on (What).

The combination of Language(post 1) and identifying Core Practices (this post) is a great tool for people to use  as basic content  that they can use and pass on as they disciple others.

What Practices already reflect our Core Values?

So we began to identify the core practices that reflect the culture our words sought to express. As a staff team we sat down and brainstormed and started to identify practices we already saw in the church.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

* For many, many years we’ve trained our people in this simple prayer model: Pray – Listen – Speak it out – Bless. This means that more or less anyone who’s been part of our discipling communities over the last 20 years knows how to pray for someone, and get a word from God for them. This is a great practice to pass on to new people and next generations!

* For several years we’ve been doing a kindness week in our city, where all the members of the church use their afternoons to bless people in the city in practical ways like painting houses, cleaning up gardens and so on. This has become a great training ground, that has led to lots of other things happening throughout the year. Therefore we have a lot of examples of simple ways to bless neighbours, colleagues and so on. This is a great practice to pass on and help build the Gods goodness culture further.

So through this process we had both identified some core theological beliefs as well as some core practices that shape the culture of our three dimensions.

I mentioned in the previous post that the words we choose to use in our “language” are an opportunity to shape the things we want to add to the culture. It’s a similar process here. In identifying core practices we may, as leaders, realise that there are others that we think need to be added, or strengthened.

Shaping training and mentoring around Core Beliefs and Practices

We didn’t just want these to remain as nice words or ideas on a piece of paper sat on my desk. We wanted a systematic way of enabling everyone to be trained in, and to live out these practices. So we started to shape our training and mentoring around it. Our courses on discipleship and leadership are now built around these three dimensions , with our core beliefs and practices as primary content.

Continuing as students,  using the lens of our Values

On a final note: Don’t misread me here as saying “Now we’ve got it”. I’ve said to my team “We have now become students of God’s presence, Gods family and Gods goodness.” When we read something, observe something, experiment with something – we try to view it through the lens of our values and connect it to our language and practices, so that we can continue to grow in all three areas.

Suggested reading:

Andy Crouch: Culture making gives some good insights on how a culture needs become concrete to actually be culture.


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