‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, as Peter Drucker famously said. This has been learned the hard way by many a sacred agent who wanted to help their church be more effective in making new disciples. It’s one thing to have great plans, it’s another to see them eroded by some kind of collective lethargy.
Lets play the longer game then. If culture eats strategy for breakfast, what eats culture for lunch? Surely culture is not the apex predator. Well, I’m going to suggest that liturgy eats culture for lunch. Slowly, perhaps lazily – it might be one of those long lunches. But it’s worth a look.
I once had the privilege of a week listening to Dr Mike Goheen’s teaching. (He thinks deeply about how Western culture receives and resists the gospel and his books are well worth a browse.) He spoke about how his house-church at the time loved to sing a song you’ll probably know:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace
He loved it too, but said he found the third line increasingly troubling, so they changed four words to make it “And the things of earth take their rightful place.” It was a little hack, seeking to rejig a church-culture of separating church-life from the rest-of-life. They knew that interest in Jesus shouldn’t mean disinterest in the things of earth, but that Christ puts them all into perspective so that we see them clearly and deal with them rightly.
Sacred agents can sometimes feel that we spend too much energy on Sunday gatherings and not on wider ministry and mission. That may well be true. But the answer isn’t to neglect our worship practices. They form us deeply. Instead of separating the two, let’s look at how our gatherings (and wider liturgy) can be intentionally shaped to better shape us as Christ’s missionary people, a royal priesthood.
For it turns out that Christ himself is the apex, and that that simple song (with Goheen’s tweaks) is not only the illustration, but the lesson here. The more our liturgy helps us to see and engage with who he really is – the better it will shape us culturally and energise our strategic endeavours.
Are there tweaks to your liturgy (corporate, family and personal) that might nibble away at unhelpful elements of your church’s culture?
Crossover exists to Help Australian Baptists Share Jesus. Check out our new Baptism Hub on crossover.org.au/baptism
*Andrew Turner is Director of Crossover for Australian Baptist Ministries.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (1922 – public domain) – original music and lyrics by Helen Howarth Lemmel