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Cultivating a Sending Culture


by Dave Phillips: Every church has a culture captured within the DNA of its people and reflected in the values and vision of its leadership. Whether it’s good or bad, well, that’s a whole different story! In this post, we want to explore one aspect of culture that has to do with creating an organic, natural approach to sending people out beyond the walls of the building many refer to as the church.

We know that the term church is really more accurately define as ecclesia, an assembly of people, or at least that’s what it was meant to be. We also know that many church bodies focus a huge amount of attention and effort on weekly productions where the body of Christ gathers to celebrate. The question we want to wrestle with is how do we go from a weekly gathering to a daily scattering? In other words, when people come together for corporate worship, what can we do to instill the idea that the wonder of worship is for building up and equipping so each of us can go and do the work for which we have been uniquely gifted?

This is the heart of a Sending Culture.

Culture is huge and difficult to change. To use the church building analogy, it is the foundation on which the structure is built. Modifying the concrete below the surface is no easy task. Most of us simply choose the easy route and either add on to the structure with careful architectural committee constraints, or we have to start from scratch.

That all sounds reasonable for a physical building, and it’s somewhat true when considering a cultural shift within a church. But we should not be quick to give up just because it’s challenging. If you really want to be challenged, think about the team that was traveling with Saul as they entered Damascus (read Acts 9:1-31). One of the biggest moments in church history changed in a flash, literally. After Saul’s conversion and baptism, he stayed in Damascus and gained incredible momentum. It’s a wonderful story that’s provided to us for more than a thriller movie plot. It’s there to motivate us to change.

We can move from a consumer-based Sunday gathering experience to a place where every Christ-follower knows they have a part in fulfilling the Great Commission. And, what’s most important – they are motivated and equipped to do the same.

How do we cultivate a Sending Culture?

That depends. Seriously, but you knew that before you read the words. Every place is different, every context is unique, but we can look for some common threads that make sense and lean on the experience of many who have gone before us.

You have to want a Sending Culture. Deep within, there must be a holy discontent for consumer-based Christianity. There are dozens of books to read to get you pumped up. Take a look at the list at the bottom of this post. Do whatever it takes to move your heart.
Your vision embodies a Sending Culture as a way of life. This isn’t the time for a mission minute or visiting missionary. Those visits are great, but it’s much more than simply presenting compelling videos from around the world. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just not the whole thing. When the body of Christ, your local church, understands that you are all about sending people out, they will naturally start asking questions if the vision is clearly communicated. That leads to the next point.
Every member knows their body part. The Holy Spirit has gifted each Christ-follower with specific gifts for the building up of the body of Christ right where they are. Some might be called to the far reaches of the world, but most are likely to stay in their hometown, local village, and current jobs. The Spiritual Gifts assessment we offer for free on this site is literally taken by hundreds of people each month. People want to know how they are uniquely gifted. Our job is to equip and train, but what good is training for some unknown goal? Back to vision!
You define specific targets for your congregation. It’s no good to say, “Go!” without giving direction. That will result in complete chaos. The most challenging part of cultivating a sending culture is figuring out appropriate targets for each individual or small group. This isn’t easy and we’re unlikely to provide all the answers in a simple post.

That will look different for your congregation at this point in time. It will likely look different in three years and probably looked completely different three years ago. You have to evaluate where you are and where you want to go. It is a moving target, so don’t study this thing to death. You can use our Church Life Cycle tool to help you figure out where you are as a church. You might be in a position to hire a consultant. The key is to recognize where you are and how to move in an intentional direction toward a vibrant, healthy and holy Sending Culture.


Further Reading:

Brad Brisco, ReThink, Free Downloadable eBook
Harvard Business Review, The Culture Factor
Bradley Bell, Ten Signs of Healthy Sending In Your Church

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