*This message is adapted from a post on my personal development page at NextLevelLiving.blog. That post is entitled Six Pillars of an Identity Culture.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
(To watch the video version of this teaching, please Click Here)
A culture has been defined as the set of predominating attitudes and behaviors that characterize a group or organization. When it comes to creating a culture, it really doesn’t take much. There is only one thing you have to do in order to create a culture in any group you are part of. That one thing is…nothing!
I say this because even when you do nothing, there is a culture forming there. It may be a negative culture, but it’s there, nonetheless.
Groups are made up of individual people. These are people with their own identities, tendencies, expectations, preferences, and beliefs.
Even if the group professes to have the same beliefs in such areas as political, religious, or societal convictions, you can be sure that for every person involved there is a different belief in how those convictions should be carried out as a group.
With this said, there will always be a culture of some sort. The question is, what kind of culture do you want to have? If you do nothing and just let things float along, it will produce a culture of every man or woman doing what is right to them. This goes for sports teams, military units, churches, families, etc.
In our church for example, we cultivate a culture of faith AND work. This is where everyone is learning to walk with God by faith, while at the same time showing that we are serious about the things of God by contributing and working together in His kingdom. Not the members doing everything for the ministers nor the ministers doing everything for the members.
We get our inspiration for this culture from the Bible, in James 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James shows us what a Christ-centered culture looks like!
If somehow you can establish a Christ-centered culture that is embraced and enforced by those in the group (and often this is the biggest hurdle), then there is great potential for doing bigger and better things, or as Jesus answered and said…thou shalt see greater things than these. John 1:50
As the old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, go together”. In this case, we are talking about going together in a unified and Christ-centered culture.
I believe that when those in a group (again, whether it’s a church, family, etc.) know who they are as a group, it will guide the conduct accordingly. The same holds true when you’re building a Christ-centered culture on a personal level as well. Below, are six statements that will aid us when creating a Christ-centered culture.
1) “This is Who We Are”
Jesus did not back down from who He was, and neither do we have to either.
If there is one thing satan does not want you and me to know, it is who we are in Christ! Who are we as God’s people?
We are the salt of the earth…Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth…
We are the light of the world…Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world…
We are from above and not from beneath! John 8:23 And he said unto them, …I am from above…I am not of this world.
None of these are meant to be a pride trip, but at the same time when you are a child of God who has been born again from above, you don’t have to shrink from that knowledge either! It doesn’t matter if in the world people call us manager, Sergeant Major, Captain, Colonel, CEO, CFO, COO, etc. We are a child of God wherever we go and there is a Christ-centered culture that comes with being a child of God!
“That is NOT Who We Are”
In order to prevent being pulled in multiple directions away from God in this life, we must also be able to say, “That is NOT who we are”. As Paul writes in Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines…
A culture becomes unhealthy when those within it become unwilling to say, “That is NOT who we are”. This phrase will by nature weed some people out of your life. This is all part of a healthy identity culture. In order for a Christ-centered culture to remain healthy, only those who have embraced that cultural identity will remain in it.
Honestly, the phrase “That is NOT who we are” should be said more often than it usually is. There are times we should be saying, “I’m going to say ‘no’ to this because God has something far better for me!
As a child of God, when we are striving for a Christ-centered culture in our church, our home, or in our own personal lives, we can confidently say “This is who we are, and I don’t have to back down from that!”.
2) “This is What We Do”
Now that we’ve established who we are in Christ and the Christ-centered culture around us, let’s move on to what we do in a Christ-centered culture. This one may seem easy to establish, but it takes a little more effort than one may realize.
A car dealer may say, “We sell cars” and, as a Christian, we may say “We serve God”. Ultimately these statements are true. But, what do we do in order to get to do what we do? Certainly a car dealer doesn’t just walk outside and start selling cars and a Christian doesn’t just “serve God” simply because they say so. Here is what I mean.
A born again child of God who is seeking to cultivate a Christ-centered culture in and around them is serving God by being about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49). In other words, in a Christ-centered culture people are actually serving. This culture must start in our own hearts on a personal level. If we aren’t in some way serving God, then can we say that we are…serving God?
When is the last time we did something for the Lord simply because it needed to be done? “Well, I’m waiting to be asked”. Those who are cultivating a Christ-centered culture are looking around and doing the asking! As Saul (later known as Paul) would say in Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?…
Notice this question only came from him when the Lord finally became real to him. Before that, he was busy pursuing his career, enjoying his leisure, taking on the extra Christian-persecuting assignments to get the extra points, etc. God has a way of bringing us to a place where doing His will becomes all that matters.
“That is NOT What We Do”
In order to cultivate a healthy Christ-centered culture, we (whether individually or as a group) must also be able to say, “That is NOT what we do”. This phrase must be communicated (whether by words or actions) as frequently and most of all as clearly as necessary (which will be often!). If this phrase is not communicated clearly, specifically, and regularly it leaves an opportunity for things to creep in that actually contradict what that Christ-centered culture says it believes.
Paul says in Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition…In other words, “We are not among those who quit serving God just because things get difficult!”
3) “This is What we Expect”
The concept of expectation can seem scary to some people because it carries with it the concept of enforcing accountability, which in turn may create conflict. However, the more cultural accountability is enforced, the more it reinforces within the Christ-centered culture that, “This is what we expect because this is who we are and enforcing accountability is what we do in our Christ-centered culture”. Do you see how these steps build upon each other?
How is it Christ-centered to enforce expectations? Because Christ did it! In the book of Matthew, Jesus uses the word “hypocrite” once, and the word “hypocrites” 14 times! This word hypocrite (from Greek hupokrites) simply means an actor. So, in a Christ-centered culture, what do we expect? We expect that those who claim allegiance to that culture be true to its convictions; not be a hypocrite, or an actor, who is just trying to gain an advantage.
If you pay attention, people will eventually show you whether or not they are in allegiance with your Christ-centered culture or if their allegiance lies elsewhere.
4) “This is What We Tolerate”
Creating a healthy Christ-centered culture takes a lot of diligent and focused work. In order for the culture to be healthy, there must be some things that are tolerated within it. This is because you are ultimately dealing with individuals in the group, and not just one large group. The question is “what do we tolerate and for how long?”.
There isn’t always a black and white answer to these questions, but being able to establish some answers to the previous statements, (This is who we are, this is what we do, and this is what we expect) can certainly offer guidance.
While Jesus called people hypocrites, He also teaches about tolerating certain things. He says this in such places as Matthew 18:21-22 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. AndMatthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. So, we see there are things to tolerate within a Christ-centered culture.
It has been said in so many words that whatever you tolerate today becomes the culture tomorrow. I would also add that whatever you tolerate today becomes the perceived beliefs of you or your group. Given this knowledge, in our Christ-centered culture that we are cultivating, let’s be sure to tolerate the right things!
5) “This is What We Punish”
This one is rather self-explanatory, so we won’t spend too much time on it. When we say “punish” we simply mean what things receive disciplinary action. Did Jesus punish anyone during His ministry on the earth? Yes, He did.
Matthew 16:21-23 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (22) Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. (23) But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. We see here that Jesus verbally punished Peter, and satan who was influencing Peter.
While the Lord tolerated a lot of things so as to give space for the personal and spiritual growth of the disciples, by responding the way He did here, Jesus was saying, “Our culture punishes any effort that seeks to seriously derail doing the will of God”.
Jesus didn’t go around verbally abusing people, but when the threat arose, He also wasn’t afraid to meet it directly. Those kinds of things have more value when used appropriately.
6) “This is What We Reward”
Let’s go out on a positive note, shall we? What a person or group rewards says a lot when it comes to how serious they are about cultivating a Christ-centered culture. It also says a lot about what they truly believe.
Some groups use financial rewards, others give medals and trophies, while others simply give favorable mentions of the person’s achievements. The last one is usually the most desired and especially effective if their achievements reinforce the cultural identity of the group. It says, “This is what they did because that is who we are around here!”
There is a reason we have heard such phrases as “What gets rewarded gets replicated” and “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected”, and isn’t that the kind of culture we all want to be part of anyway?
An unhealthy culture will reward what should be punished and punish what should be rewarded.
When Jesus saw a scribe who seems to have been open to His teachings and therefore received great insights about the kingdom of God, Jesus told the man in Mark 12:34 …Thou art not far from the kingdom of God… Jesus showed recognition that the man was on the right path to understanding.
When Peter came to the realization that Jesus was the promised Christ, Jesus said to him Matthew 16:17 …Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Jesus didn’t just go around telling everyone how great they were and doling out unnecessary compliments. If you constantly reward frivolous behavior, you get more frivolous behavior.
However, Jesus did show the recognition to people who made valuable and substantive contributions to the kingdom of God. This was especially the case when their contributions reinforced the culture that He was cultivating. What are you rewarding? If you reward substantive behavior, you get more substantive behavior.
Those in a Christ-centered culture know who they are. They know what they do. They know what they expect. They know what they tolerate. They know what gets punished and they know what gets rewarded. This is the kind of culture that Jesus cultivated and we can cultivate this Christ-centered culture wherever we are as well.