Atlanta Decatur Oxford District

 

The Epiphany and Cultural Pivot


Quincy Brown

1/6/2021

To see video message from Quincy click here


Today is the Epiphany of the Lord. It’s the day that we celebrate the Wise Men arriving with gifts to worship Jesus. It also marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and the traditional day people take down Christmas decorations. The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word that means appearance or manifestation.

In biblical times, Israel’s religious culture hindered them from accepting God’s incarnation in Jesus. Additionally, the religious culture was a stumbling block that prevented God’s incarnation from being available to people outside of Israel’s faith tradition. It wasn’t until the Epiphany that this hindrance was exposed. The Wise Men’s journey to find Jesus introduced God’s acceptance of a wider Gentile audience coming to faith and community.
 
The arrival of the Wise Men was also the beginning of faith and cultural pivot for the people, both inside the church walls (represented by Israel’s culture) and outside the church walls (represented by the non-Jewish Gentile world). God’s incarnation was not just limited to the Israelites, as the Israelite culture once believed, but it was available to the entire world.
 
Today our churches are navigating a similar faith and cultural pivot from the either-or perspective of in-person worship versus online virtual to the shift of both in-person and virtual online worship equally. Consider what it took for your church to balance people’s needs inside the church and reach out to people outside your church walls during a pandemic. It hasn’t been easy, and it will take an Epiphany of sorts for many churches to continue to pivot for a new ministry season in 2021. But what if I told you that the biggest hindrance or help to your church’s ability to make this pivot is not just resistance but its culture?
 
Your church’s culture results from what your congregation has learned from dealing with past challenges and opportunities. And it is solidified by how the congregation organized itself in forging relationships to resolve the challenge or opportunity. We can examine a congregation’s culture at three different levels:
 

  • The Stuff We See and Feel
  • The Sayings We Hear and Speak
  • The Submerged Beliefs that Drive Behavior 
These three levels range from the things that an outsider or a new guest can see and feel (e.g., the passing of the peace) to the deeply held beliefs that drive its DNA (e.g., certain people have to be kept satisfied at all times). Whenever a challenge or an opportunity emerges in a congregation, its existing culture will either help or hinder its ability to embrace the opportunity and meet the challenge.
 
When comparing “the stuff” of a congregation’s observable behavior with “the sayings” that people hear, congregations can discover the source of a challenge or opportunity. Change happens when a church decides to identify and resolve the discrepancies between “the stuff” of actions and “the sayings” of values.
 
On January 25th and January 28th, we’re hosting a webinar on how your church can understand its culture. This webinar is for any pastor or layperson who wants to learn how to engage in the primarily overlooked and less known process of discerning your church’s culture. If you’re planning new ministry opportunities for 2021, understanding how your church’s culture will either help or hinder your process will save you a lot of heartache and energy. We will discuss a method to help you analyze the three levels of culture in your church so that you might pivot for a new season of ministry.
 
I look forward to your participation.  To register click here.

On the Journey,

Quincy