In my previous post I’ve mentioned that I am a structure and strategy guy in the process of learning about the importance of creating culture. Many times our strategies and structures are right, but our culture is all wrong. When culture is wrong structures die, strategies become strained and systems become bureaucratic red tape. As I’ve been diving into discovering more about culture I have found that when we get culture right it becomes captivating.
A culture captivates us because it is compelling to all five senses. We can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it and taste it.
1. Culture is Visual- When I see captivating culture I see excellence. Excellence is not limited to extravagance. It is not necessarily expensive, but when you see it, it’s always impressive and exceeds your expectations. Excellence exudes from an excellent spirit. An excellent spirit cannot be taught or bought, but it can be caught! You see it in someone’s eyes, their attitudes and actions. They are all in, all the time. Culture is expressed through people and cultivated by people being empowered to in their gifting and calling. It is not a standard to live up to, it’s values and vision being lived out by people.
2. Culture is Audible- When I hear captivating culture it’s buzzing with life and filled with a language of their own. There is clarity, community and creativity. You hear it in the music, you read it in the program, you pick up on it in conversations. People are talking about it constantly and posting about it continually. Make no mistake about the vision, missions or purpose because it’s loud and clear and on the lips of the people.
3. Culture is Aromatic- When I smell captivating culture it draws me in close. This may seem a little weird but let me explain. The Apostle Paul talks about our lives being a sweet fragrance:
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLT) – Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
I love how the Amplified Bible describes the aroma of a Christ exalting community as a vital fragrance, living and fresh. Have you ever drove by a really good restaurant and you got a whiff of the aroma that filled the air? It made you want to change your dinner plans! The people that are a part of vibrant culture attract others with the fragrant fumes of what God has done in their lives. It attracts, invites and causes people to want to change their lives!
4. Culture is Tangible- I’ve been experienced many different cultures as I have traveled around the world. I’ve always felt very welcome when I’ve visited Africa. Yet, I didn’t feel as welcomed when I traveled to India. There were reasons for both feelings. So many things can effect the “feeling” a culture such as how they view people, opinions and stereotypes they have about people that don’t look the same act the same, or are from a different part of the world. Healthy cultures have healthy vibes when they have a healthy view and value of people from all walks of life.
5. Culture is Flavorful – We’ve all talked to someone that said, “I went there, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.” How do we taste the culture of an organization that doesn’t serve food? Well, every organization serves something that is consumed. We get a taste of the menu when we encounter the people who have been consuming there the longest. Jesus said, what goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” If you visited somewhere and felt like someone vomited on you, you got a taste of that culture. On the other hand captivating cultures have tasteful things to say about the organization and the people who lead and support it.
I believe this is why culture is so hard to create and cultivate because culture ultimately flows from the heart of people. You know when culture is not right, yet it’s hard to put a finger on it to correct it. You know something needs to be done about it, but you don’t what you need to start doing. Start with your senses! What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting in your church that is not right?