Everything has a culture. Your life has a culture, your marriage, your home, your business, our churches have a culture… If you’re a leader, it is you who sets that culture.
Over the years I have been repeatedly asked the question, “How do you guys build such a strong culture?” When Bobbie and I began Hillsong Church more than 30 years ago, we didn’t set out to build a particular kind of culture. Back then, there was no one else to sweep the floor after the service, or open the door and welcome others or pick up people to bring them along to our church. We had to BE the culture.
And that is what I have discovered – You cannot build the culture unless you are prepared to BE the culture.
Any culture is only ever as strong as its lowest common denominator. It’s not enough to just decide on a particular culture you want because if you have people on your team with a different spirit, then that is where the pace and level of your culture will be set. Build a culture around faithful people. Faithful people in your organisation are the ‘culture carriers’. They are the ones who will teach others the collective habits long after you have left. They will carry the vision and make the changes necessary to maintain the heart and purposes of your mission.
So, these are the 10 Cultural Responsibilities I ask our staff to embrace when it comes to setting the tone and framework for Hillsong Church. If you are leading a business, then adjust accordingly… it is never too late to BE the culture you want to see!
10 Cultural Responsibilities I Will Embrace:
1. I am a CAN-DO person.
I surround myself with can-do people. It is too easy to be ruled by what can’t be done, what we can’t afford, don’t have time for, can’t do… there’s always a reason why not. People are quick to tell you why you can’t do it, can’t afford it, we don’t have the people or we don’t have the money, we don’t have the time…
One of the things that hinder building can-do people is when we live by experience. No innovation, creation or new thing, is ever born out of experience because experience only tells us what either has or hasn’t been done. But when you live with a can-do mindset, it’s amazing how you can find a way.
2. This is not my job, this is my life.
2 Tim 1:9 says,
“[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…”
We are saved for a purpose, we are called for a purpose we are graced for purpose; it’s all about God’s purpose. When we live called, what we do is a calling, not just a job. Jesus talked about the spirit of hirelings in John 10:11, 13. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He goes on to say that he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and they are out of there. That’s the spirit of a hireling; they are just there to do a job, make some money, get on to the next thing.
If you are a pastor, be careful not to look around the world for someone who is the best or most skilled. Build from within – from those who are planted in your church. A hireling spirit won’t stand with you when tough times come. But those who live saved and called for a purpose are there in the good times and the bad times and everything in between. The same goes for business people. Build INTO your people, raise them up and give them a vision for the long-term.
3. I Will Serve the Lord with Gladness.
Not sadness, not madness, not badness but GLADNESS! If we don’t serve the Lord with gladness, then we start to think minimums. Minimums say, “What time do we have to get there? Do I have to come? Do I have to bring my wife? Do we have to stay very long? What time do you want me to go?”
Imagine if Jesus said to God about going to the cross, “Do I have to? How long do I have to stay up there? Do they have to use nails?” Aren’t you glad that wasn’t the spirit of our Saviour? If you try to build around people who think in minimums, that’s what you end up getting.
4. Empowerment Starts with Me.
We often think of empowerment ‘downwards’. My experience is that empowerment works in every direction. Sometimes if you want to be empowered, you need to learn how to empower upwards. If you understand empowerment starts with you, then you live your life in a way where you are committed to empowering your leader or boss upwards.
What does that look like?
If you are complicated, over sensitive, have to sit and talk through your latest sensitivities every day, then to me, you are complicated; and that complication pulls the person you answer to into your complication, and your world.
Understand that empowerment starts with you and do whatever you can to live with the kind of initiative that enables your leaders to lift their head higher and get their eyes looking further down the road to set the pace and vision.
5. I Am Not On the Gossip Train.
Every country has its Christian gossip mafia. They are the ones who are always on the phone, “Have you heard the latest? Did you hear about Hillsong, I don’t know whether you heard…?” I want to pastor the kind of church where we are the last to know because we don’t get on the gossip train. If people ring you all the time to tell you the latest tragedy or rumour, you probably should ask yourself, “Why are they telling me?”
The Bible says that the mouth of the righteous is a well of life. Is your mouth a well of life or a sewer of defeat? Scripture also says that the mouth of the righteous feeds many. So if the people around you are depending on your words for nourishment – are they dying of malnutrition or are they thriving?
6. I Am One of Them.
I’m thinking about ‘them’ and ‘us’; them may be THE bosses, us are the workers. Them are upstairs, us are downstairs. Them and us.
I wonder in your church, where do you locate yourself? In the culture of our church, I want people to spiritually, emotionally and mentally see themselves to be on the same side. We are all ‘us’, we are all a part of the same team.
7. I Will Bring Those Around Me on my Journey.
I’m talking about your family – your wife and kids; those that are ‘outside’ of your work environment. Take them on the journey. I’ve seen so many sad mistakes within the normal weekly dynamics of a church team. People can leave work feeling offended or aggrieved; they go home to their wife and ‘vomit’ their emotions about all of the stuff that happened…
Then they come to work the next day and during the day they get that issue worked out and talked through – it’s gone and everyone moves on – but they don’t resolve the issue at home. They go back to work and sort it out and the cycle repeats itself over and over.
The issue is, your spouse loves you, and if you are constantly bringing home the problems, but not the resolutions, then you could wake up one day and find your home is full of resentment. Your family will feel like church is getting too much of their family time.
I have never been a fan of compartmentalising our time. It’s not God-time, then church-time and family time. I don’t think we need to box our lives like that. If you have wisdom you can obviously serve God, love the church and bring your family along on the journey with you. But if you keep dumping resentment at home, you set them up as enemies of church time. Use wisdom when it comes to what you ‘bring home’.
8. What I am Part of is Bigger than the Part I Play.
No matter whom you are, the moment we think our part is bigger than what we are a part of, it begins to destroy culture and bring separation. I often think about Barnabus and Paul. They had a bit of a falling out, and Barnabus left – we literally never hear about him again.
Don’t forget that God anointed both Paul and Barnabus. If you are unteachable or can’t easily be told or taught, you will drift away from what God has for you. The devil loves to get people to separate from the thing they are part of – often with tragic results.
Is there someone in your life who loves you enough to look you in the eye and tell you what you need to hear? If you keep a teachable spirit and understand that what you are part of is bigger than the part you play, then I believe you can build a beautiful culture that will build the kind of team, ministry, business or church that is a magnet to people.
9. I Delegate, but I don’t ‘Dump’.
The most difficult personality to locate when it comes to dynamics on a staff are the people who are wonderful upwards – nothing is too hard and there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for their boss. But when it comes to carrying out their instructions, they just offload it onto others.
Dumping and delegation are not the same. Dumping doesn’t consider the other person’s world or the other responsibilities they may have. This is one of the most caustic things to happen on a team. Dumping onto others undermines culture and is the hardest thing for a pastor or boss to recognise. Let’s be respectful of others’ time and their responsibilities, and know the difference between delegating – which is positive – and dumping.
10. My Spirituality is Attractive.
This is nothing to do with facial features, but everything to do with our spirit. Mean-spirited, angry, judgmental and legalistic people; if they looked at their own spirit, they’d realise these attitudes give no grace and fail to understand Jesus’ finished work. I cannot stand that kind of ‘ugly’ Christianity.
As Believers, we need to carry His name well. We are His hands and feet. Let’s not be pseudo-spiritual, super-spiritual, opinionated, negative or critical Christians; that is not the kind of spirit we want in our churches. Stay away from that kind of thing and let’s agree to focus on loving God, loving people and loving life. That kind of spirituality is attractive.
Lastly, have a vision that inspires a culture. A leader should create a culture that produces growth and cultivates longevity and creativity in others.
Culture is built over time through hard work and diligence. Know who you are, what you want, where you are going and identify who is coming with you. Culture is the outworking of these things and what you allow: Direction and pattern. You ARE the culture!
Take a risk and create a culture that defies what is ordinary; one that is marked by personal discipline, a different spirit and a different heart – a culture of love and servanthood that prefers others. Keep your habits and those of your team on track. We can build a church or a business, but if we don’t build a culture we cannot build anything that lasts.