In its simplest definition, culture is the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group. Essentially, culture is the environment in which you live, culture is the environment in which you worship, and culture is the environment in which you work.
But the culture of our home, church, and workplace are not the only cultures we interact with every day. We visit the cultures that we like and avoid the ones we don’t. For example, McDonald’s has a familiar culture. You know what the food is going to taste like, you know the happy meals are $2.99, and you know the general menu options. If you like that culture, you visit it and you buy their food.
My family won’t go to McDonald’s. One, we found their environment “moist” because all too often their buildings are wet and dirty. I don’t want McDonald’s because I think the food will kill you so we don’t visit that culture.
Instead, we go to restaurant cultures that we like, and the ones that we think are safe and friendly. We go to ones where we think the food is affordable and good for us.
This is true for church.
This is true for your gym.
This is true for most places you go.
You go to the culture you like.
Additionaly, at work, at home, and at church, you play a part in creating your culture. And, cultures change. They don’t stay the same. Cultures are dynamic; they’re not static. You get to create the culture that you work in, worship, and live.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re working hard, you’re working safe, you are working steady, and you are working sturdy. This could be home, this could be at work, and this could be serving at church. Good job, but the person beside you is complaining.
“Ugh, this is so hard. I don’t like this. I’m so tired of this.”
Now, one of you is about to create the culture. They are going to create a culture of complaint or you are going to create a culture of something else. You can say, “Yeah, I’m tired of this too,” or you can say, “Hey man, I know it’s hard, but it won’t get any better if we complain. C’mon, let’s do this.”
One of you is going to create the culture, and one of you has the opportunity to be the dominant voice and create the dominant example.
The dominant voice and the dominant example always create the culture. So, today, at home, work, church, or wherever, be the dominant voice to create a culture that is encouraging, inspiring, honoring, and enjoyable. It will encourage and transform the weary and transform your jobs, your church, and your home.
This is our second post of worship observations. You can find our first here. This week, we talk about when things don’t go well – a common challenge for young churches.
At Evident Grace, we have been meeting for a year and a half. For church planters and church plants, a year and a half feels like five regular years. Each Sunday, you feel like you are taking giant leaps forward as you become more efficient in everything from setup/takedown, greeting, music, children’s ministry, etc.
And then there are the Sundays where you feel like you take giant steps back. It feels like you have never met for worship before. No one seems to get anything right.
Here is my encouragement, fellow planters and young churches: While each good Sunday feels like five years ahead, an off Sunday is not a five year setback. Let me give a painful example.
This past Sunday, we were launching a new series, “Journey to Worship – a Study of Ezra”. Excitement built fairly well, and several folks joined in to help with a decent amount of web/social media promotion. While I am given to hyperbole like many church planters, I could realistically say that folks were pretty excited.
But things didn’t go as planned.
For some reason, from the onset, I stumbled over my words. Apparently, I said that, “Christ was circumcised for our sins.” While true in one sense that was far away from my wanting to say that He was crucified for our sins.
I was leading our music as well. Leading a crowd in singing is something that I have comfortably done for over 25 years now, but apparently, comfortable was not yesterday. I couldn’t get into a groove no matter what. In fact, the team finally stopped one song and just began again.
My sermon was never was comfortable either. I felt rushed. I felt the need to over-explain everything, and I continually lost the ability to pronounce most every world.
We made plans to take the Lord’s Supper, but our elder wasn’t able to make it, so the elements remained lonely on the table – something we had to explain to our congregations and visitors.
I left assured that no one was ever going to show up ever again.
But here is the encouragement to my heart and to yours, young planter and young congregation. Our worship is not about professionalism and perfection. While starting songs together and ending them together is preferable, while a commanding sermon delivery is helpful, neither of those are necessary for worship. Worship must always be about grace. Worship must always be about the lifting up of Christ. Grace and Christ equal worship. Preciseness is a bonus.
Yes, you seek to improve in every area. You learn from things that go both well and poorly. You practice and study more. You offer areas that continue to struggle to God in prayer. And then you give thanks for what happens.
So, this week, we will work towards getting the songs right and pronouncing the words correctly knowing that Christ will once again meet us on Sunday. If we make mistakes, we haven’t stepped back five years.
Christ will be lifted up, Christ will be honored, and we will be transformed. We will wait for eternity for mistake free worship.
Thank you for the incredible response. Now, you can purchase the limited edition, two-in-one “I am my father’s son” and “Bedside: A Memoir of Care” hardback in honor of Thom and Ann Duncan just by clicking the button below or the photo to your right. Thanks.
Commemorative Two-in-One Hardback Editon of “I am my father’s son” and “Bedside” entitled “I am Bedside” Available Now
Last night, as Amy was settled in and as I was comfortably asleep, my oldest daughter, Meredith, gently walked into our bedroom with tears in her eyes. She had just finished reading my edit copy of, “I am Bedside”. This is a hardback combination edition of the book I wrote for my father, “I am my father’s son” and the book I wrote for my mother, “Bedside: A Memoir of Care”.
She approached our bed gingerly (as I don’t wake up gingerly), crawled in like she used to do when she was little, and snuggled. She told me she loved the book, she missed her grandparents, and that she loved me and Amy. Then she went to bed.
That was all the affirmation I needed. I wrote each of the books for my parents as an opportunity for me to celebrate and remember who they were, but I also wrote them to remind my children and others of Thom and Ann Duncan so that their memory will never be lost.
I’m excited that Gospel Rich Books is releasing this commemorative hardback edition of both books in one entitled “I am Bedside”. This will be a limited run of 250 copies and available for a limited time.
Thanks to all who loved Sam and Ann. Thanks to all who have purchased these books. Thanks to everyone who loved them as much as I did and still do.
You can purchase copies here, and please leave a note to let me know if you enjoy it.
Introducing, sharing, and explaining our faith in Christ to our children is the desire for many parents. How do to that is not always that easy. Additionally, the structure of families is not always consistent. Some families don’t have children. Some families include grandparents, many have step-parents, many are solo parenting, and a few have both mom and dad.
In light of all of those intricacies, how in the world do we introduce and deepen the faith of our families?
While each of the described above deserves its own book, this one is designed to help families with children. And since, the makeup of those families may look different in every household, we will typically just address “parents” and allow you to customize it as you read it.
But the central idea is to create a simple, easy to approach book for you and your kids. So towards that end, “Family Philippians” was created.
As you work through these pages, you and your family will walk through these steps. Each chapter will give you a section of Philippians to read, there will be a brief paragraph to explain and deepen an understanding of the passage, there will be a few questions to answer, and then, there will be a guided prayer time. At the end of the book, you will have covered the every verse of Philippians.
Ideally, each chapter should take no more than 10 minutes, but hopefully, that investment will last a lifetime. As you undertake this adventure, please know my prayers accompany your efforts, and I would love to hear from you about how it all goes.
You can find “Family Philippians” as a pdf download here, and also at
Mom sent me off to college with a hope and a worried look. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my tuition, and I had only graduated from high school a few months prior. I wasn’t the most mature guy in the world. Mom was sweet and brave to send me off, but she was also incredibly concerned.
Since she couldn’t send money regularly, Mom offered whatever else she could. And since I was dating a girl at another college, I came home a lot that first semester. This was where Mom could help out.
Most weekends, I would come home with dirty laundry and return with a basket of clean clothes. This would save me a couple of precious buck’s worth of quarters each week, and I think Mom secretly enjoyed it. I eventually took this over as I broke up with the girlfriend, but every single time I came home, Mom would ask if she could do laundry. I, of course said yes. Mom actually appeared to get upset as I took the clothes washing over myself, but she always looked forward to the holidays when she could do it herself.
I would also come home hungry and return with as much food as my Mom could provide. Typical gifts were Mom’s amazing homemade sugar cookies and leftovers of whatever Mom and Sam had for Sunday lunch.
But there was one more thing Mom always offered. At that time, my wonderful Aunt Alice worked at a Pizza Hut. Their norm was to let the employees take home any leftover or messed up orders of pizza at the end of the night. Aunt Alice would give Mom any pies that she could, and Mom would freeze them all week for me to take them back to college.
So each Sunday afternoon, as I would head back to good old East Carolina University (ECU), Mom would load me up with pizza. But still there was a challenge. I didn’t have a cooler, and even if I did, my little car didn’t have much room for it.
So, Mom devised a plan. She would break the pizzas into their individual slices, put them in several gallon Ziploc bags, and then she would put them all in trash bags full of ice. That way, I could transport the pizza easily, I could freeze certain bags, and my portions were pretty much already laid out for me.
That was always a helpful thing when this college student didn’t have a meal plan and had to eat each meal with two dorm fridges, a toaster over, and a microwave.
When it came to meals, the two Shehdan sisters took care of me.
Very excited to announce that “Bedside – A Memoir of Care” can be found everywhere today. But to help you out, you can find “Bedside” at the following locations:
I’m thankful that I know a bunch of Godly, Gospel-grounded, and bright pastors. I also have the privilege of bumping into some incredibly wise and astute folks in my congregation and in the day to day. You guys have a lot to say, but beyond Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, very few people get to hear your wisdom.
Since, I have been publishing for the last year or two, I wanted to encourage and enable lots of folks to join me in writing and publishing beyond social media.
Don’t get me wrong; social media is strong, but the larger population often misses out on your practical wisdom because of their lack of access to it.
To bridge the gap, I’ve published a little $.99 book, 5 Steps to Publishing Your Own Books.
The goal is to encourage and promote my wise and gifted friends to begin publishing books easily and more often. This book will walk you through how you can go from manuscript to publication to promotion. And as you do, lots of folks (including me) will benefit from your efforts.
You can find 5 Steps in two formats: