One of my favorite movies is a documentary titled 180º South. It tells the story of Jeff Johnson as he retraces an epic journey taken in 1968 by Doug Tompkins (Northface founder) and Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder) to Patagonia. As Jeff takes us along the journey, they cut to interviews that were done with Yvon and Dough about their original journey back in ’68 and what it took.
During one of the interview scenes Yvon talks about what happens to a person on the type of trip that they took in ’68 and the trip Jeff Johnson was on. Yvon says, “taking a trip for six months, you get into the rhythm of it, it feels like you can go on forever doing that.” The rhythm speaks to the process, and the process is important. Yvon talking about climbing Mt. Everest goes on to say:
The whole process of climbing something like that is to affect some spiritual and physical gain. When you compromise the process you’re and asshole when you start it, and you’re and asshole when you get back.
Every time I revisit this movie I love this quote more and more. I reminds me that the process is important, and to take shortcuts in the process speak about who you are and what you value about what you are doing. This idea is particularly true in building culture.
Why does any of this matter to a new church?
One of the most important things that every church planter does in the early days of a new church is to build a culture that will set the trajectory of the church for years to come. That culture shapes how the church will live everyday life with gospel intentionality. It will shape the way that a church engages in faith formation from unbelief to belief. It will shape how the church will grow and multiply.
Just like climbing Everest, you start the process long before you end up in the Himalayas. You have to prepare for the journey in a variety of ways from the equipment, to physical conditioning that must take place. So it is with starting a new church.
Culture building is a process that is generally slow. This is particularly true when you build a culture centered on the Gospel that is dominated by a culture unfamiliar to the Gospel. You have to commit to the process, continually defining terms and actions for people. Then you invite people into the process to live in it, speak to it, and take on the culture as their own.
This is when stuff gets messy.
As people enter into the culture you are building, it is going to get messy. You will see what parts of the culture are helpful and good, and which parts may need to be adjusted or eliminated. This of course take a great deal of discernment and listening to the Spirit to know which things are central to the Gospel and which things are not.
Entering into this next season of our church, we realize that we are still building culture, and sometimes that means that we need further definition of what it means to be a community of faith centered in the Gospel. Over the next month we will be considering what our identity in the Gospel is and how that should shape how we live everyday life with Gospel intentionality.
by Paul Hoffman