Recently I have come across a number of articles teaching that for a company to be healthy and functioning well, the company must pay attention to its culture, and that culture is more important than strategy.
It can be tempting for businesses to over-emphasise the focus on strategy whilst inadvertently underplaying the power of culture. I would argue that culture is in fact more important than strategy. Culture is all about the psychology, actions and beliefs of a group of people.
I believe there are two definitions of the kind of culture that creates momentum for any business. The first one is that “culture is what happens when the CEO leaves the room”. The second definition is “the way we get things done around here.” It is all about the attitude of those working for your company. The most important thing about culture is that it’s the only sustainable point of difference for any organisation. Anyone can copy your strategy, but nobody can copy your culture. So why would you leave it untended?
The best businesses are the ones that have a culture that has grown to be bigger and stronger than any one individual. If your culture is strong then it gains power through inspiring your people to conform to it. It becomes the thing that links everyone together, no matter what department they’re in. If your people become engaged with the company, the strategy is more likely to be ‘owned’ by all and focused upon. (Rene Carayol, “Why culture is more important than strategy”, Management.Issues, Sept 20, 2012)
It made me think afresh about the company culture of Graceworks. We have been around for 12 years and, as we look at the years ahead, at raising support, at the possibility of bringing on new staff, etc., it seems as good a time as any to state what we stand for. Here are some components of our ministry culture.
1. Biblical Authority
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
(Psalm 119:105–106 NIV)
We believe that the Bible properly interpreted is our final authority for our beliefs and our practices. Christ is the head of Graceworks and the main way He communicates with us is through His Word. So when we think about what we should do and how we should do it, we turn to the Word and allow the Spirit to guide us through the Word.
2. Kingdom Missional
But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:43 NIV)
Our starting point is not what we are or should do but what is God doing and how we can serve His purposes. We believe Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and that the work of Graceworks must support that mission. Jesus came to save us from our sins but He also wants to make all things new. Therefore we are committed to evangelism and to disciple making but also to seeing God’s purposes redeem all of life.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29–31 NIV)
In light of God’s kingdom agenda, we don’t believe there is a sacred-secular divide and so we seek to bring every area of life under the Lordship of Christ. We are to love the Lord with the totality of our lives. Hence we constantly look at ways to connect the Word to the issues and struggles of daily life because we believe that followers of Christ need help to follow Christ in all areas of life.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12–13 NIV)
If we love God we must also love our neighbour. So we strongly believe that we are meant to follow Christ in community. We are committed to the cause of relational transformation — seeing lives flourish through authentic relationships in Christ. We want to see this happen in church and society. But we also want to model what we teach and so we are committed to authentic relationships within the Graceworks team, and we want to be friends with whoever we work with.
“. . .whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43b–45 NIV)
Our Lord came to us as a suffering servant and He calls us to be the same. So we want to be servants of those Graceworks is called to serve. Often, our question as we discuss possible ministry projects with others is “How can we be your servant?” We find great joy in being used by God to help others fulfil their potential and their purposes in Christ. Since we are recipients of God’s love and ministry, we pass it forward by being servants of others.
Graceworks is also concerned for many other things. For example we are committed to creativity. We follow a creative God. And we are committed to excellence. Our God deserves our best. But the above five components best define us: Biblical authority, kingdom missional, integration, community, and service. We believe that is what God has called us to be. So please hold us accountable to these values. And as the Lord leads, work with us as we pursue His purposes together.