What becoming a catalytic culture means

Do you want to lead a church of life-changers, neighborhood-changers and community-changers? It's time to use what ignites you to get on mission with what God has already empowered you to be.

A catalyst is a sparkplug, an inciting incident, a stimulus, one that ignites changes.

A catalytic culture is an environment in which people are encouraged to be innovative; new, out-of-the-box opportunities are sponsored; people collaborate for greater impact; and dreamers can dream. But, more important, a catalytic culture is one in which Creator God leads.

Jesus fit the description as a catalytic leader. He drew crowds everywhere He went. They commented that His words were different; there was grace and truth in them, and they produced powerful results. His demeanor drew the notorious sinners who wanted to hear what He had to say. Something changed when He came on the scene!

Having a catalytic culture requires someone who can inspire people to join in dreaming a God-designed vision and then move together toward it. In Reimagine 1.0 we realigned our national and districts offices with catalytic leadership. We now lead and make decisions with mission and movement as the central focus. We interviewed and appointed district supervisors who have characteristics of change agents and can bring people together for collective impact, locally and regionally as well as nationally and globally.

In Reimagine 2.0 we are using the phrase, “It’s your turn!” Pastors, church leaders, what do you see? What ignites you and the people of your church or congregation to get on mission with God, making disciples, shaping and sending leaders, multiplying churches and congregations, and having community and world impact?

Our collective theme as a movement last year was “Sent”; our theme this year is “Empowered.” These two words are focused on catalyzing local movements of people sent to their communities and empowered by the Holy Spirit to embody the love and grace of God to the world.

Pastors, this means your church having a greater awareness to the needs of your city than the programs of your church, and planning your church’s calendar with plenty of room for people to live on mission with one another and live healthy lives as a model of goodness. This usually requires a complete reorienting of how we “do” church from recent years. It means having relationships in the community as much as with the church.

This is salt and light, both of which are catalytic agents immediately when used. I love to tell stories of Foursquare churches that had tried hard to reach people to no avail until somebody got a creative idea because of real need in the community; churches that had no life are reaching people like never before.

One did this through getting involved in the foster care system, one did this through opening a thrift store, and one did it through getting involved with the public school across the street. Several saw their demographics had changed and turned their churches over to congregations that looked like the neighborhood.

In the book Influencer (McGraw-Hill Education), authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield describe someone who will be catalytic and have influence as someone who “departs from the pack.” Most people have a proclivity, when others cause inconvenience or pain or behave badly, to suspect that they have selfish motives and malicious intentions.

Influencers or catalysts are reluctant to conclude that others have a moral defect; instead, they see them as those in moral slumber. It’s our job to wake them up. This reminds me of the spirit of the Beatitudes. It’s our perspective that will determine how we view others and how we engage them. It also aligns to much of the New Testament instruction about how to engage a blinded, darkened people. We must have Jesus’ model of compassion: He saw people as sheep scattered and with no shepherd.

The church is in a wonderful time in our world. There is great opportunity for catalysts to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and spark movements all over our nation and around the globe. Leader, will you awake from your own slumber? Will you focus your energies on God and be transformed daily? Those being changed are the ones who bring about the greatest change in the world around them.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and your church:

  • How many friends do we have who are not Christians, not our “evangelism project,” but who are really our friends?
  • How many civic, education and other local leaders have you interviewed to see what needs are in the community and to discover how your church could partner with them to make a difference?
  • How many relationships do you have with other pastors in the community who are building a network of the church in your area to be a blessing to the city?
  • What have you been teaching your church about the mission of God and their role in it?
  • How do discipleship and mission fit together, and does our church calendar and programming reflect these core purposes?
  • Are we discipling and teaching our children and youth to be missionaries in their world?
  • Do we have an intentional system that disciples all ages and makes disciplers out of disciples? Do we have an intentional leadership formation process? Are we multiplying?
  • And the ultimate question: “If we closed our doors tomorrow, would the community notice and feel a loss?”

is the vice president of U.S. operations and general supervisor for The Foursquare Church.
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