Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

For the past ten or fifteen years, there’s been a saying circulating among the business world that simply says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Frankly, I’d never heard that statement until my business-wise, lovely Bride said it to me recently. It seemed so foreign that I asked her to repeat it. After she repeated it, I asked her to e-mail it to me so I could ponder it further (I knew I’d never remember it otherwise).

After I mused over it for a while, it made perfect sense to me. But just to make sure I comprehended it correctly, I checked out what it meant to business-types on the Internet. I, apparently, got it right in my thinking. The general consensus seems to be that “a company’s culture normally thwarts any attempt to create or enforce a strategy that is incompatible with that culture.” In other words, if you build your community right, it will carry on as it should.

A Biblical Principle

What sounded like a cool, hip, and neo-modern axiom turned out to be a Biblical principle. Jesus built this into his disciples who, in turn, built it into other folks on down the line. If the community is walking in the footsteps of the Master, false doctrine or teaching doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.

This, of course, often breaks down over time (as I’m sure many businesses and congregations have discovered). It breaks down because, inevitably, a few people slip into the “culture” who think they have a better way. Jesus was pretty clear on this, however. Just before his crucifixion, he told his disciples, “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

The interesting thing about this is the fact that he told them this just after he washed their feet. Peter, the brash one, didn’t want the Master to stoop to wash his feet; but Jesus insisted. He went on to tell them they should follow his example and wash each other’s feet. This was understood as a sign of servitude and humility. What he was attempting to teach them was that their culture was to be one of sacrifice and service.

It Plays in Peoria

Another thing he said that evening was that they would be blessed if they would do as he taught them. The church isn’t a business, but the culture the Lord was displaying would play in Peoria. It works for active congregations and apparently for successful businesses as well. In other words, don’t stray from the things that bind you together, and they will keep you on the right path.

Today’s church, in many instances, has not heeded the words and intent of Jesus. They have replaced culture with strategy. It always sounds good when someone comes up with a stellar plan to advance the church, but if it doesn’t square with the Word of God, it will bring disaster in the end. Culture really does eat strategy for breakfast. I’d heard it after all.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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