I’ve been stuck in a hotel with the flu for five days so I have lots of time to ask dumb questions. With nothing to do but sneeze and cough and watch TV, I turned to the Yankees and Red Sox game. That afternoon, still with nothing to do, I watched the Colts game and saw all the butt patting – hence the question, “Why do baseball players constantly spit and football players pat each other on the butt?”
Well, there’s an answer -over the years the players in both games have created a culture called a system story. This culture affects everyone in it and determines how they behave. The older players mentor the younger players into this culture. As a result of this culture, baseball players spit and football players pat. They have little choice.
Now, take this into the church. Over time the elders of a church create a culture. This culture determines what happens in the younger Christians. If the culture is healthy, the church does well. If the culture is unhealthy, the church turns inward and ugly.
This culture is what is called a systems story that hides just below the surface of a church determining most of its outward actions. I wrote about this system story in my book Unfreezing Moves. No one ever talks about this story just like no baseball player analyzes why they all spit or why football players pat butts- they just do. They have little choice; it’s in their DNA because of the culture.
This is why conflicted churches never realize they are conflicted. They just are. It’s also why it’s impossible to change these churches in quick fashion. It’s also why conflicted churches can’t be helped without changing the systems story which usually means at best, changing the leadership, or at worst removing the leaders from the church. I’ve never seen a conflicted church transition without either losing some leaders.