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Last night the TV weatherman explained that the jet stream would influence our climate for the next several days. I went outside and tried to see it. I couldn't.

A similar force that no one sees but everyone feels in the church is its culture.

Like the jet stream, church culture is invisible, but its influence is undeniable. A leader can launch a fail-safe program—to attract youth or to clean up a neighborhood, for instance. But if the idea runs counter to the culture, the program, and possibly the pastor, will not survive.

Church culture, shaped over many years, reflects the dominant theological themes, skills, and interests of the group. It is born of the traumas and triumphs marking the church's life. In New England where I pastor, many congregations are deathly afraid of liberalism, which once overtook many northeastern churches. Whether right or wrong, these churches interpret every innovation through the lens of that well-remembered fear.

Church culture also reflects attitudes ...

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