Whether at Home or in the Other culture, the peas of business and church are lodged in the pod of culture.
The other day my wife and I were asked for our help to solve a “church conflict issue” in a Latin American country about which we know little. I decided to spend some time surfing around to see if I could find any culture-related data that might “background” the conflict. Since I spend a lot of time considering business commonsense in Other cultures, I headed straight for sources that would give me insights into business management and conflict in that country.
What do you know? Businesses and churches in that locale operate on similar culturally-driven principles. Pastors like managers are directive and can seem a bit aloof. People expect to be told what to do and to hold the person in that role in quasi-sacred regard. Managers like pastors then always make an effort to get beyond the work of the day and make themselves available for counsel on a range of life issues. People expect help from the top down, and managers and pastors expect to be there for them.
American workplaces and church-places are more egalitarian than in that Other culture. We lay folk call the pastor Tom and take his wisdom seriously as a suggestion. We workers call our manager Hank. There is respect but little distance and formality. We will usually do it his way unless we can find a better way. We hope for agreement, but it won’t happen happily when it comes from Hank always telling us what to do.
Culture is not just an influence but a baseline on which businesses operate. That’s true for religion too. A few years ago, a theologian proposed that there is so much of American culture and so little of the gospel in religion in one sector of American religion that instead of Christianity it could rightly be called “suburban evangelical individualism” (H Conn).