Raymond Culpepper on Church, Culture, and Leadership

This video is the first in a series of Engage 21 clips to be posted. As they are posted, they’ll also be available on the MissionalCOG YouTube account. Watch and share your thoughts.


31 Responses

  1. I was not at Engage21. I have not heard much specific comment about Raymond Culpepper’s role in the conference. And what I have heard has been positive. Still, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this little clip. He said a lot that resonated with me. He said a lot that would make me want to say, “I think he gets it.”

    For example, his quote of Sweet’s book, “Summoned to Lead” said a lot to me. That book is very subversive to the flood of leadership material that is out there. I have yet to hear anyone site the book even though it’s a few years old now. But what Culpepper was saying was that in critical circumstances leaders will emerge, having been summoned by the circumstances themselves.

    Also, the fact that he seemed not only aware, but generally conversant about Post-Christendom told me a lot. As well as his awareness of the current demographic trends (e.g. the forecast that by 2020 native born Americans will be the minority in this country). I feel like he gets it. That he’s involved. That he’s missional. Again, I was pleasantly surprised.

  2. I also was not at Engage21 but I like Jonathan think Dr Culpepper gets it. At least from this clip. My heart starts to race when I here of the changing circumstances that are upon us and are overtaking us. There are many I believe just waiting on a time such as this to rise and embrace their destiny. With the gap that seems to exist between the younger generation and the older generation I wonder if a merge is possible in these changing circumstances. It would be a shame for many to rise while those that went before us refuse to change and find themselves being pressed over into the emergency lane with their hazard lights on.

  3. It does look like the ass Gen Overseer would dress for the pulpit.we are loosing our idenety as christian,what are we coming to?

  4. […] MissionalCOG has posted a video clip from a recent conference for emerging leaders by Dr. Raymond Culpepper, First Assistant General Overseer of the Church of God. […]

  5. good stuff – I’ll join the others here and say I was a bit surprised (pleasantly) to hear this. He seems to be issuing a challenge to rise to the occasion as opposed to a fearful “hunker down and stay the course ! – maybe things will go back to the way they were….”

    I look forward to watching more of these.

  6. Travis, sorry to get off topic, but something has been bugging me. On my browser (Mozilla) there is a gray background on the template of this page that you can see only at the boarders. Near the top, just right of the “Recent Comments” header, and in the gray area, there is a tiny smiley face. What’s up with that?

  7. I guess I’ll be the first to say that nothing about Dr. Culpepper’s comments surprised me. I have known for a long time now that Raymond Culpepper really “gets it.” In fact, he’s one of the reasons why I’m “getting it.” Raymond is a mentor of mine and I think the world of him. While I do not know some of the other emerging COG leaders on the national scale, I would say that Raymond is the best hope of meaningful leadership that the COG has in the immediate future.

    I can’t remember when I’ve been so excited about a General Assembly as I am this year. The thought that Raymond could become the top man for our denom really pumps me up. I think he will be a powerful change-agent. I’m praying for him often. Join me.

  8. Jonathon,

    There is no smiley face. That is your imagination. Move along.

  9. I want to highlight something that Steve said and challenge us to think in a different direction. Steve said:

    “With the gap that seems to exist between the younger generation and the older generation I wonder if a merge is possible in these changing circumstances. It would be a shame for many to rise while those that went before us refuse to change and find themselves being pressed over into the emergency lane with their hazard lights on.”

    Certainly there are age issues and a generation gap. I would propose that the generation gap does not exist because of age differential. It exists because of a recycling of leaders and a selfishness in our leadership style that refuses to release ownership into the hands of other people.

    In a recent email to a friend who is involved in denominational leadership, I addressed this issue by asking for a leadership trust to be extended to our generation. The request was not so that “we” would get something. It was so that we could do what we had be trained to do in COG churches, colleges, and seminaries. We grew up in COG camps, youth rallies, camp meetings, etc… We were trained for this moment.

    We need to know that the good folks who are in denominational leadership trust their own ministry of raising us.

    Rather than addressing age, we should address a mentality- a mindset that refuses to embrace sons and daughters. Those who refuse to trust their children need to know that as they pass from the scene, they are leaving a legacy that knows no children.

    • I believe we are to give honor to whom honor is due. I see alot of novices jockeying for position. If you want to be approved of God, study to show thyself approved. I see very few in my generation (i’m 31)’ rising to the occasion’. For one thing, the occasion is that men and women are going to Hell, lost and they need the Lord Jesus Christ to save them. It’s not for us to be seeking after “leadership”– We need to OBEY JESUS CHRIST! We need to be seeking the Face of God and following Him. We need to be taking up our cross and following Him. Remember brothers, that Jesus is our leader, and He was crucified. If you want to be first, you must take the last place.
      And btw, doesn’t the Lord Jesus warn us of those hypocrites who desire the chief places to sit, to be seen of men, to be called “Rabbi”? This is sin and ought not to be! I say, REPENT! And come back to the Cross! Come back to preaching the CROSS!

      God bless,

  10. This is one reason I really like Raymond Culpepper– not the only reason, but one of the main reasons. I believe he is able to communicate well with the different generations/mentalities in the COG.

    I know it is more complex than this… but I think there are basically two main groups in the church today (this includes different views on leadership style, institutionalization, doctrinal practice, worship style, etc.). While not the only variable, age is part of the issue. Different generations have been “programmed” (if I may use that term) to value different things. We see this in the value differences of boomers, busters, etc.).

    I believe Raymond Culpepper is “in touch” with both of the main groups currently competing for their voice to be heard. (Just as most of us younger folks feel that our voice is not being heard, many older folks are feeling like they are losing their voice. And, for each group the things that are most valued are what is pressing the need for the voice to be heard.)

    Yes, some individuals are trying to silence any competing voice. I don’t agree with anyone abusing the power of their voice in an effort to gain complete control. This is unhealthy. However, I believe that many people on both sides are sincere– just not understanding the value-system of the other side.

    There is a barrier. How do we bridge this barrier? Not connecting just the ministers, but the laity as well. (This is was my intention in the thread I started on Acts today about unifying the generations).

  11. Travis, I think that you make a good point about gaps that exist that are driven by things other than generational issues. However, I would not underestimate the generational gaps that exist as well. And the fact that various gaps have converged make the whole situation more complex.

    I agree with Louis that a major driver is the generational differences in terms of value. For example, Builders (my parents generation) value the institution. They are willing to overlook a lot of things if it ultimately preserves the institution. Boomers do not care about institutions, they value a cause (thus, the ’60’s and ’70’s). They will overlook a lot of things if it ultimately preserves the cause. X’ers and younger value relationship. They will overlook a lot of things if it ultimately preserves the relationship.

    My parents, who “get it” more than most ministers their age, will stay say things like, “We know that you love the CoG” when affirming some controversial thing I might be doing (like starting a blog with the name “The CoG Has No Future”). Well, I know what they mean. I wouldn’t say it that way. They say it that way because when you boil it all down they still value the institution. That’s the lens through which they understand the biblical concept of church. Boomers understand it as a cause and we understand it as a relationship.

    Anyway, multiple gaps are converging. And generation gaps play a significant role, not only in that convergence, but in our inability to get “unstuck.” Still, some use “generation gaps” as a tacit way to dismiss the issue. “Oh, you’re young and idealistic. I remember that. You’ll grow out of it.” That’s frustrating. I understand. And I want to resist that as well.

  12. I’m not denying generational differences. But, we should be careful not to chalk all things dysfunctional to age differentials, especially when overlaying the conversation with the moniker of “missional” as missionality has nothing to do with age.

    I guess my biggest concern is that we be found guilty of generational snobbery. I don’t want to discourage a discussion about the Mosaics, Busters, and Boomers. But, I don’t want to skip over an institutionalized mentality held by a significant number of guys my age who are benefited by an increasingly institutionalized church. Nor, do I want to fail to affirm the hope filled eyes of a generation of guys who are older than me who thirst to see us aggressively live out the mission of Jesus in continually fresh, human, and culturally adaptive ways.

  13. Travis, agreed. And I sense some type of conspiracy about the smiley face. I’ve already taken “screen shots” of it and I’m building a case. Someone needs to start talking soon before I go public with this mystery.

  14. If there’s any further discussion you’d like to have about this video, get to it. I’ll be posting a massive wave of video clips tomorrow or Wednesday which will largely take the focus off of this and move us on to Dennis McGuires comments.

    Since, he had the mic all night Thursday, there’s quite a bit of content broken down into 38 second to 4 minute clips covering particular subject matter. I probably won’t post anymore videos until the discussion passes and then we’ll move to the panel discussions and Ed Stetzer’s talk.

    So, get with it, little doggies.

  15. That face is still smiling at me.

  16. Some IP addresses get a frown. Consider yourself lucky.

  17. Travis,
    I can agree that that it is not restricted to age. But I guess I still think that individuals in one camp or the other tend to be in the same agre brackets. However, I agree it has more to do with worldview/training– and yes, the way we have been trained to value different things impacts our worldview. This is a good discussion.

  18. I see guys like Mike Chapman, Tom Sterbens, my dad, Raymond Culpepper as being people who fight rigidity of thought. I’d hate to isolate other people, many more who have youthful hearts, tender spirits, flexible approaches, and minds who think critically.

    At the same time, I don’t want to be lumped into the same category with some of the young guys who aren’t “young.” Some of the most inflexible, unyielding, culturally snobby people I know are younger than me. So, I bristle thinking that we could create a rift that may not need to exist based on age overgeneralizations.

  19. I think it is dangerous and unfair to try to create factions based on age alone. I agree Travis, some of the most hard-nosed traditional mindset people I know are young. I believe we have to be careful in our attempts to bring about change, that we do not intentionally bring about division. Only when we do things that will draw us together under the common cause of Christ will true change take place. Division may happen but I don’t believe it should be our purpose.

  20. I don’t think you guys are hearing what I’m saying. But maybe I’m not hearing what you are saying. Or, maybe we just disagree. 🙂

  21. My biggest concern is that we fail to recognize the barriers to change. Perception is one of them. If we do not understand an appreciate people’s perceptions and fear of change on those who may be working to bring about change, we can end up with an unnecessarily divided church.

    Jumping beyond principles to an oversimplification of the issues and a position that age is the cause of our problems will isolate some guys that want to cheer us on, join in with us, or simply allow us to participate.

    Are there age factors? Absolutely. Is it our big issue? Nope. Our big issue is an overdependence on a centralized institutionalized system and a marginalization of the mission of Jesus.

    Talk about those issues in a changing culture and you will have old guys who are retired ministers and who love Jesus more than anything sitting in their wheelchairs rooting us on in the race.

  22. For what it’s worth, I just made a post that grew out of this conversation, and it’s relevant to the last few things said. It’s too long for me to try to recap. But the post is entitled “the church faces death.”

  23. John Nichols is 80 years old.
    He would still (and does) try anything that will work. He is excited about this generation of leaders and believes there is the the moment and opportunity for change that he did not expect to see in his lifetime.
    Psalm 71:18 (NASB95)
    And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.

  24. Tom, thanks for bringing up Bro. Nichols. He’s a great man. There are many others. The last few months of my life I visited my 97 year old Grandpa and we chewed on Scripture and talked about the Kingdom of God together. He spent his life as a CoG minister, but was most known for his “whooping” at North Cleveland when getting excited in the Spirit. Many young people came and prayed with him through the years. He was an inspiration to them.

    Certainly so-called “generation gaps” are overgeneralizations, and certainly they are not the biggest issue facing us. I see it like birth order. It’s an overgeneralization, but at the same time it can be very helpful in understanding certain relational dynamics. I think it’s great to remind us that this is not our biggest issue. But I would not underestimate these broad trends that so many, mostly outside of church work, have observed and talked about.

    Nothing gets me more excited than intergenerational ministry. I cannot not speak for Louis, but few honor “the fathers” more than him. That’s not a disagreement on anything that has been said. Just a clarification. Likewise, nothing gives me more hope than the old guys with whom I have found I can dream big and think Kingdom.

  25. I don’t think anyone, especially not Louis, is dishonoring our fathers….as a clarification.

    Jon, on a personal note, when I went on staff at North Cleveland, the room your grandfather prayed in was my office (96-00). We prayed together for the four years I was on staff at N.C. I should correct that and say that I prayed with him…just wanted to be around him. At a time where I lost my grandfather, who was a spiritual giant to me, your grandfather filled a massive hole in my heart.

  26. Travis, thanks for sharing your experience with my grandpa. I’m amazed at how many people have told me something similar.

    Wow, this thread of comments is long!

  27. Perhaps some of our difference is the perspective from which I speak. I’m viewing this inclusive of membership and ministers, and I think others in this discussion are looking at it from the clergy viewpoint. I’ve spent so much of my life around older people that I’ve learned some of their value points. While everyone is unique and some people in each generation will see things differently than the majority of their generation, I do think there are some basic characteristics and value-points of each generation. (I could be wrong, but this has been my experience– and I’ve spent my life since I was 10 years old working with all generations in local church ministry).

    I am not trying to make this an old vs. young issue. But, I think that by-and-large most generations tend to have different value sets– and this is based on cultural shifts. I can agree it is a mindset, but I think that certain mindsets are dominant in certain generations. It is based on what those generations have been taught and tend to value most. Also, many older people tend to look for things in which they can be comfortable– and they’ve earned this right. This sometimes avoids new methods to which they must adapt. (That being said, I, too, know older people who value some of the same things as younger people. I’ve even known a 103 year old woman that found a way to be relevant to every generation–remarkable. However, in many ways these tend to be the exception.) And I’m not saying that one way is better than the other way. I believe both have a time and a season– and it goes back to the local church mission (IMO).

    I believe one of my reasons for not feeling comfortable with church services right now is because I have one foot in the traditional and one foot in the new model. There are things in each that I value, and there are things in each that I do not like. But I don’t want to be isolated from either group. However, a consequence is that I do not feel completely “at home” in either group. I don’t feel “at home” with a 1960s-style church service, and I didn’t really feel “at home” with you guys at Engage. Some of this is probably that my ministry role is different than that of pastors and church planters. But, I do feel “at home” when I’m able to have one-on-one conversations and really get to know people– of any age.

    I’m certainly not trying to accentuate anthing that could bring division. That is contrary to everything I’ve tried to do in my life. Anyone could walk through my house and know that I honor the mothers and fathers. One of the first things you see when you enter my home is a pic of my g-g-gma who came into the COG in 1909 and was a church planter and pastor. You go into another room and there is at 1915 bible of the man who started my home church (and who was beaten for his preaching), and a huge framed pic of my home church and congregation in 1945. On my bookshelf you will find 100-year old theology books and denominational histories, a plethora of COG material from various decades, and numerous books approaching faith from Pentecostal, Catholic, reformed, and emerging/missional views. I value all of it– b/c I am part of all of it. What we have today is tied to that which is before us. And, we are all connected together. I want to help bridge it all together.

    However, I still believe there are some basic generational differences that require different ways of looking at . We have to stop being suspect of one another– whether the difference is age, denomination, ministry role, worship style, leadership position, etc. But we have to understand one another better to be able to make these in-roads. That is basically the perspective from which I write. I hope this long essay clarifies my thoughts in previous posts.

  28. Well, it looks like this little discussion has finally petered out. It was interesting. Probably more than anything else, what I have taken away from it is the challenge to consider just how easily our words can divide. It’s difficult to talk about things that need to change and how to change them without alienating, offending, and/or isolating others. So, I really appreciate the perspectives offered here that challenge us to consider that. I want to take the way I speak about things to the “next level” (to use some obnoxious church-speak). I also see that it’s vital to consider my words when discussing trends at very broad levels. I know it’s impossible to never be misunderstood. But I hope that the Lord can help me, and us, speak in a way that will ultimately bring together more than it tears apart. For now, we still have a lot of tough things to discuss, including some dysfunction and/or pathology. But I feel optimistic that there will come a point when we are able to focus on the Kingdom task ahead of us. At that point it will be much easier to find words that unify. Until then, I’m committed to searching for the best words. Thanks for a very interesting discussion!

  29. Great stuff, Jonathon, Louis, and all.

  30. […] a doubt some two years since this video, the denominational environment is less toxic and more permissive.  That is not to say that there […]

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