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Organizational Culture

I’ve recently been in a number of discussions regarding the concept of “organizational culture.” Organizational culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions, values and beliefs, which a group of people has learned over time and which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, feel and act within the organization. These shared values have a strong influence on those in the organization and govern their behavior.1 “Every organization develops and maintains a unique culture, which provides guidelines and boundaries for the behavior of the members of the organization.”2

The “Iceberg Principle” (see below) says that the unseen or hidden elements of an organization’s culture—its values, beliefs and assumptions—are what drive behavior, products and practices. When a leader’s actual values (shown by what they model, how they respond to crises, what they resource, etc.) do not line up with the stated or desired values, the organizational culture will reflect the values of the leader. Trying to change policies and procedures without changing the core issue (the values), will not bring lasting change and will inevitably frustrate the team.

In Christian ministry, a healthy organizational culture is one “whose members demonstrate their real values through their behavior that is consistent with the teachings and example of Jesus.”3

I find the “Iceberg Principle” a great reminder that if I want to see behavior that is consistent with who Christ calls us to be, I have to make sure that my actual values are a reflection of His values and character. The values that I model to those in my ministry will be the values that they will incorporate into their values and behavior—not the stated values of the ministry. And I can’t just make surface changes through policies and practices without first looking at our actual values. It’s challenging and humbling to realize the amount of power leaders have to influence values and behavior.

iceberg principle


1 Based on Nicoll, Peter. “Org Culture Model 2014.” PDF file. & McLaughlin, John. “What is Organizational Culture? – Definition & Characteristics.” Accessed 9 June 2015.

2 McLaughlin, John. “What is Organizational Culture? – Definition & Characteristics.” Accessed 9 June 2015.

3 Sessoms, Rick and Colin Buckland. Culture Craft. 2006. p6.

The Pruned Life

HSI has been in a season of rest and reflection for the past three months, and God has been stirring us deeply as we have sought to hear Him anew. Since ministry is best driven through our inner life with Christ, we sense He wants to grow us from the inside out. We greatly anticipate the increased fruitfulness and productivity that will result from this brief time of retreat from full activity

 (From “Sabbath Rest” by Ken Davidson).

Two important themes have surfaced for our focus:
1) The Weaned Soul – based on Psalm 131. Read HSI Founder Ken Davidson’s thoughts.
2) The Pruned Life

Let’s look at the second one.

One of our team members has a farm with a small vineyard, and last year he heavily pruned the vines because they had been left for a decade. It was a ton of work, but also produced a ton of new vines and fruit. I have a small garden which I planted about 9 years ago. The tree that I planted took a few years to get established, but then shoots and branches began growing at odd angles. A few years ago, I had to prune a considerable amount of the tree to make it grow in the right direction. The following years, I pruned a little less. This year it looks good and is growing the way I want it to! However, if I don’t continue to watch it and prune off the odd branches, it will become unruly again, and the work of pruning more difficult.













Sometimes we have to take on massive pruning in our ministries and personal lives because things are convoluted or headed in the wrong direction. However, if we prune consistently by continuing to seek the Lord, taking stock of our lives and ministries, listening to the Lord’s voice and obeying Him (and especially taking care when things are going well), things are less likely to get overgrown and unfruitful. While we will still need to prune—because of our own sin and things beyond our control (hardship, the choices of others, etc.)—the tree will be healthy and the pruning less difficult and painful.


Living Out of a Place of Rest, part 1

Back in January, OM Arts began its seventh year. We began talking about the biblical concept of the Sabbath—Shmita—year. In Leviticus 25, the LORD instituted the seventh year as a year of rest or release (“shmita”) for the land. The Israelites were not to sow, prune, or harvest, but to allow the land to rest. If they asked how they were to eat, God reminded them, “I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years” (Lev. 25:21, ESV). The rest for the land wasn’t just for the land’s sake, but to increase the faith of the people of God. My ministry leaders in OM Arts are taking us through this year as a Sabbath year.

In January, we weren’t sure what this would look like for Heart Sounds, but many of us knew it was touching on something that our ministry needed. Our director began by encouraging us to focus on going deeper rather than wider in our ministry areas—perhaps focusing on existing people rather than adding on lots of extra projects. Moving from the “Tyranny of the Possible” to the things that are directed by God. I want to bring you along on this journey, because four months later, this idea has come into focus and clarity is growing. But for this first post, let’s lay the foundation.

Thinking about an entire year of rest can be overwhelming. We need to begin by disciplining ourselves to listen to the still small voice of the LORD. We have to learn to be silent before Him little bits at a time. We need to begin to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt. 11:28-30, The Message).

My friend, Asheritah, has a wonderful blog post about this, called, “Just Shut Up.” I encourage you to read it. Then, read one (or more) of the “rest” passages below and allow the Lord to speak to you. Try not to do any talking, just listening. Take one a day. Or read the same one for an entire week. Suggested passages:

Psalm 46
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
Isaiah 26:1-12
Isaiah 30:15-18
Isaiah 40:18 – 41:14
Matthew 6:25-34
John 15:1-11
Philippians 4:4-9

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10, NIV

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! – Psalm 27:14, ESV

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30, NIV

Culturally Relevant Worship in 19th century India

Thanks to a co-worker, I’ve begun reading “This Day in Church History” nearly every day. I’m finding it an enriching experience. One of the most valuable parts is understanding that things I get excited about or fret over today are not new and have happened before.

One of today’s articles is about Norwegian missionary Lars Skrefsrud, an ex-con whose life God radically changed. He became a missionary to India in 1863. His story is interesting, but what stood out to me was his approach with the Santal people. He said, “‘It is the heathenism we want to get rid of, not the national character,'” and he made as few changes in Santal culture as he could and be still consistent with Christianity. He wrote down and preserved the Santal language, and “produced a hymnal using native tunes (Graves).” “His aim was an indigenous church, with its own language and clergy, retaining the native culture” (Kiefer). By the time of his death on this date in 1910, there were nearly 20,000 believers in the Santalese church.

His approach sounds very much like the kind of methodology the Ethnodoxology community encourages today (ethnos = peoples, doxology = praise). Sometimes I tend to think our approach is new, but it’s more that the principles we work so hard to encourage are taking root and becoming more widely used in missions. It’s gratifying to see that this fellow-worker in the gospel understood and implemented these same concepts over 130 years ago. God blessed the work of his hands and he saw much fruit.

To read the entire article, go here.

Works Cited
Graves, Dan. “Lars Skrefsrud, Norway’s Famous Missionary.” 28 April 2010.

Kiefer, James E, “Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, Missionary To India,” Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past

The HSI Metamorphosis



A little over a month ago, our team gathered outside of Atlanta for the annual Heart Sounds International Summit. The Summit is the one time of year that our entire team is together in one place. We had a marvelous time discussing “synergy”—how each department can contribute to the others and work together to do something bigger than each of us could do alone.


HSI Staff Team November 2014

We discovered that HSI’s story is like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. Our Prayer Coordinator did an excellent job of communicating how the Lord has led and changed our organization over the past 14 years. I have found her explanation to be useful for me as I’ve explained to others what we do. I want to share that with you—in pictures.





As a newly developed butterfly, we feel like we have emerged from the chrysalis and are standing on the edge of the branch, ready to leap off and soar into what the Lord has for us in 2015 and beyond! We already have at least nine projects in some level of planning for next year, one budding church partnership, and many other things in the hopper. Please pray with us for God’s direction and leading for the next phase of our call to encourage heart worship from the nations.

What Is Heart Music?

To truly understand what we do at Heart Sounds International, this question must be answered. So much of the “trade jargon” that we throw around is complex to explain and can be difficult to understand, mostly just because our focus in missions is so specialized. Ethnodoxology? Musicianary? Heart Worship? This article was recently posted on HSI’s Facebook page and explains the concept of heart music well. It was written by a colleague that HSI worked with a few years ago in the Philippines. The article will also give you some of the background behind the ethnodoxology movement and the current issues involved today. Not only that, but it gives a shout out to Heart Sounds!

As you read it, challenge yourself with these thoughts:
Is there a special worship song that makes me cry, no matter when I hear it?
How do I feel when my favorite songs are used in corporate worship?
Imagine what it is like for those believers who have never been able to express their praise to the Lord through music that speaks to them at this level.
How do I respond when someone 
else’s heart music is used in corporate worship?