Cultural Fit ≠ Christian: Part One

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This article was originally written as a training tool for the Betenbough Homes leadership team.

Anytime we talk about marketplace ministry, one of the most common questions we get from other businesses is, “Do you only hire Christians?” That’s a loaded question, but the answer is pretty simple: No.

There are a few things that play into our view of this. First, taking a blanket stance that you’ll only hire Christians for any position throughout your organization could be pushing the limit on what the law allows. Romans 13 is clear on our role as believers when it comes to the law of the land.

Second, we wouldn’t want to hire Christians exclusively even if there were no legal boundaries on this issue. That would fly in the face of what we’re trying to do here! All throughout the Gospels, we read how crowds of people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs were attracted to Jesus. He lived in an intentional and loving way that caused non-religious people from all walks of life to be drawn to him. He didn’t just huddle up with people who looked and thought like he did. In fact, the only people that felt uncomfortable around him were the self-righteous religious crowd.

The Bible says nothing about Jesus investigating the theology of the disciples before asking them to join him. Think about it: if Jesus had required his disciples to have the same view of God that he did, no person on earth would have qualified. He didn’t wait around for purposes to line up. Instead, he would find someone standing on a boat, and say, “Come follow me.” Together, they would travel through towns ministering to the hurting, feeding the hungry, and giving hope to the hopeless. As his disciples journeyed alongside him on this mission, they watched as he passionately lived by his purpose to glorify His Father in Heaven. Feeding someone was something they could immediately join in with. However, it took some time for the motive behind it to become “to the glory of God.” Jesus knew this, and therefore kept his expectations in-line with where his disciples were on their journey.

If our charge as believers is to be like Jesus, we have a pretty clear picture that he didn’t require people to hold the same beliefs as he did to walk life beside him or be loved by him.

So, What Is Our Culture?

One day in 2011, one of our managers walked into a meeting with a long face.

We asked what was going on, and he told us it was a bad day because he was going to have to let Billy go. We said, “Oh, man. We love Billy. What’s going on?” The manager replied, “Well, he just consistently doesn’t get his work done. But, what makes it so hard is he is such a cultural fit!

In that moment, one of our executive leadership team members said his eyes were opened to a problem.

He asked the manager, “Are you saying we have a culture of not getting our work done?” They quietly replied, “No, of course I’m not saying that.” He asked the group, “Do we have a culture of getting our work done around here?” We all chuckled, so he concluded “Well, maybe Billy isn’t a cultural fit! So, what do we mean when we say he is? Do we mean he’s a good guy? Maybe even he’s a Christian?”

The problem was we hadn’t defined our culture, but it was at that point we committed to figure that out, otherwise we wouldn’t know who to hire or who to fire. So, we went to work.

Every organization has a culture, regardless of whether they can articulate it or not. It’s something that is woven throughout any organization that is somewhat abstract, typically unspoken, but often very observable. While not easy to capture or describe, it is so powerful that it guides most decisions and actions within an organization. Culture is defined as the collective behavior of those within an organization, formed by shared beliefs, habits, systems, values, and vision. Operating largely outside of our awareness, culture creates a common ground for team members, providing a sense of order so that everyone knows what is expected.

Our Core Values 

As a leadership team, we put our heads together to identify the common set of characteristics that played into whether someone was successful in our company. We didn’t want to just find words that sounded pretty or looked good on a wall. We wanted to uncover what we as a group valued most. What most directly correlated to whether someone was a long-term fit or not? We took a reverse engineering approach, and literally compared a list of people who thrived here to a list of people who failed, to pinpoint what was different.

We quickly uncovered it wasn’t because they were a Christian, because there were Christians all over both lists. We considered 30+ attributes we thought might be the answer: ownership, value-oriented, innovative, initiative, transparency, resourcefulness, intentionality, etc. However, four key characteristics clearly separated themselves from the rest of the group, and those became our core values:

Unity: We relentlessly pursue the existence of a unified and healthy team. Unity requires humility, which is demonstrated by a gentleness and graciousness in our dealings with others as we exhibit patience and understanding. Unity is often displayed by how we submit to one another and put the interest of the group above our own, which is not natural or common in the rest of the world. Unity does not imply uniformity, but rather involves embracing diversity through a common mission. It doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to voice disagreements, but when we disagree we seek to understand someone else’s perspective, not simply prove that ours is right.

Growth: Life is a journey. We’ll embrace this fact, learn from our experiences, and commit to seeking progress and maturity. We will commit to constant improvement. We’re incessant tinkerers, who are always trying out new ideas and tweaking processes. This requires flexibility and a willingness to adapt. We acknowledge that feedback and accountability are not things to be avoided but are indispensable to growth and health at every level of the organization. We commit to graciously receive feedback and provide honest feedback in love. As we are faithful with what has been entrusted to us, we desire to be given greater territory.

Excellence: While this is an overused buzz word in the marketplace, it is unfortunately rare to run across an organization that truly is excellent. Excellence is not to be confused with perfection but refers to doing the best we can with the gifts and abilities God gives us. It’s about being all-in, committing to continual improvement on every front, and never being satisfied with “good enough” if better is possible.

Generosity: We believe that we are blessed to be a blessing. Resources have been entrusted to us not only for our good but for the good of others. We are not entitled to what we have been given, so we will be grateful in our receiving as well as our sharing, seeking how to best steward these resources for the greatest good, for the most people. We seek to have charitable hearts, free from pettiness in character and mind. We will intentionally look for ways to share our time, talents, treasures and influence with others. It’s an in-the-bones desire to help others grow, thrive, and succeed. Generosity extends to sharing more than the need-to-know information with our teams and letting them in on conversations most companies would have behind closed doors. It’s an open-handedness with our partners and even our competitors. It’s a fundamental mindset of abundance, not scarcity.

Our core values are the fundamental non-negotiables every person across our organization is accountable to. As humans, we each consistently fall short in these areas, so we extend much grace to one another. However, each team member is expected to be fully engaged as we intentionally strive toward these core values. Success does not necessarily mean the absence of mistakes, but it does mean the presence of consistent commitment.

Sometimes we refer to these as our “house rules.” They describe how we’re going to live together. They’re what we use to select people to move in with us, what we use to review how well they’re doing, and what we use to recognize when it’s time for someone to move out.

If you are the head of a household, one of your responsibilities is protector of that household. Likewise, we as leaders have a responsibility to protect the environment within the house. Ultimately, we’re most concerned with the hearts of the people who dwell in it, but there are some practical things we must do to ensure it’s a healthy environment.

A child carries the same last name as their father. It’s on the child’s birth certificate on their good days and bad days. There is nothing the child must do to do earn it. Their father’s love is unconditional – period. But if the dad comes home one day to find his unemployed 25-year-old son or daughter abusing drugs in his basement, what is he going to do? Does he still love them? Yes. Are they still his kid? Yes. But is their butt out on the front lawn? Yes! The love didn’t change, but to live in the house you have to abide by the house rules.

Did you know you can fire people in the Kingdom of God? We’ve had people come and confront us about that. They said if this is the Kingdom, everyone should be welcome, and no one would be kicked out. We told them they’re right, and then we kicked them out. This isn’t the Kingdom. It’s a part of the Kingdom, just like our house is part of the Kingdom. But there are house rules. Membership here is conditional. Just because I love you doesn’t mean I can let you take the ship down or make the environment toxic for everyone else. We must protect the house.


Keep an eye out for the second installment to this article next week where we will unpack more of this topic.

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  • Reply
    David Hastings
    September 13, 2018 at 6:17 AM

    This was fantastic article, Cal. Just as the Bible teaches us. God is a God of order. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    CC Massey
    September 12, 2018 at 9:41 PM

    Love it! Thanks Cal😉

  • Reply
    Wes Wright
    September 12, 2018 at 5:10 PM

    This really resonates; thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Cal Zant
    September 11, 2018 at 2:56 PM

    Thanks, Steve. I honestly can’t take credit for all of this. Much of this came from my friend, Jon Jackson. He really shaped how we think about this. And God continues to mature our view of all of this over time. I’ve learned much of this a progressive revelation about how God’s Kingdom can manifest in a business. It has been a wild ride at times, but it’s one I’m eternally grateful to be part of!


  • Reply
    steve simpson
    September 11, 2018 at 8:28 AM

    This is excellent, Cal. A biblical, concrete balance of love and grace. (Just like the Kingdom Jesus taught about). Thank you!

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