J.J. Vasquez: Model the Church Culture You Want

We asked pastors of some of the nation’s largest churches to share their thoughts on church growth, discipleship, outreach and faithful ministry.

J.J. Vasquez, Lead Pastor
Journey Church
Winter Park, Florida

From a human perspective, a major factor for our church’s growth has been an intentionality toward the shaping of our culture and the system we’ve put in place to develop and reinforce it. Culture, or the way a space feels, is largely determined by the way people are—for example, kind, sincere, passionate, helpful, etc. When our church’s attendance was at its lowest, the first thing I had to do was realize I was not who I wanted our church to be. Once I had a vision of who that was, I made the necessary changes to become that person. Once I became a model of our church’s culture (still working on it, to be honest), I created a system where I could spend intentional time with key leaders. Once those key leaders caught the Journey culture, then it was just a matter of time before it cascaded throughout our church.

In December of last year when we wondered if our church would ever reach more people, somehow Journey caught the attention of a statewide newspaper. The reporter was writing a story about how millennials were leaving structured religious institutions like the church. After attending one of our worship services, she was so impressed by the environment and the people (the culture), the story changed to how our church was an example of millennials engaging with their faith. The story ended up on the front page of the paper. We had a ton of first-time visitors after that, and the reporter and her family now attend our church. Only God could’ve done that.

Leadership is the echo of your soul. Who you are resonates. There is time to fix systems, fix strategies, build environments, but there’s no time for an unhealthy soul. When that is right, the rest will get right. When that is off, nothing will align.

You need a target and you need self-awareness. I’m not trying to grow a ton in the areas I’m not gifted in or called to. Once I identify those areas, then I am intentional about being around the resources and people who can help me grow. I listen to 7–10 sermons a week because I feel called to preach. I meet with someone monthly who’s ahead of me in the leadership journey and ask questions because I feel called to lead.

Jesus has never been more relevant. The gospel is divisive no doubt, but it’s also restorative. The more the church preaches and exalts Jesus, the more healing and change we will experience.

Read more candid conversations with Outreach 100 pastors »

Twitter: @JJLVasquez
Website: JourneyORL.com
Founded: 2016
Denomination: Assemblies of God
Locations: 1
Attendance: 1,079
Fastest-Growing: 10

Lora Schrock
Lora Schrock

Lora Schrock is editor of Outreach magazine.