The journey to identify values for our community of faith stems from the simple fact that values drive culture. “Culture” can be defined as “how we do things around here” and as a leadership we were keen to develop values that would drive the kind of culture that is in line with our sense of who God is inviting us to be. And it was, in fact, our growing clarity around God’s invitation to us as a community of faith that was especially helpful.
If, as we believe, our purpose is to join in with God’s plans to restore and renew all things in Christ there were certain behaviours – driven by particular values – that flowed from that purpose. For instance, if we are going to join in with God then we need to create margin in our lives to facilitate that participation. This requires deliberate, conscious, ON-PURPOSE decisions about our time, resources, and relationships. Each of the values flow from who we believe God is calling us to be. In this sense, each of the values are expressions of discipleship; what it means to follow Jesus everywhere we go and in everything we do.
This discipleship context also means that these are not values for Sundays or specific church ministry only. One of our key considerations was how these values would play out in our everyday life as followers of Jesus. The values needed to be as relevant in our families, neighbourhoods, schools, and work as they might be “in church”. For example, being BIG-HEARTED is as applicable in our workplaces as it is at church and as important to our relationships as it is to our finances. Each of the values – and the behaviours they promote – are worded in non-religious language to attempt to reflect their everyday nature.
Finally, because these are values for a community of faith seeking to be who God is inviting us to be, we didn’t feel it necessary to “value” the non-negotiables of faith. We are a Christian community. We’d hope it goes without saying that we value Jesus’ redemptive work, prayer, mission, worship, the Bible, etc. and these things are evident in our behaviours as a community of faith.
With that background in mind, let’s explore the five values in more detail…
As a community of faith we want to foster an ever-increasing awareness of God’s activity and the Spirit’s invitation to join It with that transforming work in Jesus. This requires a heart and mind focused on God that is attentive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but more than that, it requires that we create and maintain margin and space in our lives. In the busyness of life we often lack the necessary space and time to even recognise the invitation of God around us, let alone the room in our lives to take up that invitation.
In Jesus’ life there were times when he was incredibly busy (Mark 6:31) and yet he never feels rushed. Instead he always seems to know precisely what the Father was inviting him to do at precisely the right time. The kind of attentiveness to the Father is something to aspire to as we have been given the same Spirit that was at work in Jesus and have access to the Father through the work of Jesus and is a “spiritual competency” that we should foster in our lives.
However, it will not be enough to hear the invitation of God if we don’t have any margin in our life to respond. Part of the cost of following Jesus may be to say No to more in order that we might say Yes more readily to Him.
Margin in our lives may mean that we are able to volunteer in ministries and charities that are engaged in kingdom work, but it may also mean that we have the space to build relationships with those in our sphere of influence or to have the emotional margin to actually notice those around us.
Generosity is measured in more than quantities, extends beyond finances, and flows from a heart that has been transformed by Jesus. When our hearts are open, generosity in all its forms, is a natural outcome. Consider your attitudes towards your family or closest friends. If they were in need – any need – you would no doubt do whatever you could to help. And when our generosity flows from an open heart, we have absolutely no interest in being repaid. The chance to help, the opportunity to express love and care and concern is reward enough.
We believe God is inviting us into this sort of big-hearted generosity; imitating and extending his generosity to the world He loves and has promised to restore and renew. This BIG-HEARTEDness will flow into every interaction. It will be self-sacrificial – actually costing us because we are part of God’s plans and purposes – but without interest in repayment or tit-for-tat transactions of niceties with those we like. It will certainly be financial, but will extend to all our resources (e.g., time or skills). It will be holistic and relational; we will be generous with our forgiveness and compassion and towards those with whom we disagree.
Being BIG-HEARTED is another way we say Yes to God’s invitation to participate in what he is doing in the world and involves those inside and outside the community of faith. It is something we can cultivate everywhere we go and in everything we do.
Following Jesus is a whole-life adventure that will always hold more for us to learn and put into practice. Commitment to participating in this adventure requires that we never get too comfortable with comfort but that we continually strive to see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.
Humility and curiosity are critical ingredients to being WHOLE-LIFE LEARNERS. Humility keeps us from arrogance; assuming we know all there is to know. It opens us to learn from anyone and provides the courage to try, and sometimes fail, at new things. Humility also implies a willingness to express vulnerability about what we do not know, cannot do, and the fear and discomfort that learning involves. We will lean into this discomfort as it is more important to grow than to be comfortable.
Curiosity drives learning and encourages us to keep our minds and hearts open to differences. It keeps us from a response of fear, but invites questions and listening.
This is as true in faith as it is in every area of life but we will be committed to be WHOLE-LIFE LEARNERS in every other area of life as an extension of our commitment to follow Jesus believing that Jesus invites us to ongoing growth. We have been created to learn and to grow, and to do so reflects the plans and purposes of God.
On the night He was betrayed Jesus took a towel and washed His disciples’ feet; taking the posture of a servant. For, as He himself said about His ministry, He had come to serve rather than to be served. To be OTHERS-FOCUSED is our attempt to imitate Jesus.
A posture is unconscious; it’s how we stand or sit when we’re not thinking about it. As a community of faith we want to have an unconscious, default posture of service and selfless love. This posture will be evident in our actions and our attitudes which will be focused on those we are loving and serving. We will not assume we know what people want or need nor will we do things that make us feel good but which do not meet their needs. Like good servants we will be attentive to the needs of those around us and be concerned to meet them.
We will love and serve without condition; not requiring belief or faith from those in our wider community, workplaces, schools, and family before we serve. We will reach out in hope that selfless love and service might lead to an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus, but we will not make it a condition of our love or service.
As followers of Jesus we believe some big stuff. We believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We believe that God will do what He has promised; renewing and restoring all things. We believe that God is in control and that, in the midst of all the chaos of our world, He is not threatened by it, but continues to draw all things together in Christ.
As a community of faith, we will seek to reflect these attributes and characteristics of God in our behaviour. We will practice integrity; doing what we say we will do. We will seek to be consistent; being the same on Sundays as we are on Mondays. We will be predictable in the best sense of the word; predictable to build confidence.
We will be a safe place; safe for children, for the disabled, for the aged, for those who are vulnerable and marginalised. We will joyfully fulfil legislation as a way to develop trust with those who do not trust the Church. We will practice transparency and be willing to acknowledge our mistakes. We will be an example for other churches and other non-religious groups.
We will be a safe place for those who are journeying towards faith; those who have questions and doubts and whose life does not yet reflect a relationship with Jesus. We will be willing to allow them the time to ask questions, process answers, and grow in faith and will not rush them. We will trust God’s timing, but will also have an environment that regularly invites people to take a safe risk and take steps of faith.