I’ve been writing a few articles on things like mission and vision statements. There is the risk that such things can feel corporate, slick and fluffy. However, if a mission statement is really simply “Matthew 28:19-20 with a date stamp and a postcode” then what we are doing is helping the church apply God’s word to its context.
So, in the same way, some churches and organisations will also create a list of their values. Here we are thinking about what the church is meant to look like in practice, what things are important to the culture of the church? What are its priorities? In other words, we might say that if your mission statement is “Matthew 28:19-20 with a date stamp and a postcode” then your values are Acts 2:42 with a date stamp and a postcode on it.”
You might therefore suggest that your values are something along the following lines:
Being Gospel centred in everything (Matthew 28:19-20)
Every aspect of church life will be shaped by the priority of knowing Jesus and making him known to others. The Church will constantly be seeking to ensure that this remains its goal. It will want to root out idolatry and get rid of anything that distracts it from its purpose
Living under the authority of God’s Word (Acts 2:42)
The early church members were devoted to the Apostle’s teaching. We believe in the living God who made us, is sovereign over the World and offers us a personal relationship with him. We want to hear him speak to us and to obey him. We know that the Bible is the place where he speaks authoritatively, sufficiently and clearly to us (2 Tim 3:16). So a healthy church will seek to teach and obey Scripture. Time will be given for expository Bible Teaching and for Bible Study. People will be encouraged to apply the teaching in their own lives. There will also be a strong expectation that it is the Holy Spirit who speaks to us through his word and so that expectation will mean that we desire to encounter him whenever we meet.
Wanting to worship God with our whole lives (Acts 2:47)
The early church members were “praising God.” “The chief end of man is to enjoy God and Glorify him for ever.” (Shorter Catechism) Worship should be marked by joyful praise. The emphasis will be on who God is and what he has done, not on us. Corporate worship should include songs, prayer, reading scripture.
Creating a sense of family (Acts 2:42)
The early church members were devoted to fellowship and broke bread in each other’s’ homes. We do not live the Christian life as isolated individuals. A church should be marked by practical love and care for each other. Church is a family in which we play our part, working together, sharing our lives together, caring for each other. A church may then place a strong emphasis on being part of a small group for Bible study, fellowship and prayer. They will also encourage all members to be involved in different aspects of ministry including welcoming duty, moving chairs, leading worship, teaching children’s groups etc
Committed to Mission (Acts 2:47)
God added to the early church daily. Matt 28 reminds us that we are to “go” to “all nations.” And make disciples. A healthy church will not be inward looking but outward looking. It will have a strong commitment to evangelism. This may include encouraging personal evangelism, providing events and settings to which non-Christians may be invited where they will hear the Gospel, going out as a church to communicate the good news. A healthy church will support mission, not just on its own doorstep but further afield through sending, praying for and funding missionaries and mission agencies.
You will see that as I’ve described a set of values here (these are almost as they appeared in some sessions I ran at Bearwood Chapel on “Believing and Belonging”) that I’ve started to show how a church might flesh out its values to explain how they put them into practice. You will want to think about your own context.
Also, you will see that I led with the theme of being “Gospel centred”. This is the dominant value for me because what it means is that a church will be one where grace saturates its culture so that the Gospel of Grace will be seen in how we go about our lives. We don’t just want to have the doctrines of grace but also a culture of grace. However, those doctrines matter too and we’ll come to them in a later article.