It’s important that we remind ourselves what God has been telling us in scripture, in prayer, and through the leadership of the church. Which is why, if you recall before Thanksgiving, we started a short series on our Mission and Core Values statements.
What is a Core Value?
When we asked the question, “What does God want us to do?” we answered it in two ways. First was our mission statement, and then alongside that statement we crafted a series of seven Core Values. Seven things we believe we should be doing as we seek to accomplish our God-given mission.
So what is a Core Value? Everyone has core values. It’s the things that we think are most important to us. Individually we have Core Values – some people call them “priorities” or “main concerns”. They are the principles that guide a person’s (or an organization’s) conduct. It’s the rules that guide how we make our decisions and relate to the people around us.
There are a lot of ways that people define their Core Values. For some people, the number one thing they want out of life is “security”, and so they spend their life making sure that they and those around them are safe and taken care of. For others, their main value is “duty” and so they put themselves at risk so they can follow orders and accomplish the greater good. Some people’s value “Excellence” most, and so they try to do everything in their life as best as they can – while others value “peacemaking” or “friendship” and are willing to let the excellence slide for the sake of relationship. Some value “creativity” and “novelty” or “spontaneity” while others value “tradition”, “simplicity” or “stability”.
People have multiple Core Values, of course, and different people are going to choose differently – and they aren’t right or wrong. The person who values “spontaneity” is not better or worse than the one who puts a high value on “stability”. God builds us all differently, gives us unique gifts, perspectives and priorities, and then brings us together to work it out as family.
Why We Need Core Values
In our church family, as we prayed and read the scriptures together, we came up with seven Core Values that guide how we do ministry here at our church. Now, you may be asking yourself: Why am I going through this? Why did we spend so much time on this? Why is there an official document? Why am I making a big deal about this?
Let me give you two important reasons why we need to do this. And let me encourage you to think of your own personal Core Values as we go through this.
1. They Tell Us Who We Are
First, our Core Values remind us about who we are and what we’re all about. God knows everything about us. Hebrews 4:13 says, “…no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” That’s important to know, but its flip-side is also important – that we must also know ourselves.
We all know the warning of Jeremiah 17:9 which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can know it?” And then it reminds us that only God truly knows us and will help us to know ourselves.
But the Bible is full of warnings to people who think falsely about themselves. People who think they are right in the eyes of God, but aren’t. People who think riches are the way to salvation. People who think God cares more about religion than mercy. In Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” “Know Thyself.” is an ancient Greek maxim. In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote “This above all: to thine own self be true.” The whole point is that we need to see ourselves honestly. We need to have an honest assessment of who we are and what we’re all about.
And once we know that, we can communicate it better to anyone who asks.
I’m sure you’d agree that it’s important to know who we are and be honest with ourselves, but it’s really hard sometimes. Consider the world of Online Dating – which, when you think about it isn’t that much different than constructing our church website. You want to put your best foot forward, make a good impression, and connect with people.
So how do you fill out your profile? I Googled “The most common lies in online dating profiles” and wasn’t too surprised by the results. People like about basically everything. One study I found that 80% of online daters lie about their height, weight or age. Which, when you think about it should be the easiest ones to tell the truth about. Go measure yourself and then put in the number – but nope. People want to get good results, so they fudge. 5’ 11’ becomes 6’. 137 lbs becomes 125 – which is their goal, so it’s kind of true, right?
The next big lies are their income and job title. Men tend to embellish their wage by about 20%. They know it’s important to women, so they — overestimate. They’ll probably get a raise soon, right?
People lie about their lifestyle –how far they’ve traveled, what car they drive, even what hobbies they have. They want to meet an outdoorsy type, so they say they love camping – and then they meet a guy who wants to take them camping – and they hate it.
And of course, the single most deceptive thing about online dating was the photographs! They take a picture in the dark, some use Photoshop to edit themselves to look a little better, others use photos from 5 years ago.
Now we may look down on these people as liars – and they totally are – but we have to remember that we sometimes do the same thing when we look at our own church. When we put up the church website, print our pamphlets, and tell our friends about our church, it’s easy to do it with rose-coloured glasses. Sure, we can easily say, “we’re all about Jesus”, and “we’re really friendly”, but that doesn’t help the average person know what we do. Narrowing down the question: “What is Beckwith Baptist Church all about?” is a tough one. And when people ask, and when we advertise our church, we want to be clear and honest.
That’s why we put together the Core Values. It tells us and others who we are. It tells us and others our church’s priorities. And it tells people what our priorities are not.
Look at the list. Our Seven Core Values are Loving Relationships, Biblical Authority, Christ Focused, Spirit Empowered, Lifestyle Worship, Equipping for Action, Leadership Development. Those are our Core Values. They’re what we’re all about. That’s our priorities. They are what we do together as a church.
You don’t see things like “Financial Growth” in there. You don’t see “Traditionalism”, “Artistic Experiences”, “Being Politically Active” or “Multi-Site Ministries” in there. Those aren’t bad things, but they’re not our things.
This is an important exercise for any organization, including a church, but it’s also important for an individual or a family. What am I all about? What are our family’s highest priorities? As you’ve prayed, listened to God, and read His Word, what has He been telling you about how you are created and what you’re here for?
2. They Help Us Make Decisions
The second benefit to knowing our Core Values is that they help us make decisions. Once we know who we are and what we’re all about, we can decide what we are going to do – and not do. When confronted with an idea, a ministry option, or a potential partnership, we now have a list of seven things that we can look to that will help us decide what to do about it.
I probably get an e-mail-a-week with a new thing that our church can do. We’re part of the CBOQ denomination and they’re always sending us things we can do. I represent our church at a group called Love Carleton Place which does local events in CP. And Lanark Gospel Fellowship is starting at the end of this month. A short time ago we were invited to join another church to put a float in a Christmas parade. We support Lanark County Food Bank, Calvary Christian Academy, the Fellowship of Christian Farmers, MercyShip and the Gideons. There’s a dozen concerts that come into our e-mail box that we can advertise, and at least 100 different Christian organizations we could try to feature on any given Sunday.
We can participate in Mission Sunday, Ebola Sunday, Native American Ministers Sunday, Camp Sunday, Kid’s Sunday, Earth Sunday, Peace Sunday, Women’s Sunday, Remembrance Sunday and many, many others.
Do we do small groups or a Wednesday night Bible Study? Do we have children’s Sunday School before church, after church, or during the sermon? Do we have communion every week, once a month or occasionally? Do we use grape-juice, wine or both? Do we use regular, unleaven or gluten-free bread? Do we have one main preacher, or many different speakers? Do we sit in pews or in chairs? Do we have PowerPoint or hymnals?
There are a zillion options placed before us – ones that scripture doesn’t give us a clear answer to – and we somehow need to find a way to work together to figure out what God wants us to do, what’s right for us, those who attend here, and the people we are trying to serve in our community.
And so, we came up with these 7 Core Values, and gave each one a clarifying, key question that will guide us in our decision making.
The first one is Loving Relationships. The document we wrote says, “We believe that God prioritizes relationships and wants us to be a church where our love for Jesus grows and overflows into loving relationships with others. We want all aspects of our church to be focused on going deeper with God and the believers around us, and then have that love overflow to the non-Christians in our community.” And then the key question is “Are we building deep, life-long, spiritual and practical relationships with God and others?”
That’s a big one. When we’re presented with all of these options of possible ministries we can work with, we ask the question: “Will that help us build deep relationships with God and others?” We want to avoid shallow relationships because they are of little value. We know that people are starved for love, and so we want to be a church characterized by sharing the love of Jesus with one another.
Our second Core Value is Biblical Authority. “We believe the Bible is the final authority for our lives and the word by which our thoughts and actions will be judged by God, and therefore want to be a church where all of our activities are faithful to scripture. We want all aspects of our church to inspire and equip people to study and obey God’s word.” The key question is: “Are the ministries in our church biblically based and inspiring and equipping people to love the inspired word of God?”
See how those first two work together. We want to build loving relationships, but we want to do it in a biblical way. We’re not willing to compromise biblical integrity for the sake of relationships. We show God’s love God’s way.
The third Core Value is that we are Christ Focused. “We believe that Jesus is God, He deserves our worship, and it is through no other name by which we are saved. It is only because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross that we can be reconciled to God, and therefore all that we do as Christians is meant to proclaim Him as Saviour, share His good news, make others disciples of Him, and bring glory to His Name.”
We don’t idolize the bible, each other, our church building, or anything else. It’s all about Jesus. We believe the whole of the Bible is about Jesus and so we preach it that way. If it’s not about Jesus, giving Jesus glory, and telling people about Jesus, then we don’t do it as a church.
The key question is a simple one: “Are we keeping our focus on Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour?” If the option doesn’t have Jesus in the middle of it, then we’re not doing it.
The fourth Core Value is that we are Spirit Empowered. Hopefully you’re seeing that these aren’t priority levels – one isn’t more important than the other – but they work together. This one says, “We believe that the Holy Spirit will build His church by giving each Christian supernatural gifts to use to worship God and build up the Body of Christ. We want to be a church where seeking God’s power through prayer is of first importance, cultivating spiritual gifts encouraged, and living out of His inspiration is natural and exciting.”
You’ve heard me preach about all of these over and over and over because they are so important to what it means to be God’s church. Prayer isn’t something we do, it’s the foundation of what we do. We don’t do things and ask God to bless them – we seek God’s will and then go where He wants us to go. We believe this is God’s church, and we are God’s people, so we’re just trying to come into agreement with what He’s already doing. And if it’s not clear that it’s what God wants, then we don’t do it.
And that’s why the key question is: “Are we utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit for leadership, direction, provision, power and blessing?”
I love that word “utterly”. It means “completely and without qualification, absolutely”. Is what we are doing in this church totally, entirely, fully, thoroughly, altogether, one hundred percent, downright, outright, in all respects, unconditionally, dependant on the Holy Spirit? Or are we trying to work in our own power and wisdom? Just as we want everything we do to be done with love, under the authority of scripture, and in the name of Jesus, we want everything to be powered by the Holy Spirit.
The fifth Core Value leads naturally from the previous one – Lifestyle Worship. If we are a loving, biblical, Christ-centred, holy spirit empowered church, then we will be a worshipful church. It says, “We want to be a church where each individual is encouraged and equipped to live their whole life in worship and communion with God, and also come together with other believers to participate in authentic, inspirational, excellent, joyful and meaningful community worship experiences.”
This helps us remember that worship doesn’t just happen for the one hour we’re at church. That one hour is meant to be an overflow of the week. The key question here is “Are we helping people live their whole lives as an act of worship?” And that doesn’t mean: Are we teaching them to squish their negative feelings and walk around with a smile pasted on their face, but are we rejoicing always (Phil 4:4) – even in tough times. Are all our ministries focused on “continually offering up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb 13:5)? If they’re not, why are we doing them?
Equipping for Action
The sixth Core Value is Equipping for Action. What this means is that “We believe that Jesus has given every disciple a mission and that the church’s responsibility is to equip them to accomplish that mission. We want to be a church where we train and practically equip people to be effective and self-motivated disciples who carry out the Great Commission.” You see, that’s different than “Spirit empowered”. Not only do we believe that the Holy Spirit empowers people, but that we have a responsibility to find what He’s doing, raise these people up, give them what they need, and help them accomplish what God wants them to do.
And so our question is this: “Are we developing Christian disciples who have the knowledge and tools they need to obey the call of Jesus on their life?” That’s a great question and it helps us assess all of our ministries. If God wants us to be disciple makers (Matt 28:19-20), then are we making disciples? Are we teaching people how to spiritually develop themselves and others? Are we a church that depends on a few key people to do everything, or is the work of discipleship spread across all ministries?
Believe it or not, there are many loving, biblical, Jesus centred churches that meet every week – have prayer and bible study and communion every week – but don’t make any disciples. The people aren’t growing in faith and obedience, no one new is being saved, and few people have any idea what their spiritual gifts are, let alone how to use them. We don’t want to be that kind of church, so we make it a priority to give opportunities to many people to get the knowledge and tools they need to obey what Jesus is asking them to do.
The seventh and final Core Value of Beckwith Baptist Church is Leadership Development. Just as there are some churches that don’t make disciples, there are many churches who don’t develop leaders. The same people do the same job, year after year, sometimes decade after decade, staying in leadership and never sharing the joy and responsibility with anyone else. They’re happy to be in charge, and the church is happy to let them do all the work. But leaders aren’t developed. There are Pauls, but no Timothys or Titus’. There are Elijahs, but no Elishas. There are Deborah’s but no Baraks. Moses’ but no Joshuas.
In our church we say, “We believe that God has called us to emphasize the development of mature Christian leaders who will have the passion and skills to cultivate and develop new leaders. We want to be a church where expectations are high and each leader is expected not only to serve in their area of ministry, but to equip others to take their place.”
That’s a terrifying thing to some people, but we make it a high priority in this church – because it’s a high priority to God. Sure, God equips people, but He also tells us to equip others. He gives us gifts, but then He expects us to train others. He gives us His word, but He wants us to teach it to others. We Equip people for Action, but there are some people who God is going to call to be leaders in His church, and so we make sure – and each leader in the church is supposed to do this – the elders, the deacons, the treasurer, the Sunday school teachers, the small group leaders – are to ask themselves that key question: “Are we working to mentor, train and empower the next cadre of Christian leaders?”
“Cadre” is another great work. It means “a small group of people specially trained for a particular purpose.” Are we working to make sure that there is another generation of leaders at BBC? That’s important to us, because we believe God put this church here on purpose. We have decades of leaders and leadership development under our belt; generations passing along the ministries to the next generation.
All it takes is for one generation to refuse to train the next runner, to refuse to give up the torch, for the marathon to end. Do we believe so much in the future of this church that we are willing to train up the next generation?
So those are our Core Values. It’s important that we know them, talk about them, keep them in front of us, and remember them when we are making decisions.
And I hope that by going through them you will think through your own personal Core Values. What do you stand for? Why do you do what you do? How do you know you’re on the right track and making the right decisions? Who did God build you to be and are you fulfilling His plan for your life?
Knowing our Core Values is an important way that we answer those questions.