In yesterday’s post, I began to answer the question of why we utilize a statement of purpose and core values as a church. As I said there, two main reasons rise to the top in this regard. First, these are representative statements that allow us to capture the over-arching principles that guide us, while not thereby detracting from specific Biblical concepts or exhortations. Today, I’ll focus on the second main reason that we’re choosing to employ succinct statements of purpose and values: Replication.
When I use the term replication, I’m trying to convey the responsibility of Christians generally (and churches particularly) to pass on Biblical passions and convictions. The church is not merely a local entity. We must always realize that we’re a result of others’ investment and discipleship. And by God’s grace, we will also be a tool in His hands for the discipleship of others. Any measure of health and vitality that God has granted to us as a community is to be seen as a great trust. With great privilege comes great responsibility. We believe that we have a charge to give away what we’ve been freely given by God’s grace. But, what does that have to do with our purpose statement and core values? Everything. Let me give you two scenarios to illustrate what I mean.
Imagine that a person at work has shown interest in Christ as you’ve consistently witnessed to them. They ask about your church, hinting at the fact that they’d like to come with you some time. But before they do, they want to know a bit about it. What do you tell them? Or maybe its a new airman who just got stationed here in your squadron. He’s a solid believer from the Southeast, and he’s looking to get settled into a church. So he asks about yours. How do you describe ITC? What elements characterize your description? Do you talk about the coffee… the kids’ ministry… the Home Groups or music? How would you capture the essence of who we are? Our purpose statement can be an aid in this situation: “My church is a gospel-centered and gospel-spreading church.” Now, I’m not envisioning that a person use this language (though that may well be the case). What I’m saying is that this language and these concepts are so central to our lives together that they overflow as we represent our local body. These statements are part of our DNA because the concepts that they communicate are part of the fabric of our life together. We hear consistently of gospel-centeredness from the pulpit, Home Groups, core groups, kids curriculum and youth ministry. And we are always seeking to push ourselves to extend the gospel message… be it a neighborly invitation to dinner or a relocation to Indonesia. Gospel-centered. Gospel-spreading.
But consider another scenario that is close to my heart. What do we focus on and pass on as we train another generation for ministry? What is it that we want them to walk away with? What kind of churches do we want them to lead? Though we have not (yet!) seen the burgeoning ministry training and internship program at ITC that I believe we will see in the coming years, we must think about how we will pass on what God has given us. I strongly believe that God has granted us an amazingly healthy and vibrant church. He has led us in ways that are surprising and humbling. He has brought together strengths and gifts from a variety of backgrounds that make us stronger than we’ve ever been. But how is it that we describe who we are? Better… how is it that we pursue being who we are (gospel-centered and gospel-spreading)? Simple. We pursue those by being Word-Saturated, God-Dependent, Shepherd-Hearted, Body-Minded and People-Preparing (and no, I’m not asking you to memorize those today).
These are not only core values because they are expressions of Biblical teaching, but because they are uniquely woven into the heart of our church. We continually hear of the value of the word… and the central place of authority that it must have in our lives. We consistently (and increasingly) respond to opportunity and crisis in prayer and dependence on God. Who hasn’t heard by now the term “shepherding” for how our leaders care for the flock. It is a passion to take believers from where they are to deeper degrees of Christlike joy. And that isn’t merely the job of the leaders… all of us can spur one another on toward holiness. We are after all, a body. Each part is called by God to serve and give and live. We walk through life as a community of believers… a family of faith, rather than disconnected individuals who happen to come to the same auditorium on Sundays. We are now, and will continue to be mindful of how our lives impact and encourage the body, and vice-versa. And what about that next generation? Whether church-planters, college interns or kindergarteners… we believe that our calling is to entrust the gospel for future ministry. Even those who have been in the pews here for years ought to feel the tug toward greater preparedness. How can we all be moving toward deeper capacity to minister the gospel and lead others to maturity? Our core values are not flippant phrases. They are indispensable convictions about how we as a local body pursue the calling that God has given us.
As I said above, over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting a number of articles that will serve as examples from the Scriptures in all of these areas. My hope is that we not only begin to grasp the truths behind these statements… but that we also see God deepen our passion to honor Him in them.