What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values? (Part 3)

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

This is the last post in a short series on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are helpful in emphasizing what makes a particular church unique. But what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

So far, I have described two scenarios that can spring up in a church where they don’t know or act on their core values: perpetual conflict and mission drift. These of the symptoms of the greater problem of ignorance and apathy. Here is a third scenario that can arise from this problem.

Scenario #3: Misplaced Priorities

Calvary Church has had many ups and downs during Pastor Mark’s tenure. During the last few years, however, the downs seem to be happening more regularly. In order to “rebuild momentum” and “turn things around,” Pastor Mark has encouraged his church to lower their standards for membership. In fact, they have discussed removing membership from their church altogether. The line of thinking is that people are just people. If they make it as easy as possible, with no expectations or required beliefs, then maybe more people will opt in. This idea gains a lot of traction with the church’s existing membership and they make it a major emphasis as they promote their church out in the community. For a brief time, the emphasis seems to work, attracting a handful of newer people to the church. But they don’t stick around very long because their commitment level is so low.

Another problem pops us in Calvary Church as well. Some of the newcomers to the church hold some unbiblical views and others are involved in some questionable practices. One charismatic and persuasive newcomer offers to teach a study that describes heaven and hell as a myth instead of real places. Another caring and creative newcomer begins a class on the benefits of all world religions. In time, these groups weaken the church’s convictions about the necessity and uniqueness of the gospel message.

All values are not created equal. Some values are real and some are aspirational (“I wish we believed in X, Y, or Z”). Some values are shared and others are personal (Think back to the scenario about perpetual conflict). And more importantly, some values are biblical and some values are not. This may one of the most important reasons for a church to identify and define its core values. If a church chooses and implements an unbiblical value, it will wander away from its Scriptural basis.

Being open and welcoming to newcomers are good and healthy things. Removing unnecessary barriers to participation and membership is a must. For example, people shouldn’t be expected to meet a specific dress code to attend or join your church. But removing any and all doctrinal boundaries or expectations for membership is a value that goes too far. In fact, it’s unbiblical. The Scriptures make repeated references to the importance of being a recognized part of a local church (Acts 2;47, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Hebrews 13:17).

It is important that church leaders and church members know their core values to make sure they line up with Scripture. Things that are unexamined and unexplained can lead subtly in the wrong direction.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values? (Part 2)

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

This post is a continuation of my last post on the importance of core values in the local church. Core values are foundational concepts that shape a church’s personality and “drive its ministry”, according to Aubrey Malphurs.

So far, we’ve been exploring what happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values. In the last post, I described a church that was damaged by perpetual conflict because influential parties in the church refused to take ownership of their own personal values.

Here is another scenario…

Scenario #2: Mission Drift

Pastor Mike has served at Christ’s Fellowship Church for more than a decade. He is well known for his strong pulpit ministry and his shepherd’s heart. Christ’s Fellowship is known in the community as one of the busiest churches in town. They have events and programs going at the church building every day of the week. Sunday’s schedule is full of Bible studies, worship services, and volunteer training. Monday and Tuesday feature specialty studies, outreach programs, and a full slate of committee meetings. Wednesday evening has a long list of age-graded ministries along with ministry teams preparing for upcoming services. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday include affinity groups for outreach, numerous social gatherings, and a large youth sports program. Pastor Mike and his church members work hard to maintain all of these ministry opportunities. They don’t have as many people involved as they once did, but they are faithful to “get the job done.”

In time, Pastor Mike notices that his church members seem tired and worn out from all of the activity. He spends an inordinate amount of his time recruiting new leaders and volunteers. He is proud of all that His church is doing, but secretly wonders how long they can keep it up.

In addition, Pastor Mike has also noticed that Christ’s Fellowship seems to have a hard time keeping newcomers. Guests visit and attend for a few weeks or a month, but they fade away with no explanation. When he follows up with some of the guests who are more open about their experience, they share that they are unsure where to get started or how to plug in since there is so much going on at the church.

This is a more subtle problem with core values, but it is just as damaging. When a church fails to define and defend its core values, it begins to drift from its mission. If you try to chase too many priorities, you will get overwhelmed, and soon or later you will have to let something go. Churches leaders that do not know their church’s core values will be tempted to adopt every new ministry trend that comes along. Church members that do not understand their core values will try to start programs to meet every need. Or, they will have a very hard time letting go of a ministry that has outlived its usefulness.

Churches that drift from their mission will have a hard time retaining newer members. People are excited about joining in with a group of people that are going somewhere. They are less excited about joining up with a group that seems to be going everywhere at the same time.

It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe a third scenario of what happens when that’s not the case.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

What Happens When a Church Doesn’t Know or Act on Its Values?

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values?

Every church has the same mission, but its own personality. We all go about making disciples for Jesus Christ in our own unique way. Some congregations emphasize the relational part of church life, while others focus more heavily on the praise and worship part. Other assemblies pay more attention to community engagement and missions.

A church’s personality is shaped by its core values. Church leadership expert, Aubrey Malphus, defines core values as, “The constant, passionate, biblical core beliefs tha drive ministry.” A church’s top priorities are what bring a church together – or at least they should!

What happens when a church doesn’t know or act on its values? How can you tell if there is a breakdown in communication or a missalignent? What does ot take to reenergize a church that is struggling? How can you repair an unhealthy church culture?

This post will introduce the first of three church scenarios involving ignorance and inaction when it comes to core values. Each scenario is an example of what can happen when a church and its leaders are unware and out of touch with its operational convictions. The remaining church scenarios will be described on posts that will be released later this week.

Scenario #1: Perpetual Conflict

Pastor Tom came into First Church with a ton of energy and enthusiasm. He was excited to serve in his first senior pastorate and the church was excited to have him. First Church had been a thriving and growing church at one time, but recently they had been struggling. Pastor Tom introduced a number of well-thought out initiatives that were designed to attract new people to the church. In time, those initiatives began to work and the church was reinvigorated with stream of new faces. But some older members of the congregation were uneasy about the changes. The new changes interrupted the weekly schedule they had been accustom to. The new people were unfamiliar and hard to get to know. The increase in attendance meant that it was more difficult to get their pastor’s attention when they had a need.

In time, these older members began to complain about how their church had gotten “too big” and how the newer people were moving the church in the “wrong direction.” The complaints continued until they stirred up a significant amount of friction and discontent in the church. Attempts to address the concerns by Pastor Tom and other supportive church leaders were unsuccessful. In time, Pastor Tom felt pressure to leave First Church for another place of ministry, even though the church was evangelizing the lost and attracting new members.

This is an example of a breakdown in communication between a pastor and the congregation he is called to serve. Pastor Tom put a high value on evangelizing the lost and growing the church through new people. Few church members would openly oppose evangelism or church growth, but in this example, the disgruntled church members have a different set of core values. They are more interested in personal relationships and fellowship. These priorities are not bad or wrong. Healthy relationship are vital part of any healthy church. The problem happened when neither party (the church or the pastor) took ownership of core values that were driving their approach life and ministry in the church. They never sat down together and discussed why they felt so strongly about their opposing visions of the church.

It is important that church leaders and church members know and act on their core values. They are what brings the church together. Tomorrow’s post will describe another version of what happens when that’s not the case.

Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve observed about core values in the local church.

The Freedom to Forgive

This is a guest post from my friend, Clay Woford. Clay is a husband, Seminary student, Director for Business Development for Coastal Wealth Management, and an Engineer for Marathon Petroleum.

You have been wronged, maybe small – maybe large – maybe for the last time? You feel you deserve justice, or revenge – that you need it. You seek counsel from friends and they support you that you deserve better, you deserve justice, that you don’t need to forgive this person who has wronged you. When you are wronged, you can lose an endless amount of time dwelling on what happened. Yet, your faith calls for different and there is freedom found in Christ from this bondage.

Your faith in Jesus Christ leads you to 1. Delayed Justice and 2. Unconditional Forgiveness.

Delayed Justice

Hebrews 10:30 – “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

Romans 12:19 – “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Our Christian worldview guides us to not seek out our own justice through revenge or disparage someone. Our ultimate justice is coming in that God will judge all according to their deeds.

Unconditional Forgiveness

The idea that forgiveness might have limits or that at some point it isn’t deserved is not a new thought. Peter asked Jesus this question to find out when forgiveness was exhausted. Jesus responded to him with a parable comparing what we have been forgiven, and how we should respond to this grace.

Matthew 18:21-35 – “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents (60 million days work) was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii (100 days work); and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way, that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

Matthew 6:12 – “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Unconditional Forgiveness is given by those who have been unconditionally forgiven. Our view, as Christians, on forgiveness is from a place of grace. Understanding that the forgiveness we find in Christ is of such magnitude that it should lead our hearts to forgive others. God has forgiven us of a debt we could never pay, we owed far more than 60 million days of labor, and that it should be our pursuit to forgive people who hurt us. You are “Paying It Forward” or paying your grace forward. That we are responding to our hurt or adversity, with generosity.

Forgiveness is baked into the essentials of faith with forgiveness being in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. Forgiveness is essential to our Christian living, but it doesn’t mean it is easy. That in life if forgiveness does not come quickly, resentment can set in and weigh heavy on your life for years, if you let it. If you find yourself struggling with forgiveness, lean on God to strengthen you for this task. I encourage you to not struggle alone if you are wrestling with forgiveness or resentment, that you share your burden with another Christian to walk together. That in Christ, you find forgiveness and the power to forgive others.

Clay can be contacted at rcwoford@gmail.com

A Clash of Worldviews

The increase in conflict and hostility in America is due, in part, to a growing divide between the secular and the Christian worldviews. Christian author, James Sire, defines a worldview as “a fundamental orientation of the heart.” A worldview answers the all-important questions of, “Who are we?” “Where are we?” “What’s wrong?” and, “Where are we going?” Everyone has a particular way in which they view the world even if they don’t know it, or their approach is inconsistent.

The clash of worldviews finds its basis in Scripture. In Romans 8:5-8, the Apostle Paul refers to minds set on the flesh and minds set on the Spirit. The Greek nouns behind the word for mind(s) means “a fixed disposition or an orientation towards something.” In context, Paul is describing two approaches to life: one that is focused on the flesh and materials things (as if that is all that exists) and another that is focused on the Spirit and the things of God. These two worldviews are diametrically opposed to one another.

Many of the morals, values, and traditions in American have grown out of a Christian worldview. As unbelieving American’s distance themselves from these practices (intentionally and unintentionally), they are also distancing themselves from the principles of a Christian worldview. The growing divide between these two basic worldviews has become the breeding ground for wide-spread animosity and distrust.

To be clear, this isn’t the only reason for our disunity, but it’s one of the more fundamental reasons that doesn’t get talked about very much. A Christian response to this situation includes three components. First, Christians should should work to bring their fundamental assumptions in line with each other as well as Scripture. Internal consistency and the authority of the Bible are two of features that make the Christian worldview so attractive.

Second, Believers must work to uncover the fundamental assumptions of their unbelieving co-workers and neighbors so they can share the hope and joy that that comes from a God-centered worldview. The expectation in 1 Peter 3:15, is that this activity is to be done in a spirit of gentleness and respect. This is the part that seems to be missing these days. Harshness and disrespect seem to be on the rise on both side of the cultural divide.

Third and finally, Christian parents and Church leaders should work to pass on the principles of a Christian worldview, not just the practices that have grown out of it over time. The next generation needs to embrace the answers to the all-important questions (see above), instead of just going through the motions. This is harder work, but it’s essential work.

The clash of worldviews in American is a wakeup call and an opportunity. Its an invitation to reflect more intentionally and more deeply about what we believe and how those beliefs impact our lives. Its also an invitation to engage with others who may believe differently and to share the truth with them.

Devotional Thought for Leaders: The Cult of Personality

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1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 3:4-9

One of the issues the ancient church at Corinth struggled with was division.  In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that church he wasted no time in identifying one of the main sources of their conflict.  Apparently, the church had been influenced by a cult, the cult of personality.  The people in the church had divided their loyalty among several key church leaders.  Some people had aligned themselves with either Paul or Apollos, while others claim exclusive allegiance to Peter or Jesus Christ.  It would seem that the last group had the right idea, but lived it out in a divisive way.

 Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that every human leader in the church is just that – a human leader.  Compared to God the Father, or His Son, Jesus Christ. we are all just “workers” in God’s field.  Some may plant and some may water, but it is “God who cause the growth” (3:7).

Unfortunately, the cult of personality didn’t end with the first century church.  Power, fame, and influence are big values in our culture today, and they slip easy into the church.  Sometimes it’s a pastor who is secretly (or not so secretly) set on becoming more popular than Jesus.  Sometimes it’s an up-in-coming staff member or lay leader who wants to make a name for him or her self.  Sometimes it’s a long-time member who enjoys exerting their influence and control.  Whatever form it takes, this passage warns us that the end result of the cult of personality is division, and ultimately distraction.

Here are some questions to help you stamp this cult out in your church or organization:

Is the conflict in your church or organization issue based or personality based?  If it is personality based, what are people doing to create the problem?  Are you part of the problem?

How can you humbly engage with the divided parties and turn their attention back to God and His mission?

Two Aspects of Forgiveness

quotes“Forgiveness is both an event and a process.  Making the four promises of forgiveness (found earlier in the book) is an event that knocks down a wall that stands between you and the person who has wronged you.  Then a process begins.  After you demolish an obstruction, you usually have to clear away debris and do repair work.  The Bible calls this ‘reconciliation,’ a process involving a change of attitude that leads to a change in the relationship.”

-Ken Sande, The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict           (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 219