As a church planter, I love teaching and training other planters. When given the opportunity to speak to planters, there are a few general principles I emphasize, one being the importance of defining your values and by extension, the values of the church.
I am passionate about clarifying values primarily because I see how it continues to impact my pastoral ministry to this day. We have a set of core values which express the “why” behind what we do in our church as we make decisions and chart our course forward.
Ideally, we develop a certain synergy where these values work in a united rhythm but there are times as a church when we find ourselves having to weigh certain values against one another. I believe these moments can help to define the unique mission and calling of the church.
Pastors need to be flexible. I often notice that some struggle because of an inability to change as needed to appropriately contextualize their ministry to their community. “Pragmatism” is often spoken of in some ministry circles like it’s a dirty word. I don’t believe that’s always true.
So, I affirm the need for pastors to be flexible but in the end, I also believe that a pastor needs to know what values will take precedence over others in the church, even if for a temporary season. In other words, what values will you choose over other very important ones? What values are worth dying for, even at the expense of other good things?
For example, multiplication is a significant value in our church. Our prayer is to be a church who makes disciples who make disciples. I believe that some of the natural fruit from this looks like new churches being planted as disciples and leaders are multiplied. My personal hope is to see churches planted out of our own.
However, as important as multiplication is to us, we also hold reconciliation as a high value in our church. I’m not necessarily saying reconciliation is more important than multiplication but we have come to recognize that the efforts at building bridges across cultural boundaries may actually slow down rapid numerical growth in the church. We may realistically experience more rapid growth if we adhered to a homogeneous unit principle approach to outreach with specific targeted programming to particular demographic groups. Yet, we have committed to being a church where we view the unity of diverse populations as an aspect of our mission. Obviously, we want to see a growing number of people discover Jesus. But we also want to be a church that reflects a growing diversity in our midst as people who would normally have very little to do with one another are becoming family because of Jesus.
In an ideal world, we are experiencing numerical growth in the church while also witnessing a growing diversity represented in our community. But if forced to choose between the two—and especially considering the current fractured state of society—we believe pursuing reconciliation is the best way we can truly represent God to our world. Our church needs to understand that a step that we are not taking which seems to slow down steps for numerical growth might actually be an intentional step not taken for the sake of cultivating deeper cultural reconciliation in our congregation.
Weighing our values helps communicate to our church why we choose to do what we do and why. I encourage you to sit down on your own or with your staff and consider your values. Ask yourself, “Though all of our values are important, which ones may take precedent in the season we find ourselves in?” This process can provide clarity and momentum to the particular call God has for your church in your community at this time in history.