Starting as we mean to go on

We are in a new phase of our church plant. Laying foundations, establishing values, culture and vision. Things we want to multiply out to new believers amongst us.

We often begin with vision – in fact we have. However, vision is the easy bit. Especially for church leaders. The harder bit is establishing our values.

Plenty of businesses and organisations worldwide have spent countless hours holding workshops and conferences on their values only for the results to be pinned up on the notice board as a pithy list of abstract words.

Actually, it is who you are that defines where you go. Therefore let’s talk about our behaviours as opposed to just our values – or in other words, the success and out working of our values are demonstrated in the way we act.

Recently we (EMCF) have been reconsidering our values and bringing fresh definition to them. It has been an excellent process and if anything it reaffirms many things we already believe. Yet as we think of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament it was not so much about mission strategy or how to explain the gospel, rather how to behave. Think about (and go and read) Jesus’ teaching on the Beatitudes, on how to pray, how to forgive, how to serve one another. Only at the end of his time on Earth does he give the final, ultimate mission statement to his followers: now you go and make disciples of all peoples!

So then what are our values?  Here is just a brief outline to think about. There will be more to say on this in time.

  • Presence: we are people of God’s presence and as Moses said: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here”. We are a people of the presence and we are to be ones who carry and demonstrate His presence wherever we are. We want to be a people of the presence not just in our worship and corporate gatherings but in our daily lives.
  • Family: there are many metaphors for church but ‘family’ is of particular importance to us. We see our lives worked out in the family of the church: not an organisation with structure and hierarchy but a place of belonging where everyone is valued and has a place of function. Further still we want our family to be proud of its distinctives (say these values) and for us to be known as EMCF because of who we are not what we do.
  • Mission: we are here as participants in God’s mission and so we are not here for us but for the world. This missionary call hasn’t stopped: it might have started with a bang on the day of Pentecost and yes the momentum might have ebbed and flowed over the years but nonetheless the race is still going!
  • Transformation: you could (and we would) argue that this is the same as mission when you consider God’s big redemptive story but we wanted to separate it out because we feel that there is much to learn and do about how we are (at the risk of a cliché) transformers in our culture and society.
  • Identity: the most important value? They are all important but it is critical to us to understand who we are in Christ before we act in his name: to abide in Him and be secure in His love and our place in His kingdom before we attempt to try and achieve the same in our own strength.
  • Discipleship: this is about each one of us being a follower of Jesus and in turn making more followers. John Stott famously asked in his last ever sermon: What is God’s purpose for His people? (or in other words why are we here). And his answer: “God wants His people to become like Christ. Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God”. As disciples we are learners of who Jesus is and how we can imitate his way.

That then is a brief overview of our values as a movement. We are committed to behaving in a way that reflects our values and from who we are we will work out what we do!

As we consider the what, let’s have it rooted in the why: why do we act in the way we do?

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