Friday, October 30, 2009
I get newsletters from several Churches. Most of them are from congregations served by men I know who are their pastors. Some of them I get for work so that we can arrange to get residents to community events. Some I get just because I'm curious about what goes on in other Churches.
Yesterday, I got a newsletter from a Church in North Manchester that made me think about something I haven't thought about for a long time: "core values." "Five Core Values" of that Church were listed on the title page (and re-stated on the inside of the newsletter). They were what the pastor and congregation had determined to be what gives that Church meaning and purpose.
When I visited the congregation's website, the core values were listed there. In addition, the Church's vision for itself and its philosophy of renewal were given.
I know this pastor fairly well, and although he and I are worlds apart in ministry style and approach, I think he and I are on the same page when it comes to the fact that a Church without vision, without values, and without a philosophy of spiritual life, is a Church that is stagnant and lifeless.
So, I got to thinking: What is my vision for Peoria Church? What are our core values? What is our philosophy of spiritual life?
First, vision. My vision for Peoria Church is that our Church would be a place of worship and prayer, a sanctuary for worshiping God in a busy and tempting world and an oasis for personal and corporate prayer in an otherwise noisy world. My vision is that we would be the people of God in our corner of the world, wherever that might be: at home, at work, at school, in public and in private. My vision is that we would not be shy about understanding God's Word as it applies to our own lives and to the life of the world around us.
How about that? :-)
Next, core values. Following this other Church's lead, I'll list five values I think are important to Peoria Church (and believe it or not, not one of them has to do with Church dinners). :-)
1) Knowing God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the highest aim of life. We are made in God's image and through faith in Him, that image is restored to us. We are made whole from the damages of sin by God's saving action in the Incarnation, Life, Baptism, Transfiguration, Suffering, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ. We bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit and exercise His gifts as He empowers us.
2) Being Christian is something we take seriously. This doesn't mean we are stuffy or humorless - far from it. At the same time, we know God and we see Him at work in our lives in many ways. We don't have all the answers about faith, but we know that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all wisdom, if we seek Him. The old saying is certainly true: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."
3) None of us is perfect and we understand that about each other. We see everyone as equally valuable in God's sight, and that the Church is a place of healing for sinners as much as it is a household of the saints.
4) Generosity is shown through actions as well as through giving. God has been tremendously generous with us and we enjoy many blessings in our lives. We want to extend God's generosity to us to our families, friends, neighbors, and those in the community who are in need.
5) By honoring men and women of faith who have gone before us, we remember who we are and where we are going. Whether it's loved ones we have known well or the ancestors of Peoria Church or the saints of the ages, we understand that we are part of an ageless journey that is 'marching to Zion'.
Those are pretty lofty values, aren't they?
Finally, philosophy of spiritual life. St. Paul told our Christian ancestors: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25). There is a three-fold balance in living out the Christian life, comprised of relationship, religion, and responsibility.
"Relationship" involves a living relationship with the living God and a vital relationship with God's people. We cannot live the Christian life as if we were on an island. A relationship with God implies a relationship with everyone else who has a relationship with Him. Our corporate relationship with God is expressed through the Sacraments. Baptism marks the beginning of our life in Christ. Chrismation indicates the seal and commitment of the Holy Spirit to us. Holy Communion is our fellowship with one another around the Lord's Table, with the Lord Himself as Host. In marriage, a man and woman model the relationship that is "betwixt Christ and His Church." With the 'laying on of hands' our relationship with one another is demonstrated in prayer.
"Religion" is the acting out of our faith. A relationship with God is incomplete without religion. Religion is expressed in regular habits of prayer, Bible reading, Christian service, Church attendance and participation, and other activity that glorifies God. Good religion challenges our own spiritual complacency, and shines as a light in a dark world.
"Responsibility" gives spiritual life perspective. Who is responsible for our salvation? God Himself. We are responsible to God through living "in response" to Him. All facets of our lives are a gift from God and we respond to God with thanksgiving and supplication, that His will would be done "on earth as it is in Heaven." We are responsible to love one another as Christ has loved us, not in a manner that would govern each others' lives, but in a manner that would allow us to walk together arm in arm.
There you have it. A vision for our Church. Five Core Values. And a Philosophy of Spiritual Life.
What do you think?