Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Core Values

Core values mystify me. I see their importance. In every day communication, people filter everything they hear with their core values. They may or may not be aware of their values, but they exist and everything is filtered. There are millions of values as there are millions of people.

I think it is imperative that The Crossover have clear Core Values. One reason is that we don't value what many church's value. We don't value ancient tradition. We don't value a political stance. We don't value charismatic demonstrations. We don't value superstitions. We don't value a heavy rule book.

Deconstructing Church Values

People ask me all the time what does our church believe? While it ought to be a great question, they are very often looking for some of code word -- charismatic, spirit-filled, full-gospel, fundamentalist, independent, ... A man called a few weeks ago and asked some fairly good questions, but one puzzled me. "What do the people call you?" Actually it is an interesting question, but doesn't even get close to the heart of who we are.

To get at the heart of who we are, I think we have to deconstruct some of the old words used to describe the church, then reconstruct our own values. The reason we have to do it is because some people just won't be able to see where we are coming from if we don't deconstruct their assumptions.

On the other hand, this may be a complete waste of time because people rarely change their core values. But... I'm stubborn.

1. We have decided to devalue tradition. Devalue means lessen the value. We don't want to be completely rid of tradition. In fact, we want the core traditions to take on even more meaning. Baptism and communion hold great value to us. But the sentimental value of hymns, banners, pews, a pulpit, a steeple, ... We have decided not to place as much value on these.

2. We have devalued a political stance. Many churches are subtle about this. Many aren't subtle at all. In our area, many churches are Republican churches. There may be some more mainline churches that lean Democratic, but I don't know of them. It isn't that we aren't conservative or even that we don't oppose abortion and gay marriage. It is that we don't put our hope in politics. We hope to change people's hearts more than script morality in the courts and legislature.

It isn't that we don't vote. It isn't that we don't discuss political issues. We just do not place it as a core value that affects how we view the world.

3. We have devalued charismatic demonstrations. It isn't that we don't experience some charismatic experiences. Some of us have spoken in tongues. But unlike some churches, we do not hold it as a litmus test for anything.

4. We have devalued superstitions. Not so much churches, but some people in our area have what I would call superstitions about ministers, the Bible, and baptism. You have to baptize some people to a certain order of the trinity or they don't trust it. One man told me the other day his mother was in fear of a preacher so she surrounded her bed with Bibles. Some seem to think that a slight slip of words or not praying out loud affects their effectiveness. We don't think so.

5. We have devalued a heavy rule book. It isn't that we don't have any rules. But the church has pumped up the rule book to be a little heavier than it is supposed to be. We have devalued the list down to a more Biblical list.

I have made efforts to define our core values before but I just feel like they aren't clear and/or complete. Here is another effort trying to use some navigational themes that go with our name The Crossover.

1. We value the journey. We value questions. We value that we know we want to be further along but are painfully aware that the course isn't as easy or clearly defined as we would like. This fact makes questions more useful to discernment than pre-defined answers.

2. We welcome the traveler. In a navigational theme, the traveler may believe the world is flat, but he enjoys the conversation with us because we do not mock his belief. It doesn't mean that we believe the world is flat; we don't. But we believe we will most likely be able to prove to the traveler that the world isn't flat when we sail over the edge together.

The traveler may have experienced something that we haven't. We can not fear conversation with a fellow traveler. We can probably learn from him or her if we allow free conversation. That amount of respect will probably allow the traveler to learn from us as well.

3. We value reflecting upon where we've been. How successful was that route? What were the obstacles? How could I have journeyed better? These are typically heart issues and practical issues.

4. We value studying the map. The map is the Bible, and while many value the map by itself, we recognize that the map is a bit cryptic and demands study and reflection.

5. We value above all things a relationship with the Guide. Jesus is the Guide. He lives and desires for us to follow Him. The map is more of an aid to follow Him than it is a guide down a specific path. Without the Guide, we are completely lost.

6. We value human guides, also known as leaders. These are people who have navigated some of the path and are willing teachers of those who desire to follow.

7. We value daily encounters. Jesus said he would give us opportunities to serve as he served -- feed the poor, heal, house, encourage, ... We expect to find some amount of joy in our lives.

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