Over the last few weeks I’ve begun the exciting process of collecting my own thoughts about what our church values might be. What do we value? Generally speaking, we already know the answers, don’t we? We value the bible and sound Christ-centred teaching. We value the sacraments, corporate and private prayer, Spirit filled and ordered worship services, our Anglican heritage. We value each other and therefore genuine redemptive relationships and a sense of family, we value each other’s gifts, we value commitment and faithfulness, we value servant hearted service of others. We value being a safe church for anyone who walks through our doors. The list could well go on and on…
I’m aware that thinking like this is not a new process for you. Significant time has been given previously to praying, thinking, planning and writing. We want to honour that and so intend to ‘stand on the shoulders’ of those who’ve gone before us as we seek God’s will for our future together.
Eventually, (and I do mean eventually!) Parish Council and I will publish a document that the entire parish has had the opportunity to contribute to in one way or another. For the next few blogs, I’m going to write with the aim of helping us think about what is important to us as a church family. To begin with though, we’re going to think a little about our culture here in the West and how this affects this process. How do I know what I should value?
Individualism: What I value may not be what you value!
As we think about this we need to be aware that we are more individualistic as a culture than we ever have been before. We are more about me, myself and I than ever. What I value therefore must be right! A challenge to our individualism is the New Testament itself. Did you know that the ‘one another’ word group is used over 100 times in the New Testament and that the plural for ‘you’ is used over 2200 times? That’s staggering! Church really isn’t about me!
In addition to the danger of individualism, cultural commentators agree that since the 18th century Enlightenment, our beliefs have become linked our identity as people. What this means is that if we disagree on a value, then we are not disagreeing with the value or idea; we are disagreeing with who the person is as a human! The result? Disagreeing is not allowed. We are all entitled to our own individualistic opinion no matter how absurd some may think it is. Individualism and self-determined truth is consequently rampant.
As a result, tolerance is now our culture’s greatest virtue. Disagreeing is not allowed. Tolerance is totally unsustainable though as it requires that we are intolerant of who we decide is intolerant. We have given ourselves massive authority to decide who is intolerant and then we exclude them or keep them at arm’s length.
I laughed Rugby Australia’s inconsistency when they sacked Israel Falau. Falau was dismissed because he was deemed to be exclusive in his views about Same Sex Marriage. He was excluded for not being inclusive! I just wish Rugby Australia said, “We are inclusive of all people and all views, and so Falau is entitled to his. We disagree with his views and they are not the views of Rugby Australia but we will defend his right to express them. He is a great player and so let’s all get on with it!” Problem solved?
Despite the intolerance of our so-called tolerant society, tolerance remains our greatest virtue. We live in a culture where everyone is right. Saying someone is wrong is the greatest cultural no-no. To disagree is now deeply offensive. Consequently, we have lost the ability to have convictions, robust debate, disagree and remain in fellowship. I think we need to be aware of this as a church family as we think about what we value. So what’s the solution?
The bible as our authority on what we should value
As Christians we do believe in objective truth that should shape our views. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Jesus also prayed to his Father, “Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) So, Jesus who is the truth said that God’s word is the truth. God’s word is therefore where we find the objective truth about what we should value.
Over the next few blogs I would like frame our discussion theologically. This will give us the tools to find out what God wants and not necessarily go on our own personal and individual views which may or may not be helpful.
Just to get the ball rolling, how do these verses shape what we should value as a church?
- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 10:27)
- “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4ff)
Here are some texts for further reflection:
- Acts 2:42-47
- Ephesians 4:1-16
- 1 Corinthians 12
As we read, pray, think and chat with people, let’s think about what we value as a church family. Let’s work at making these values clear, and then let’s make all our decisions according to those values.
Above all, let’s pray that what we value is what God values. That way, our decisions will be God honouring, Christ exalting, prayerfully dependant, people, community, nation and world transforming decisions. How exciting!