This year I have been thinking about us as church, asking the questions: Who are we? What is our culture? What are our values? What is our identity as a church? Once we know this, we will be in a place to more fully understand what is God’s plan for us and what our vision should be.
The question of vision can be a frustrating one. People bang on about vision sometimes to the detriment of the church. They serve a vision that simply does not fit the church. It may sound cool and snappy, but in actuality does not fit the church. Church can be all about making vision while not really doing anything about it. I want us to take this process seriously and see what has been going on and perhaps what we hope will go on.
Of course the vision of the church is as Jesus charges us in Matthew 28: ‘to baptise and make disciples of Jesus Christ in all nations’. That is the vision of the church as a whole, but what is God calling St Saviour’s to in our area? This comes from who we are, so we need to ask ourselves: What is our culture, and what are our values as a church?
Churches, like children, take on aspects of their parents, and as the leader/father, St Saviour’s will look a little like me. I have been thinking about what values I hold and that has helped me to think through what are becoming values that the church holds. I have come up with three.
Prayer – We value prayer. It is at the heart of all we do. We see its importance and recognise its power to change situations, people and problems. We are active in our prayer life, seeing it as a non-negotiable part of our faith. It is in and through prayer that we commune with Jesus and see our community thrive.
Unity not uniformity – We value the differences amongst ourselves. We recognise that there are different ways to worship Jesus, and we value worship in varying forms where Jesus is loved and honoured. We also want to keep the main thing and not lose focus on Jesus, avoiding wrangling over words which, as St Paul tells us, does no good but only ruins those who are listening.
Friendship not friendly – We value friendship in and among our members. We look to be in friendship with each other and value this above simply being friendly with each other. We recognise friendship and the love of each other as a key principle to a Christian community.
At the Church Weekend at Malshanger, I asked everyone to write down one or two things they have experienced at St Saviour’s and would hope would be a value of the church. These are as follows:
Genuine integrity – come as we are, free to be ourselves, free to be vulnerable, real, not putting up a good Christian front, loving, serving, always progressing, moving on, developing
Community – Church is family, not restricted to Sunday morning, community
Family, welcoming to families, home – visible shelter from the storm
Great worship, heart for Christ, community – for the church and the ‘Church’
Humble, acceptance, equality, ambitious not greedy, involved, real, honest, engaged, human,
supportive, bringing saints together, embracing wisdom, charity, holistic, empowering, valued
I would like us to have perhaps five values that we decide on. From these, we will develop a vision statement and name our culture and more fully step into our identity as St Saviour’s. At our next PCC meeting we shall be considering how to distill all of this down.