Theme: Missional Identity, Congregational Purpose, & Core Values
Goals: 1 – To draft a workable purpose statement for FELC
2 – To name and begin to prioritize a set of core values for FELC in light of our Missional Identity, for a team to translate into 5 – 7 Guiding Principles, which in turn will help us focus our mission/ministry strategies for the next 1 – 3 years.
Tools: Prayer; Scripture; Critical thought & discussion
Preamble: Here is a quick breakdown on that term, “Missional Identity.” “Missional” refers to the Missio Dei, God’s mission: to bring healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration – in short, “Shalom,” or “Wholeness” to the world.
God’s missional strategy is primarily Jesus, whom God sent into the world, and also the Church that Jesus commissioned, of which he is the head, who refer to him as “Lord.”
Basically, everything we do as the Church is grounded in our identity as participants in God’s reconciling mission in and through Jesus. All of this answers the question: “Who are we?”
The next question is: “Well, what DO we do?” The answer is: “Whatever God is calling us to do.”
This is a very subjective answer that depends on a number of things that we need to discern. Discernment is a process that involves Prayer, Scripture Study, and Involvement/Engagement with and in our Context. We determine who our neighbors are and what needs they have that we can work on alongside of them; and we determine what gifts and assets we have to help us do that accompaniment. This is our Common Purpose.
So, we’re not asking, “What cool stuff can we do,” so much as we’re looking around and paying attention to what God is already up to. How is God already at work and leading us – right here in our own context – to jump in and participate in God’s mission?
Working with material adapted from Pastor Dave Daubert’s book Living Lutheran, we take a look at Acts 14:8-18. Read that and pray with me.
Lord of humanity, you have formed us in your image and called us to be your people so that your dreams could be our dreams, as well. Help us to see your purpose for our lives and give us a common sense of purpose as your church in this place. We ask you now to guide us in our work – What is it that we are to be MOST concerned with, and how may we participate in completing your dream?
Who are the actors in this story?
Who is the church?
What would you say is their Missional Identity? (How do they answer the “who are we” question?)
Describe their context in this story. How do they engage that context?
What were the gifts/assets they brought to that community and (how) did those gifts intersect with the community’s needs?
What were Paul and Barnabas willing to commit to in order to be faithful to their purpose?
If you were to write a purpose statment for the Church of Sts. Paul and Barnabas, what would you write? “God’s purpose for Sts. Paul and Barnabas is _____” (12 words or fewer).
We’ve already established that the Church is:
Commissioned by Jesus and
called and gifted by his Spirit
to participate in God’s Shalom mission in and for the sake of the world.
This means that we are called out beyond ourselves and service primarily to our own membership. Our Shared Vision of what it means and looks like to embody that work in our context MUST then be reflected in our Core Values. AND we must be committed to those values.
These are the values that drive all of a congregation’s thinking, action, and planning.
Core values fall more or less into two categories: 1) Desired or Preferred values; and 2) Actual values.
Preferred values, a lot of times, are those idealized things we’d like to be able to say about ourselves, or that we think we OUGHT to say about ourselves. That’s well and good, and we’ll talk more about that in a minute, but you can tell they’re not “real” or “actual,” because they’re the things that people don’t actually invest in (in terms of time, talents, treasures). As such, you’ll see a disconnect between what we SAY we value (preferred values) and what we ACTUALLY do invest in. The BEHAVIOR of pastors, staff, lay people don’t line up with what we claim to value.
Actual values are often unwritten and unstated. We know them if we care to observe our behavior and patterns of behavior in recent history. These values are deeply ingrained and tend to focus where we do spend our time, money, and talents, even if they have little or nothing to do with our missional identity, our purpose as a congregation, or our vision for aligning all of those things.
That’s kind of the Bad News about Core Values.
BUT, the good news is that we are Christians and we therefore believe in the possibility of TRANSFORMATION! With intentionality and commitment, with a healthy dose of behavior modification and cognitive restructuring, we can work to align our practices with what we SAY we ought to be practicing!
Let’s read Acts 4:32-5:11
Pray with me: God of new life, even though we often hear your call on our lives, we find it difficult to commit fully. We hear voices call us in many directions. We lean on and trust in your mercy and forgiveness when we fall short and follow voices other than your own. Speak to us now, we pray. In which parts of our lives do we most fall short? Where do we waiver in our commitment to you as disciples?
What core values do you see at work in the church as described in this section of Acts?
Do you see conflict or disconnect between behavior and values? Describe what you see.
I have to put in this caveat: This story bothers me a lot. I know it’s in the Bible, but look at all the room for abuse here.
I think it’s appropriate to look at two possible ways of reading this story: One is to follow the “plain reading” of the text that accuses Ananais and Sapphira of “holding out on Jesus.” That reading almost invites us to celebrate their demise.
But we can also read this in a way that stands up for Ananais and Sapphira. The text doesn’t really tell us that the values of unity of heart and soul among believers, the holding of all things in common possession, strong financial stewardship are SPOKEN and articulated core values. Maybe they’re ASSUMED, and maybe this couple missed the memo. It’s helpful maybe to examine those values – to ask whether this is just something that people do (we’ve always done this since Pentecost), what it is about those values that’s actually to be valued for the community in light of their missional identity. What presuppositions might there be behind the values we’ve just named? Are they just or unjust? (I’m not making a judgment one way or the other – just posing the idea that it’s GOOD to question WHY we value what we value.)
FELC’s stated Core Values
Based on our work with Kairos (the Congregational Assessment Tool and the subsequent work with David Misenheimer) and with the Comprehensive Ministry Review Team, here’s what we have said we value:
Christ-centered theology (of grace and love)
Christian education for all ages
Service to/care for our community and our neighbors
Fellowship among our members
Inclusivity of all people
What do you make of this list? Are these Preferred values or Actual values?
What is it about each of these items that we value?
In what way(s) are we (or are we not) investing in them with our time, talents, treasures?
What here are we willing to COMMIT to?
Are there things on this list that maybe shouldn’t be there?
Are there other things that we’re missing from this list?
Think about these questions in light of our Missional Identity (who we are as claimed, gathered, and sent disciples of Jesus), in light of our Common Purpose, and in light of our Shared Vision as a congregation in this particular context with our particular set of gifts/assets.
Now, given all the work we’ve done today, lets take the time we have left and craft a Purpose statment for FELC.
“God’s purpose for First Evangelical Lutheran Church (in 12 words or fewer) is:” (Go!)
Now, let’s do some work on core values.
“The Core Values we’d like to claim for FELC are:”
Here, everybody create a list of 6-10 things AND PRIORITIZE them for YOURSELF.
What are you willing to commit to in order to make sure these things remain a priority?
(If you’re not willing to commit, there’s a question about whether it’s a value.)
I’ll take the list of items over the next 2 weeks and compile them. I’ll try to group them together by commonalities, then take them to the CORE Council. We (and anybody else who’s willing to work on this) will then craft those top 5 – 7 core values into a set of Guiding Principles, which we’ll bring back to you for discussion, approval, amendment, etc.
The goal here is to have the Guiding Principles and a functioning, faithful purpose statment in place in time for the Annual Meeting in November. This will replace our now long-outdated mission statement, and it will guide the course for what work we will be doing as a congregation over the next couple of years. We’ll also be putting together strategies for making that happen.
Thanks to you all!
Grace and Peace,