What values do you live by? In case you scan your memory for the verse/commandment “Thou shalt live by values”, you will not find it. Well, not in such wording… For sure it is in the Bible. And maybe you can see it anew if asked: what principles drive your thoughts, words and actions? What virtues do you uphold? What standards do you have as a solid foundation? What is that thing that you stand for?
Just to take it easy, delve into it and recognize some values, enlisted here not as an exhaustive list, but mostly as a background with multiple points of reference.
Fairness, family, Bible knowledge, world mission, community, encouragement to others, giving, relationship with others, leadership, cultural relevance, prayer, excellence, evangelism, team ministry, creativity, worship, status quo, co-operation, care for the lost, mobilized laity, tradition, obedience, innovation, initiative. You can add others.
Give them each one a score: 1 for not important, 2 for somewhat important, 3 for important, and 4 for most important. Add to another list only those scored with (3) or (4). Prioritize them. The first 6 are your core values. So, what next?
The challenge author presents to us is to look at the values like to a fragrance. “Don’t have it, be it!”
“Being values-led is not easy and the church that assumes it can be done at one board meeting is naïve.”
We are bound to judge what we see (behavior), coming with verdicts over what we cannot see (heart). Of course, there will be a clash of values when a pastor, elder, deacon, member sees things different in the church, maybe even persons behaving (dress, speech, acts) totally different from “a holy priesthood”. As the author discreetly mentions it in the subtitle of the book, we are to first think, and then to act. He clearly then states that:
“values have to do with cleaning the ‘inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean’ (Matthew 23:26).”
3. Conflict of values?
Not necessarily. Maybe another look, admitting a hierarchy, priorities, timing. Recounting a situation where his culture demanded a certain action, for equality of women, the author was instructed by the women themselves to refrain of any such act. He points out:
“immediately I recognized a higher value than equality. It was not about doing what was right – it was about doing what was good.”
I also struggled with it until, towards the end of the book, where there is a provoking chapter title (“Would you stone a ‘Sabbath breaker’?”), I learned about the hierarchy in Jesus’ ministry. As Llew presents it,
“Do not put an act of worship before an act of mercy!”
(like healing a sick after Sabbath sunset).
4. Visitor’s lack of values
Here comes the visitor to your church, and you can’t tell if is a he or a she…, well, what to do then? Maybe you should just invite the person in, to know God. He knows for sure more about… him/her.
“’But,’ you ask, ‘when do we tell them to shape up?’
My answer is: ‘You don’t!’”
I found this very courageous, thank you Llew.
The author rightly observes:
“Jesus’ condemnation of sin is clearly aimed at religious people, not sinners.”
As a matter of fact, I remember the sermon of John the Baptist. Have you noticed also that he is very welcoming to all kinds of strangers, sinners, pariah (Luke 3:10-14), while he is like a fiery furnace against the hypocrite believed-to-be saints (Matthew 3:7-9)?
While the pastor preaches to the saints, the deacon sometimes assumes the same role in his little parish (the hallway at the entrance of the church) to admonish the sinners. Or, on the contrary, to invite them in. Yes, inside, as they are. Watch out:
“The few words [the deacons] speak may be worth more than all the words spoken in the sermon.”
5. The World
While the author confirms that “our Gospel is both world-denying and world-affirming”, and that, according to Jesus and Paul, we are to be in but not of the world, he points out:
“God so loved the world. […] What if our big concern were the world – not to escape it, but to reach it for Christ.”
As another teacher told me (Wilson Paroschi, while teaching the Gospel of John), many of us read John, with his kind of black/white framework (light/darkness, life/death, truth/error), and we miss Luke reading, where Jesus is all to all (Gentiles, women, lepers, dead).
Yes, it is that tension still: in this world, but not of this world.
6. Affirming the values
Quoting a study referred to by Kouzes and Posner, the author reminds us that
“the bottom line of the study is that the people who have the greatest clarity about both personal and organizational values will show the highest degree of commitment to the organization. The lesson for us is that values clearly stated and clearly taught promote loyalty, invite participation and close the back door of the organization.”
I got it: values clearly stated.
Paraphrasing a statement of Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, the author continues:
“Your number-one job as pastor if to be the chief ‘culture officer’, to guard the culture and make sure the church is what it says it is. And your second job is to be the chief communicator of the vision of your church.”
Once again: be what you say you are, and communicate it.
“We must first define our standards of service and then inspire our members to achieve them. And there is no better way of doing this than through stories that members can relate to and aspire to emulate.”
Stories. Yes. After stories.
7. The Value Gap
Hm, do you have to touch that?…
“Brene Brown (Daring Greatly) argues that the greatest threat to creativity, innovation and learning in any organization is the disengagement of people from those organizations because of a disconnect that arises between their leaders and the values they preach.”
In one word: hypocrisy. We all fail. But is one thing to fail, and say it’s bad, and another thing to be complacent into it.
8. The crisis:
“What does the leader do when the team seems to be falling apart? John records the action [Lord’s Supper, washing disciples’ feet; John 13:4-5].
The Leader never gives up on His values. He is true to His nature. He is always values-led.”
9. Old wisdom, new perspectives
“Love God and do whatever you please.” A shock for the conservatives… a license for liberals? Thank you, Llew, for quoting it in the context.
“Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” (Augustine)
What an attitude! What a value to be led by even in the 21st century!
10. Ultimate value
Yes, the ultimate value, never to be sacrificed is… sacrifice. Llew introduces the reader to Jesus Christ:
“Here is a Bridegroom that commits Himself to death for a bride before the wedding takes place.”
That makes it more than a sermon for a wedding. It is a continuous wedding with the Bridegroom.
A question on the back cover, which pays off:
What would you sacrifice everything else for?
I met Llewellyn Edwards when I came to Ireland as a new Seventh-day Adventist pastor. Leading the Ministerial Association in the British Union Conference, he visited me and encouraged me to enrol to a Master in Leadership program. Llew was himself a graduate of this program almost two decades earlier. By a divine coincidence, I was fortunate to have him as my adviser in the LLG (Leadership and Learning Group) for the years of the program. This “ little book of big values”, helped me toward growing in the first competency of the program, Developing Spiritual Leadership.