I have spent a good deal of time in the church world. My wife, Deidre and I have been in full-time pastoral ministry since 1998. It started when we moved everything we had from Elkton, MD, where we were youth pastors, to Port St. Lucie, FL to assume the pastorate of a church in South Florida. We were young, energetic, and in some ways, very naive. But what we lacked in experience we made up for in passion for the vision God had given us.
It didn't take long to realize that vision was just not enough. We learned this the hard way, over almost ten years of pastoral ministry in Florida. We watched as pastors across the country fell into dark places or financial indiscretions, moral issues, and even things that were just plain illegal. We struggled personally with the desire to grow a church, and fell into the trap of following the newest ministry fad. We tried to be all the "successful" preachers we knew. I would even stand in front of the mirror on Saturday nights and "practice" the right walk, cadence and timber. None of this seemed to make any difference. We still struggled in developing a healthy, growing congregation.
I became a church junky. I read all the newest trends, could tell you the numbers and the stats of growing churches. I knew the newest language, culture and trends. I dressed in my Buckle shirts, Aldo shoes, and cool jeans. We had the look, the vibe, and the groove... yet we were still struggling. What else could we possible do? We prayed and fasted - we were told to pray more, so we did. We went to conferences and listened to every podcast and read every resource we could find, still nothing...
Then one day it hit me. What we, and many other pastors, were lacking was not training - I had been to a great college. It was not passion or spirituality - I spent many nights on my face crying out to God for direction and help. What I lacked were the values in ministry that would allow us to grow a successful, solid, and healthy ministry that would stand the tests of time and storms of life. I was like a ship being tossed by the winds, one style and strategy followed by another depending on the crowd I was being influenced by. What I had to determine was what I was going to build my life and ministry on.
I began to see that there are three things you can build your ministry or organization on. You may be saying, yes but the most important is Jesus. I would say you are right - conceptually. But Jesus is not the foundation, he is the Chief Cornerstone from which the foundation is built. You still have to go though the process of building your own foundation. Trust me, I was not lacking Jesus as my cornerstone. He was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega of everything I was. What I was not grasping was what came after that.
So the three things you can choose to build on are:
The first, Personality, is the most shallow and volatile of the three. It is so because it is built on the ability and performance of a person. If the person is doing good, at the top of his/her game, everything is going good. The moment the person begins to stumble the entire system begins to unravel.
We have all seen this at one time or another. We have watched as businesses, churches, ministries and even politics seemed to rise over night just to fall just as fast. They were built on the charismatic personality traits of an individual.
The second, Vision, is the place where most organizations stop. This is where I stopped, and it ultimately hindered my success. Vision, while deeper and more stable than personality, is still not the most solid of the three. When you build on Vision you can come to the end and still not have answers to some very important questions. What happens when the vision is fulfilled? What happens when life steps in and the vision is no longer applicable? Where do you go then? In order to become a healthy organization you have to move to the third, deepest and most stable of the three possible foundations - Values.
Values are like the strong support under a skyscraper. They will keep you rooted and planted, even in the stormy times. They will give you substance to build on. They are deeper than personality in that they are not built on performance. They outlast vision because they never change. Situations, culture, time and space do not effect them. They are not based on what is cool or trendy, they are just the right thing to do - always.
So, armed with this new information, we set out to develop a ministry that had sustainability and would be effective. We set out to determine who we were, who God was calling us to be, and to lead from that platform instead of performance, or even inspiration.
We prayed and studied, and then did it again, until we developed the 10 Core Values that we now live by. They are:
1. The Value of a Soul.
2. The Value of the Local Church.
3. The Value of Excellence.
4. The Value of Innocence.
5. The Value of Relationships.
6. The Value of Balance.
7. The Value of Integrity.
8. The Value of Community.
9. The Value of Generosity.
10. The Value of Faith.
Over the next few blogs I am going to dive into each of these values and show you why they are pillars, foundations, in our family and ministry. Why they make up the footers in my life - personally, and why you need to define your own values. I want to encourage you to not just clip and paste these. You are welcome to use them, but put in the time necessary to develop your own set of Values. Then right them down, enlist others to hold you accountable to them, and watch as God helps you build something great on this firm foundation.
Remember this tweetable phrase, "Your personality will open doors for you, your vision will propel you, but only your values will sustain you!"
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