Leadership is a sacred but slippery path. Holding influence over other people is scary and intoxicating at the same time. It is hard to think about the potential damage that can come from poor leadership. So with that in mind, I want to give us three core values to run any church by. This will help in decision making at all levels.
Protect God’s Reputation at All Costs
Protecting God’s reputation has to be the number one priority for any church or faith based organization. This answers all kinds of questions, like when we speak up about a community issue and when we are silent, or how we treat difficult neighbors, or what community events do we get involved in.
God doesn’t need us to protect Him; He can take care of Himself. But He does invite us to partner with Him in restoring what sin has broken in creation. Paul says we are Christ’s ambassadors as though Christ were making His appeal through us. If that is the case, then we better not only present Him to the world “correctly,” but also in the manner in which He would prefer. If He laid His life down, then so must we. Yelling and screaming about our God of love is perhaps not the best approach.
Being right never transcends being Godly. The right thing done the wrong way becomes the wrong thing. We must protect God’s reputation first and foremost.
Protect God’s Most Prized Creation — People
As the Kingdom of God, we must fight for people, not against them. Paul says our war is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities of this present evil age. We must fight against anything that would keep people down, especially when that which keeps people down is found in the Church.
Being right should never trump treating people correctly. Our truth is useless unless it is encapsulated in a relational shell. We must first love people well. Then, we can share our positions on issues.
Deal with the Issues that Hinder the First Two
Actually deal with the issues that hold the first two back. Don’t sweep them under the carpet. Don’t avoid them or pretend nothing is wrong. But we must keep the other priorities in order. We must deal with the issues in a way that first protects God’s reputation, and second protects God’s most prized creation.
This is not an appeal to avoid or eliminate truth. Rather, it is a way of understanding how we walk in the tension of living in a world that doesn’t share our value system. If we are not careful, we can become truth bullies. As the Church continues to lose influence in culture (at least in part because people are tired of being bullied), we will move ourselves further to the fringe unless we can learn how to put these core values in their proper place.
Maybe the starting place for any church should be kindness and acceptance. Not the “blind tolerance” version of acceptance, but the “I am for you and will not rest until you see how amazingly wonderful God made you” kind of acceptance. If people who walked through the door of our churches felt loved and accepted first, perhaps that would change them at levels they didn’t know they even needed to be changed.
Maybe if the church gave its energy first to loving well rather than being right, people would be so inexplicably attracted to the church that we wouldn’t be able to contain them all.
Let’s try it and see. If I am wrong, we could always go back to being right.
May you protect God’s reputation at all costs. May you put Him on display well in how you treat others. And may we all learn to deal with issues that inevitably arise in relationships in a way that moves people forward.