Today, we are launching our process, under God, to discern our church’s values. This may seem rather odd. We have our statement of beliefs and we even have our vision statement. Both group of statements were affirmed by members of the church. Why bother with another group of statements?
God’s unique vision for a church is like the sail of the ship, catching God’s wind or spirit and moving it forward. But every boat must also have a rudder helping to guide the direction of the ship. Values are passions that rudder which directs the ship.
It is interesting to see how modern-day principles for effective leadership and even organizations can be found in the Bible. Go onto websites of successful corporations and read about their values and you’ll be thinking, “I think I’ve those before”. They see them as their guiding tenets. Virgin Australia has written this about their values: “deeply held principles that guide our decisions” https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/difference-between-culture-and-values
Again, if you go on the web there is a lot of information to help organisations to define what values are. Jamie Nicholl has written that “Core values are the guiding tenets of a company. They are timeless, enduring, and intrinsically important. Core values support the company’s vision, shape the culture, and reflect the company’s identify. There are no universal core values; instead a company must decide what principles it holds most important - https://cultureiq.com/culture-code-mission-statement-core-values/
When we were in England and people would ask where we were from, some were quick to point out about the ball tampering scandal that shocked the cricketing world. You’ll think that I would pick my timing better because the last time I was in London was catching a transfer flight at Heathrow airport. The thing is England was playing the Wallabies in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final. I decided to wear my Wallabies top on the plane because they were playing while I was in the plane. Unfortunately, the Wallabies lost, and the Poms made sure I knew that as I walked around Heathrow wearing that yellow jersey.
This time, a couple of weeks ago people enjoyed raising the ball tampering issue with me. It was the scandal that shocked and embarrassed our nation. There was no doubt that the Aussie team had the vision to win the test matches in South Africa, but somewhere some forgot the values of being a winning team.
Just two weeks ago, Cricket Australia appointed Justin Langer as the new Head Coach for the Aussie Cricket Team. I think it’s a great appointment. Many of us remember him being a terrific opening batsman. He then went on and became a great coach for Western Australia.
Langer took time out of his hectic schedule to share at the Sports Chaplaincy Australia Champions Dinner in Melbourne last week.
While is acknowledged his career high score of 250 against England on the MCG pitch, Langer rated an off-field moment as a defining highlight.
He said, “Sports chaplain Andrew Vallance changed my life, to be honest. I was brought up as a Catholic and he had a huge impact on me, [so that] my faith is my life, really. He just reminded me of just how important it is.”
In 1998, Langer returned from a tough tour of Sri Lanka, “as close to depression”. The best bowler Langer ever faced, Muttiah Muralitharan, brought him to the point of tears. Langer had had only minimal contact with Vallance before, but he confessed to the chaplain that “there’s something wrong.”
He was meant to be living the dream Langer told Vallance. He was playing cricket for Australia, drove a fancy car, have a beautiful family, and plenty of cash but there was a deep hole. All this Langer confessed to Chaplain Vallance.
And Vallance asked him, “Have you read the Bible lately?’ He said no to which Vallance said back that maybe he should give reading the Bible a crack.’”
What happened next was “an act of kindness” Langer cannot forget. The following morning. Vallance and his three children waited for Langer at the airport. They had a Bible for him, marked with different Scriptures. Being a bloke, Langer sheepishly stuffed the Bible in his shirt but did start to read it on the flight to Tasmania. One verse stood out – Philippians 4:13 – and Langer said “it basically says God gives me the strength to achieve anything.”
Langer credited the discovery of strength in God as “the secret” to the career-best form he reached in Tasmania. One memorable Hobart Test, as he faced every ball, Langer recited as a mantra what he had taken from Philippians 4:13.
Fast-forward to 2003 and another part of Langer’s faith became key to an Ashes Test at the MCG against England. Langer said this: “For the three months or so before, I had been meditating every day on the cross. So I’m here, scratching the crease in front of 90,000 people.” Unable to mark a clear line in the wicket with his bat, Langer began to drag across the crease with his shoe. “When I looked down, there’s a perfect cross. So I went down the other end … and [marked] a perfect cross.”
“When I was at about 170, Richie Benaud says in the commentary, ‘This is extraordinary. It looks like he’s in a meditative state.’ If only he knew. Every ball I’d look down and there’s the cross.”
Justine Langer now has a huge job in front of him – to not only win some games but to restore respect back in the Aussie Team. On Thursday at a Press Conference, this is what he said how he is going to help with the road to recovery: "We've got to aim to be number one in professionalism in the world. We've got to be number one in honesty — that's a really important value. We've got to be number one in humility. I said to the boys before, it doesn't matter how much money you've got or how many games or how many runs — if you're not a good bloke, that's what people remember. So humility is important, honesty is important. Our mateship is really important, sticking together is really important — that's all of us in the Australian cricket team — so they'd be the main values at this stage.”.
“Values are passions that rudder which directs the ship”.
God has a lot to say about values. In fact, the Bible records over 100 positive values.
One of the highest of all values has to be love. We are to extend love because God first extended his love to us in Jesus Christ. The greatest commandment that Jesus reinforced is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV).
In John 13, Jesus gives his last instructions to the disciples. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV). Jesus uses the Greek word, ’Agape’ which we translate as love and is best defined as unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love. This is the love Jesus showed on the cross by dying for our sins. It is the love which Jesus leaves as an example for us and the love God wants us to have for others. Most people love only when they are loved or when it benefits them, meets their needs or is convenient. But Jesus calls us – the church - to love unconditionally, selflessly and sacrificially, which often starts with denying ourselves. We are to do this in response to the love we have received in Jesus. We have been loved so that we can love others. “In the same way I loved you, love one another.” The original Greek says, “I have loved you in order that you might love one another.” It is a cause and effect dynamic. Because we are loved unconditionally, we can love others unconditionally. Jesus’ love for us is why we can love one another, the example of how we are to love and the source upon which we should draw to love others. How we love is our greatest witness. “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples, when they see the love you have for each other.” When people see us loving unconditionally and sacrificially, they will say: “Wow! Look at how they love one another! I want to be loved like that. I want to be a part of something like that.” They will not only be attracted to life in Christ but also life in the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 13 is an incredible passage. It is often read at Christian and non-Christian weddings. But when Paul penned those inspired words, he wasn’t really thinking of couples on their wedding days. He was written these words for a church that was broken. Paul alluded in this passage that the Corinthian Church may have been able to speak in tongues and even of angels, and they may have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and have faith that can move mountains, BUT, Paul says, these are useless unless they love one another.
And we may have great programs at the church, theologically correct statement of beliefs, even a nice vision statement, but we would fail one another if we don’t show Godly and Biblical values, such as love.
And this is another reason why defining our biblical values is important. Whenever God blesses us with new people to any of our groups or at our Sunday services, if we don’t show the biblical value of agape love, there is a high chance that they will move on. But the opposite is also true. They may come and think that Senior Pastor is pretty average, but the love that the members show by inviting me for a cuppa or to my life group will mean that they may just stay and grow.
Business Dictionary dot com defines values as a “declaration that informs the customers and staff of a business about the firm's top priorities and what its core beliefs are” (www.businessdictionary.com).
Values can’t just be words on a page. To be effective they must shape action.
For a part of our time in the UK, we stayed in a beautiful house in the Cotswolds which was only about 700 years old. As we arrived in the township of Arlington we noticed a sign pointing to Arlington Baptist Church. After we unpacked we walked up to the church to find out where it was and what time was their Sunday service. The next morning we walked up to this church, which is only 250 years old, and sat in the very back row. We were the only ones in the church with 1-minute to go but we heard some chatting happening in the back room. The when the two old ladies came out they got such a fright in seeing us. They don’t tend to get people. So immediately they came up to us and welcomed us and invited us down the front around a table. They were quick to point out that this would probably be it – just the four of us. One of them asked me, “you don’t happen to be a pastor, are you?” So, guess who shared from God’s Word and guess who helped with the singing that morning. There we were, just the four of us and I must say it was a lovely time of worshiping God and praying. They felt so blessed that God had answered their prayers with two visitors that morning. We felt so loved to, that we told Leisl parents who were coming to take over the house from us the following week that they should check out this church. Again, when Leisl’s parents arrived the same ladies got a little fright. And they happened to asked Leisl’s mother, “you do happen to play the organ”. And so together they sang hymns to an organ that hasn’t been used in a long time.