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Authentic Values

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Much has been said and written about values. Are our values preferences or practices? In Acts 2:42-47 we are given the core values of the early church as teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They were not just preferences but daily practices. We know this because we are told they “devoted themselves” to these values. The passage does not say they sat around discussing or debating them but, rather, they were the daily practices of their lives.

In his book Value Driven Leadership, Aubrey Malphurs describes values as either “actual” or “aspirational.” Is there a difference? James 2:18 makes a clear distinction between the two in stating, “But someone will say, ’You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.” James also states in 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Malphurs describes actual and aspirational values in the following ways:

First, Actual Values are the beliefs we own and act on daily. These values come from inside of you and are who you are. It is authentic because they exist now, in the present, and describe what is true about you right now. Actual values are not just preferences but what you practice daily. When you share your actual values people around you shake their heads in affirmation because they see it and agree with you.

Second, Aspirational Values are beliefs you do not currently own. You know you should own them but you are not quite there yet. Aspirational values deal with what should be, not necessarily what actually is. These are values we would like to adopt such as being evangelistic. We desire to reach people with the gospel, but the truth is, we are really not that evangelistic; not yet. We aspire to be!

With these two descriptions of values by Dr. Malphurs, allow me to share a couple of observations we need to be aware of about values:

  1. Our Biblical values will be tested! For example, it is one thing to say we value loving people but we must realize that unconditional love can be put to the test daily. I John makes this very clear, “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”
  2. Are Biblical truths our values or our goals? We say we are burdened for the lost but what are we personally doing to reach them? It is wonderful to have the goal of reaching the world for Christ but what daily practices are we involved in that are helping us in that direction? The results will never change if we do not change our daily practices. What will we begin doing differently?
  3. Are Biblical truths our actual practices or just aspirational preferences? Jesus said that “men ought always to pray” but how much time are we actually spending in prayer? We say we value the word of God and should study it daily but is it our daily practice to have a quiet time in the word with our Lord? For our results to change our daily practices must change also.
  4. You cannot fake Biblical values! What you really value always shows up! If you really believe in the importance of sharing the gospel with people far from God, then you are constantly building relationships and bridges to them. You do not just talk about what you are going to do but you actually practice what you preach. Matthew 6:21 says it well, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  5. Make sure your values are genuine and authentic! Be honest about it! At our church I like to say, “We want to be the friendliest church in the world!” I never say, “We are the friendliest church in the world, state, or even our city!” There is nothing wrong with openly admitting what goals you would like to adopt without claiming you have arrived. You cannot intellectualize values nor can you rationalize them.

Malphurs challenges us to examine our values to determine whether they are actual or aspirational. You can determine this by whether they are verbalized preferences and goals or are actual daily practices. Here are some excellent questions to ask about ourselves and our ministries: What values or beliefs should we adopt? What values and beliefs have we adopted? What would those looking in from the outside say we value? What are our real values? What key value ingredients are missing?

This is where many churches get in trouble and struggle because they resist what they need most; a complete or partial transition from one set of values to another. Do we value keeping members happy or do we value reaching our neighbors with the gospel? Do we value our traditions or do we value reaching our children and grandchildren with the gospel? Do we value our personal preferences or being culturally relevant while remaining Biblically sound?

Realize that conflict in churches often arises from differing values. Some value safety, comfort, and routine. Others value risk, sacrifice, and shaking things up. Every church must decide what they really value and if those values are not consistent with God’s mission for His church they must be willing to do whatever is necessary to be obedient to His plan for His church. Values can be measured by what our calendars contain and by our checkbooks.

Healthy churches and healthy Christians are authentic about what they value and are willing to change to make sure God’s values are genuinely theirs!

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