Monday, October 27, 2008

Core Values?

What are our core values? Are they mission or doctrine? Core values are the things that shape our perspective and who we are. They move us to what we do.

Last week, as I was at a gathering of colleagues, we talked about our core value of holiness. I cannot disagree that at our movement's conception we were a holiness movement. We still share in the belief of the process of sanctification. I believe it is essential. Our theology is not unique to us. In fact, I rather think that our doctrines are more core value statements at their heart than truly theological belief. That does not make them any less important or less true.

The fact is, we have appropriated our theology as a movement, our core values, from other movements. Our one denominational distinctive as I see it is being the church of and for the poor. We do not exclude the middle class, but they must be willing to serve the poor if they are to enjoy full membership in this movement. At the heart of the Booths' great idea was the calling by God to serve the marginalized.

This movement has taken a form over the years. It is quasi-military in nature. It is a movement with great structure. It is very hierarchical in nature. The core values should inform our form. Unfortunately, I think that often our form often takes priority over our core values. We tend to serve form. To quote one of my colleagues, "We spend a whole lot of time and resource serving the machine instead of the mission." It is not that form and structure are not important. It is when serving form becomes all important and procedure is more important than core values that we face danger.

We had a long discussion over this in the gathering I was in last week. Even after the session we discussed the issue and my thought that we are not beholding to just one form, but must be open to all. (That discussion got rather interesting and went to power issues. More on that in another post.)

My feeling is that there must be room in the box for every kind of voice and every form of service. In other words, the only thing not allowed is heresy. If we stay true to doctrine or core values and our denominational distinctive, then everything else is fair game.

Now many would argue with me, especially when it comes to practices such as uniform or worship/congregational models. By the way, I am not anti-uniform. I am a proponent of doing what it takes, no matter what it looks like to serve the mission and in so doing serving the Lord. Some would say that would not be true to the movement.

So I wonder, are we more slaves to form or values? If we are so concerned that everyone of our units look alike and have the same standard of meetings and the same brand, is it possible we are on the slippery slope of serving form and not our values? In fact, have we adopted corporate form and not the form that God necessarily wants. I am struggling with that these days.

So as with everything else I discuss, I want to know:

What do you think?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Amazing Grace?

I had a discussion with Janet today regarding the way I have changed over the years. I am finding myself incredibly empathetic to the plight of many of our friends, work colleagues and many others who find themselves squeezed by the economy and by lives of incredible sadness. In years past I was in very thick skinned. I would say that people made their beds and they need to lie in them.

Now I find myself hurting for so many who work so hard and are not able to make ends meet. Even fairly well-employed people are really struggling. I found myself also extending grace in unique ways to people. Some of my colleagues have said I have gone soft in my old age. Others have said that they can't ever remember getting a break, so why should anyone else. These comments come from officers and non-officer friends.

Others have warned that I am too lenient. After all people need to be treated with adults. The statement has also been made that, "In the business world, people would never tolerate this behavior or would not care so much about the plight of people." The problem is, as I see it, we are more than a business. I am all for accountability. I am also one who really desires to hold to a high level of work ethic and service for lay people and for professional Christians.

I have met so many people who are like the man, in the New Testament story, who was forgiven his debt by a judge and then goes out and chokes the man who owes him little. Where is the fairness there? I believe Jesus was trying to teach us how to show grace, even as He has shown it to us. In fact, we are asked to show grace, even if others have not shown it to us. There can be no mistaking

Even with those who are accused of "taking advantage of our service" I tend to extend grace. There are so many "double dippers" according to my friends. They should be made to wait their turn or we need weed them out according to my friends. I am often accused of being a push over.
I have become so much more aware of the neediness of people.

I also tend to internalize the hurt of the hurting recently. Hospital visits and nursing homes have always been tough for me, but now they are even more so.

Even in disputes I have always wanted to win. Now I see so many of life's disputes I find myself thinking they are so silly. Recently, in a disagreement, I found myself saying, "Ok, you win" just to get the matter over with and behind me.

So where is the balance between grace and accountability? Where is it that we draw the line and say, "Enough." Where is that we extend grace? How do we begin to change unfair business structures or laws that have hemmed us in as a "Christian business?" Do I just need to grow a thick skin again? Where does the Kingdom figure in trying to show amazing grace in every part of our functioning? I am not against discipline. I just wonder how we administer it fairly. When should we surrender and when should we fight for rights?

I am struggling with this and have been for the last few months. Possibly it is as a result of a series of things that I have experienced and been led to as I have prayed through these issues. Maybe I think too much with the heart and not the head.

What do you think?