Harold Bullock: What are your two most important things in life? I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I never thought about those things. You have some things that are important to you. I’m not asking you what should be your two most important things in life but rather what are they really? It’s worth thinking about. You might have three; you might have four because those things shape your life. Your life is shaped by choices, and what’s most important to you is what you choose again and again and again. We’re going to talk about what’s important to us today, but first I’d like to give you a little bit of backstory on Hope Church.
We began in 1978, and as a part of our original vision for the future, there are some things we wanted to see happen over the long haul. We began to move that direction, and over time, became that kind of church. We intentionally set our hearts to develop a church in which people would actually treat each other like the Bible says to. Then, they would also reach out to the community around us to people who didn’t particularly go to church. Then, we wanted to be a church that helped plant many, many new churches, and over the years, a lot have been planted. In another message, I’m going to talk to you about the vision and how it shapes the future for us. But today, we’re going to be focusing on, not on our vision, but on our identity.
We’ve been talking about God Dreams, the sense of assignment that we’ve received from the Lord, and how we’re trying to move forward toward that. Our identity actually shapes the kind of assignment we get from God. Churches--there are all kinds of churches. Churches have very different emphases, very different personalities. They tend to have different passions for different kinds of ministries, and because of that spread, we’re blessed. Because different churches all working as they try to follow Jesus Christ are able to cover a wide range of needs among people and to see people come to Christ. So we have a focus; we have a sense of assignment. Over time that has shaped our identity, and as we look at the future, our identity will help shape how we carry out the vision. We’re using this frame as an example; in the middle is a picture. It’s a pretty picture actually. It’s not our picture of the future; it’s a placeholder. You can enjoy it until we talk about the future. Every picture like this has a frame around it. The frame sets up the picture. The picture is not the frame, but the frame does set the borders, sets the boundaries for the picture.
We’ve been taking a look at who we are, our mission, and we looked at that just last week. We’re focused on this frame--our mission, our values, our strategy, and then our measures. These things are important. Mission is what on earth we’re doing. We have some broad things that drive us like honoring God and seeing people come to know Him. But specifically, how are we approaching that?
Values--values answer why we’re doing what we’re doing. Mission answers what; values answer why. Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to make it happen? What steps are we going to take?” Then measures answers the question of when. When are we successful? How do we know if we’re successful if we’re trying to do this strategy? Last week we looked at our mission statement, which is inviting people to discover and experience God’s ways. We talked about that. Today we’re going to look at the left side of the frame; we’re going to look at the values part.
Values tell us why we’re doing things the way we’re doing them. Our key values actually shape how we do everything. What’s important to us, whether it’s a person or an organization, shapes our choices. We actually call the things that are important to us our values. You have a high value on something. We all have actually a value scale. Let me show you a picture of it. As we’re moving through life, there are some things that are...they’re just not important to us. Maybe they should be, but they’re not. Or maybe it’s fine that they’re not important, but they’re just not important to us. I’m talking about you personally and also to organizations. There are other things that are a little important, a little bit, and some things that are pretty important and then some things that are more important. Then, there are things that are most important.
We all have this kind of values scale. We don’t think about it, but that’s just the way that we function in life. These values enable us to make choices. Whenever things come to a choice, we choose what’s most important. I’ll give you an example. If you have to get out of bed in the morning to go to a job, if you have a day job, you have to get up on time if you’re going to get there. You know that. You set the clock for a certain time, and in the morning, the alarm goes off. Then you do what’s most important. I need to get up to go to work, so you hit the snooze button. Why? Well, isn’t getting up to go to work important? Yeah. Being there on time important? Yeah. But right now the most important thing in life is just an extra ten minutes. We function out of what’s most important to us often in the moment. In reality we make choices by the most important; whatever’s most important to us, that’s what we do.
Here’s you a statement: Operational values guide choices. I’ll explain that. What’s really most important to us, like hitting the snooze button...what’s really most important to us is a guiding value. It actually guides the choices we make. It’s an operational value; that is, it affects what we do. Sometimes churches or organizations have a list of values maybe on a wall or some place. There are some noble things said on that list. They admire those values, but they don’t really make choices by them. Something else is really more important, so they don’t quite do what the list says. Something else shapes how the leaders make decisions. A church organizations’ leaders might like these values that are on the wall. Maybe they want to use them in decision making, and maybe they aspire to be that kind of organization. But actually, they make decisions based on something else because those things are more important than that list on the wall.
There are more important things than the aspirations. Values which are admired and don’t really impact decisions, they’re called aspirational values. They’re your aspirations; they’re what you hope to be, but they don’t actually affect how you operate. You might admire them; you might want to be like that, but you don’t actually make decisions that way. Through the years at Hope Church, we’ve had some values that have guided our decisions. They’re guiding values; they’ve shaped the way we do church life. They’ve shaped how we make organizational decisions, but they’re not just aspirational values. These are actually operational values; we really do make decisions this way. Over a time period, those things have shaped who we are and have shaped a lot of what we’ve been able to accomplish. They’re actual operational values, so as we move into the future, these things need to remain high values in decision making. We need to continue to operate in line with them. We’re going to take a look at them in a second.
The answer to the question, “Well, why do we make those kinds of decisions at Hope?” is this: The operational values, our core values...these are the most important things as we are deciding how we’re going to move forward as an organization. These shape the decisions. We have three basic values. Today, we’re going to look at two of them, then next week, we’ll look at the third one.
Our first value, and this is operational...this affects how we do things...is please God fully. In what we do, we want to please God fully. Ephesians 5:10 in The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible, says, “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” That’s pretty simple, so the question that comes up as we’re thinking about how we move forward and what we’re going to choose...the question is this: How does this fit with God’s desires? How does it line up with them? We consider His desires first. Jesus said we’re to seek first His kingdom, and then we seek to please Him in our thoughts, our attitudes, our decisions, and our actions. If you want to memorize those, by the way, you can do “TADA!” Thoughts. Attitudes. Decisions. Actions. We want to please Him with our TADA.
Matthew 23...22:37-38...Jesus has been asked a question. A man asked Him from the crowd, trying to really just sort of trip Him up. He asked, “Well, what is the first and greatest commandment?” Out of all the commandments in the Old Testament, and there were a lot, what’s the most important? Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest…” This is the mountain peak that sticks out above all the others. All your heart--that’s your decisional core down deep where you make decisions. With all your soul--that word has in the Greek language the sense of life force, your energy, all your energy. With all your mind--every bit of your mind. You need to keep your mind on a leash. I don’t know if you know that or not. You let your mind run; it’s a lot like a dog. It’s just up and down the street, getting into this trash can and that trash can. You need to keep that thing on a leash; you need to please Him with your mind.
It’s choices, so because we really want to please God fully, there are some ways we operate. We understand that we want to please Him fully; we are people who are broken being repaired by God. We’ll never do it perfectly, but we can keep pressing toward fully. One of the things we do is we recognize the Bible is God’s Word. It is; He tells us in it what His thoughts are. It shows us how He deals in history and what He wants from people. There are all kinds of questions about the validity of the Bible in our society, and maybe you have a lot of questions. There are all kinds of questions; there actually are answers.
Many years ago as I was getting straightened out with the Lord, I was a young man. I had all kinds of questions. I had gone through a fair amount of education. Coming out of the educational process starting from first grade or maybe pre-k, there’s just in the educational process a whole lot of questions you pick up. You can’t articulate them, but they’re just there. If you have questions about the validity of the Bible, that is really fine. Get answers. I ran into some people who could help me figure out what I needed to do, what I needed to read to get answers. Over a period of several years I came to the conclusion, “Yep, the Bible really is God’s Word.”
It’s also foundational to our church life and our ministry. We build on it; it sets boundaries for us. We don’t move over and start building on something else; it actually sets our foundation. We recognize the Bible, and we accurately follow Biblical guidelines and...principles and guidelines. Scripture talks about following completely, following fully. We’re concerned about this because we really want to be in line with it. It’s Truth; it gives us direction. This always puts us in tension with our society. Society has its big opinions about everything, and the Bible moves a certain direction. At different points in different decades, different issues crop up, but there’s always tension between society and what the Bible says. We choose the Bible; society keeps on shifting. We choose Scripture, and we want to build by its principles and guidelines. It gives you a framework for doing life.
We like to be culturally relevant, whatever decade we’re in, but we want to be Biblically-driven. We don’t want to be culturally-driven and Biblically relevant. We want to start with Scripture, but then make sense to our society and live in the real world. But there’s a tension; we want to do what’s honorable in the sight of God and people. There’s a verse reference on your handout that’s in your program. That verse reference basically says this; we do what’s honorable before God and then what’s honorable in the eyes of people to the extent we can. We don’t just do whatever we want to. We think about how things will appear in the eyes of others; we want to be Biblical, but we want to do what’s honorable because we really want to please God.
We act based on trusting God, not just sight. Within our frame of who we are, there’s some basic realities. We don’t have a $30 million a year budget. We have a good budget, but that’s just not a part of who we are. We operate within who we are. There are just realities to life; however, we don’t make our key decisions simply by circumstances. It’s easy to do that because circumstances are very powerful. If you have no money and stuff has to be bought, the circumstance of having no money is really powerful. However, as we make choices, we want to trust what God says; we don’t want to ignore reality. We want to trust what God says and deal with reality and not simply take the easy path according to circumstance. We want to trust God. We want to act based on trusting Him, not just what we can see. Pleasing God is not simply a nice thought or pious language...oh wonderful desire. Pleasing God is our first priority in making decisions as a church. This is real; this is an operational value for us.
Our second core value is to love people wisely. Matthew 22:39, Jesus goes on to answer that guy that asked the question, “What’s the greatest commandment?” He doesn’t let him off with just loving God because God wants people loved. The second, Jesus said, “...the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Hmm. God is concerned about how we deal with people; love your neighbor as yourself. Sometimes people take that verse and sort of mess it up. The thought, I’ve heard people say, “Well, that means that first you have to work on loving yourself, then you can love your neighbor like yourself.” I have news for you; you already love yourself. Now, you may not like yourself; that’s a different issue. But you do love yourself. Do you know how you know? You arrive at a restaurant where you want to eat dinner and another car pulls in at the same time you do...you get out of the car; they’re getting out of the car at the same time. So, you walk faster than they do to get there first to get a table. Why do you do that? Because you are very important to yourself. You may not like yourself, but you will get to the table first. That’s what Jesus means; you put the needs of others like yours. You love your neighbor like yourself, so we treat people with their God-given value. God values people; He has assigned value to them.
We treat them in a way that is right before God. The Scripture talks about agape love. That word in “love your neighbor as yourself” in the Greek language is agapao...is a word that means to love sacrificially. Agape love does not mean, though, that we do whatever people want or whatever people ask. There are boundaries on this, boundaries of God’s Word. It does mean that we sacrifice for the best interests of people. We’re willing to pay a price to be a genuine help to them before God. Because of this we want to love people wisely; we accept people where they are. Most of us have come to Christ having some real problems in our life. Maybe not devastating, but we’ve stepped outside God’s boundaries, and it’s created problems for us. We understand when people are outside of God’s boundaries; we know this, so we accept people where they’re at and help them try to take next steps toward God. That doesn’t mean that we validate their sin because God has set boundaries. There’s a list of things in the New Testament that’s repeated several times that’ll just keep you out of God’s kingdom if you keep on in these. We can’t call those things “okay” in order to make someone feel better because we’re Biblically-driven. We want to honor God; however, we’re willing to accept them right where they’re at without condemnation and help them move forward. Christ accepted us like that, so we do that to them.
We respect personal stewardships. God has given every one of us some responsibilities in life. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 is one of the basic Biblical guidelines for putting your life together in this world. Here it says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…” That’s a life that’s not uproarious or a bother to people. “...to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders…” Remember, we want to honor God, do what’s honorable before people. “...and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” We’re to work and pay our own way in life, so God gives you responsibility for your own life. You are responsible for yourself, for your own progress in the world. You’re responsible for your own money, your own time, your own family life. We respect that, so there’s a level at which we don’t intrude in these private situations. We will share Scripture with you, but you have to make the choices. You’re called to handle these in a way that’s pleasing to God. You’ll enjoy good things out of them...money, family, etc. God delights in that. Of course, if you’re like me, you can also create problems in these areas. We understand that; we all work on it, but we respect your leadership and your responsibilities.
There are a couple of verses in the New Testament that almost seem like they contradict each other; they’re close together. Galatians 6:5 says, “...each one should carry his own load.” It’s talking about your responsibilities; each one should carry his own load. We all, sort of like a soldier, we all have a backpack to carry. We have responsibilities God has given us; we have to carry those. There’s another verse we’ll look at in a minute that says that we’re to carry each other’s burden, but we’re to carry our own load. But we’re to carry each other’s burden? But we’re to carry our own load? But we’re to carry each...? What is going on? I’d like to explain that
We all have our basic responsibilities; you have to make your way in the world. Sometimes people want to be irresponsible and want everyone else to bear their responsibility, and we can’t do that. But if there’s a landslide, if life falls in on someone, well, we help dig them out. All of us come into times of real pressure. We have to bear our own responsibilities, but we help dig them out. More about that in a second.
We help and care for people through Hope ministries. We do care about people, so in the different ministries of Hope, we’re trying to help out. Group life--you get insight from Scripture on a more personal level. Encouragement--does anyone need encouragement? Yeah, it’s hard to admit, but I think it’s probably encouragement is about the thing that leaks out of us the fastest. You get really encouraged, and then a few minutes later you hit those hard circumstances, and then “Here we go again!” We need to encourage each other; that really happens through group life. Opportunities to form friendships--we all need friends. That happens through group life. In the worship services you have the opportunity to worship God; that actually turns out to be one of the key things for your own...for pulling your life together. Then, opportunities to team together to do God’s work--we occasionally do seminars or retreats to go into deeper insight on challenging areas of life.
We want to help that way, but also, whenever crisis hits we really want to help. You have to carry your own pack, but that verse that says “carry each other’s burden,” bear each other’s burden, is dealing with something else. We have to handle our own life, and others are not to carry our pack. We’re to carry it, but sometimes life just falls in on you and brothers and sisters help out. 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” That means that whenever they’re in those exceptional circumstances, we sacrifice. We sacrifice time; we sacrifice money. We sacrifice emotional energy to help, and it’s the larger group of us that’s doing this. Again, here’s that other verse: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Carry each other’s burdens--the first one about bearing your own load is like you’re assigned package. Everybody has to carry that, but this one right here--bear each other’s burdens--that word in the Greek language, burden, means the overwhelming, heavy thing, like the landslide that comes. When that happens, we step in and help each other.
We don’t enable irresponsibility. There’s a group in the early church that was trying to take advantage of Christian love, so Paul writes to that group. “When we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat. We hear that some of you are idle…” You’re not working. “...and we urge such people in the Lord to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” You have to carry your own pack; however, stuff does happen, and we have points where we need help. Sickness--it would be fun just to take a bunch of testimonies out of the congregation on how people have stepped in to give help. Sickness. Accidents. People not only pray for you...you know, we have received many meals, and some of you have as you’ve gone through really hard times, and you’ve not been able to get everything together. It’s just so demanding; people pitch in and help out. We’ve had situations where houses have been damaged or destroyed. Other people pitch in, help out; it’s just overwhelming. Situations where families have just gone into crisis emotionally--other people pitch in, help out, pray. Advice--there’s some points where you just hit a point in life you don’t know what’s going on or where to go. Wise advisors those kinds of times are really helpful. We actually sacrifice for people. We want to do it wisely. We want what we do to be right in God’s eyes for these people not just simply, whatever.
One other thing we do is we work on having leadership that is valid, that’s proven and is pretty clearly defined because we actually want to love people. Leaders, particularly in church life, leaders can really hurt people. Sometimes you’ll see things about that in the news. In the Bible, they’re actually supposed to have proven themselves at a lower level before they get elevated to a higher level. We have, over time, worked on trying to do that, and those who lead are proven leaders. Because people are valuable, people count. We elevate people to leadership not only who have ability but also have a heart to do right to people. That needs to be seen. People are important to God. God wants them treated rightly; He wants them treated with sacrificial love, so we do that. Our second core value is to love people wisely.
Let me show you something. There are three external things that you have to deal with all the time. I’m going to...this is a picture of them. What are they? God--you’re always having to deal with God. People--you always have to deal with people. They just will not go away. You’ve got to deal with your own family or maybe your apartment mates. You have to deal with extended family; you have to deal with co-workers. You have to deal with bosses. You just have to deal with them everywhere...on the road, in the supermarket. People. The other thing is goals. You’re making decisions how you’re going to get things done, what you’re going to accomplish. What is most important to you shapes how you deal with all three of these, and it shapes how churches deal with these.
In Hope, this is how we deal with these. Take a look at this picture. With regard to God, we want to please God fully. As we’re making decisions, this is the first question. Then, secondly, we want to love people wisely. People are important to God. We want to love and love in a way that He approves. Third, moving toward goals, do you see what we do there? Find out next week. Next week, we’re going to talk about how we move toward goals. I think it will be really helpful to you and insightful. The first issue for us, though, in making decisions as an organization is what’s right before God. We want to please Him fully. Second, what’s right by people according to God...we want to love people fully. Then third, tune in next week at the same time, and we'll go into that.