I found myself in a discussion this week about core values.
Each of us has ideas about which we’ll say, “Oh yeah that is definitely important to me.” However, I’m sure we’ve also noticed ourselves willing to discard things that we once listed as important when doing so benefited us in some way. I’m not implying that we “sold out”, I’m saying there are things we claim to value, yet discover that when it comes down to it they really weren’t all that important to us after all.
There are various reasons for this. Often we’ve heard teachers, mentors, parents or pastors expound on something that they believe or value and we take it on as our own. It matters to me because it matters to my community. And it is not until events arise that challenge that value when we learn whether or not we actually own it. And sometimes we hold values until we have a reason to seriously think about them, only to discover they clash with other, far more important values.
This conversation had relevance for me because it was just a couple of years ago, 18 months into our time in Ireland, that we found ourselves looking for a new church planting organisation to partner with. We knew of a lot of groups doing a lot of good stuff.
However, as I began researching, far more of those groups than I imagined (and I expected a lot) had a very clear stance on women in leadership, which was at odds with Liz’s and my view. While we are firmly committed to the idea that any and all leadership roles within the church should be open to women, many organisations do not hold that view. And so as I was doing research, one of the first things I’d look at was a group’s statement around the issue of women in leadership. If we didn’t align, I didn’t investigate them further.
While we’ve always known that this issue mattered to us, this process helped us to recognise how core it is to both of us.
The other value that rose to the top for me was connecting with a group that would be able to encourage, coach and support us and the vision we have. While the word “missional” gets tossed around a lot today, it is a word we use to describe what we are wanting to do here in Dublin. (You can read about our dreams in other places on this site).
When we were planting a church in Ithaca, NY back in 1999, we used a model very much shaped by a lot of the missional conversation that was happening at that point, as well as my background working with university ministries. The problem was that when we went through a series of challenging times while we were planting, we didn’t have a coach who understood and was committed to the model we were trying to live out. And so all of the coaching and encouragement we received was in what would best be described as the “church growth model.” And things got difficult enough where I decided to try implementing what was being suggested.
And it worked. Our church grew. Our finances got better. But a few years down the road a few of us began to recognise that we had strayed from our original vision. And while we saw God do really good stuff in and through that church, it wasn’t what we’d set out to do. And of course, I was finding myself working outside of some of my core values, which never goes well.
So as we were in the process of looking for a new group we found ourselves looking for groups that were also wrestling with what it means to be “missional”, specifically in a European context. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
Thankfully, I was going through my Twitter feed one day, noticed a tweet from Alan Hirsch about a group called Christian Associates. Since a lot of my thinking about church has been shaped by Hirsch, I checked them out and found a tribe with core values similar to ours. (I didn’t think about when I first sat down to write this, but we are just about at the one year anniversary of our time with CA.)
Obviously, Liz and I are still very much at the start of our time with CA, as well as with what we are doing in Dublin. It has been incredible to be in a place where we are not only encouraged to move forward with what we believe we are called to do but to constantly have new opportunities to learn to grow and develop in these areas that are so core to who we are.
You can go here to learn more about Christian Associates.
If you’re interested in being part of what we are doing in Dublin, please drop us a note…we’d love to chat.