In the last post of this series over our vision frame, we discussed our strategy and measures. In other words, we looked at the four key things we feel God calling us to accomplish and the four strategy points to accomplish those goals. If you haven’t already I would suggest reading the first two parts of this series before engaging with this post. Today, we will begin discussing our values. We will give each value it’s own post to fully explain how each of them relates with our vision.
The above picture is our "vision frame" for more on this check out the first post in this series. If you'd like to view a larger picture of the frame you can do so by clicking here.
If our measures are the “why we do” and our strategy is the “how we do”, then our values could be summarized as “who does”. The question our values should answer is the type of people we will have to be if we are going to re-present and represent Jesus in our everyday lives. We must not only embrace these values as a church corporately, but also as followers of Christ individually. I’ve narrowed them down to just three core values.
Each value is highlighted in bold with a simple explanation in parenthesis. We are going to look at each of these values over three different post. I’ll give you the reason for the value and then how that will practically play out in our church by looking at the influence the value will have on each of the four strategy points.
Why we have Joy
Behind the first value "We smile big and laugh loud." is the imperative that as God's people we should be marked in part by joy. The short explanation that accompanies this value is “because for us to live is Christ and to die is gain.” which is a direct quote from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21. This quote doesn’t carry its full weight until you realize that Paul is writing to the church from a prison cell awaiting possible execution. The joy we hold as Christ followers is not a blind positivism in which we ignore reality. We acknowledge that we will suffer as much as anyone else living in this sin wrecked world, but we have a hope that others don’t. We know that this is temporary and soon death will be defeated.
Paul says that for us as believers on this side of eternity our purpose is Christ. That means we live for the mission of Christ, so even in our worst suffering we are serving a greater purpose. Even if our suffering ends with the worst this world has to offer - death - we still win, because immediately after our last breath here, we take our first breath in the presence of the almighty in paradise. We can't lose. We have purpose in the present and we have no fear in the future.
A grumpy, crusty, negative Christ follower should be a rarity. Because, if you truly believe the Gospel you have a joy that cannot be robbed from you. Your joy is defined by your Christ, not your circumstances. Now, that doesn’t mean we never mourn, but it does mean that even in mourning we have a hope that others don’t. I will also say that in some instances like depression or certain brain injuries, people are physically incapable of joy and that is something completely different than what I am referring to. We ought never make someone feel less than for taking medication for conditions like these. But for most of us, we get negative simply because we are focusing on ourselves instead of the cross.
Joy in Ascent
Now that we have a very brief introduction to the foundation for which our joy lies, we can begin to look at how that will play out. To do that, we will look at how joy works with each of our strategy points.
1. We gather in weekend services so that people can know God.
This is a big one. Our weekend services should feel like celebrations! This is the place that many people will come to check out Jesus for the first time. They should get a taste of the celebration to come when Jesus returns. We will welcome people with smiling faces directing traffic in our parking lot and greeting people upon entrance. We will avoid “holy huddles” and make efforts to welcome new guest. We will sing energetic and joyful worship songs. Our sermons will always focus more on the hope in Christ than the mistakes of people's past. We will not avoid sin, hell or God’s wrath, but you better believe we will share the good news of Jesus every single time. We are HAPPY. We have a big problem, but God has already sent the solution. Our services should reflect that. We will build people up, not beat them up.
Our kids ministry should be a reflection of this as well. I am 100% opposed to our children’s ministry being boring. I want the kids in our church to beg their parents to come to our gatherings, not the other way around. They will learn about Jesus in a fun and age appropriate way. For kids and adults we will always be looking for ways to pleasantly surprise and uplift. We may bring in specialty doughnuts or give out free ice cream just for fun.
I’m not saying we won’t interact with suffering, we will, but there must always be a hopeful undertone to our services. The grave is empty after all. So many church services feel like funerals with quiet music and angry people. We want Ascent to feel like a wedding celebration that all are invited to partake in.
2. We go in missional communities so that people can make a difference.
In our missional communities we get to make a difference that will last for all of eternity. The only thing we get to take to Heaven with us are those whom we invite to join God’s family. For many, living on mission is scary or confusing. We often think that living missional and inviting people to consider the claims of Jesus is the pastor’s job. In reality it is the privilege of all to participate.
It's only scary if you do it alone, it becomes thrilling when done in community. Our missional communities will live together on mission for the glory of God. We smile big and laugh loud as we love each other and serve on God’s mission together.
3. We give through serving on the dream team so that people can discover purpose.
Generosity is what truly unlocks joy in our lives. This is why Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I think we all know this mentally, because as adults we experience it every December. It is nice to receive things from other people, but there is something really special about watching someone you love find joy by opening a gift you bought them. We often forget this the other 11 months of the year because we are busy chasing our own passion or happiness. When in reality Jesus says forget about your pursuit of passion and begin living in your purpose. Your purpose is to give of yourself for the glory of God and the good of others. When you begin to live this way, you find that joy was there all along. This is why Jesus says to find your life, you must lose it.
4. We grow in D.N.A. groups so that people can find freedom.
In these honest groups we will share things about our story and heart that we've never shared with anyone else before. We will discover things about God and ourselves together. We will cry and laugh together. I believe that if we embrace the D.N.A. group vision, we will build some of our strongest relationships. Those in our group will be far more than just friends, they will become family. Along the way we will begin to experience freedom as the power of the Gospel is unleashed in areas we thought were beyond repair. We will find joy in each other and in our freedom.
We laugh loud and smile big. (because for us to live is Christ and to die is gain.)
I pray that we would embrace this, Ascent. It should permeate our lives as individuals and everything we do as a church. Thank you for taking time to read this and the rest of our vision series. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!