I’ve got words all over my room, my thoughts about values plastered here and there, asking in the deep-gut way what kinds of qualities in life are most important to me. We are so bombarded with messages telling us what we should value. Sometimes the shoulds ride on top in our consciousness so that we confuse what we should value with what we actually value. Wikipedia says ” A value is an assumption upon which implementation can be extrapolated.” The assumption part of that is interesting because it suggests that what we value is always operative in determining our action, even if that value is operating below the surface of consciousness.
So what do you value?
There are so many things vying for attention, but in no particular order, these are the words on my walls: truth, beauty, awe, grace, peace, creation, freedom, mystery, wisdom, word, people, love, service, knowledge, glory, image, right, good, Bible, mission, community, friends, family. There’s more, but these are things that weave together to make my life. What’s not on the list are a few other things my actions proclaim that I value, but I don’t like to them that way. Maybe they are closer to core values than I’d like to admit. Quiet. Comfort. Sensory stimulation. Distraction. Indulgence. Wealth. Ease. Intellectual stimulation. Admiration. Praise.
I’m thinking about this because I’m praying and thinking about what our church values. There are many things churches should value, and then there are the things churches actually value. Truthfully, it seems that it doesn’t much matter what churches (or individuals) say they value–what they do with the minutes and hours of the day will tell everything needed to be known about values. To play with Paul’s image of the church as the body, we are often like hands who know we should value picking up stuff and making stuff and helping out, but what we really value is rest and idleness and adornment and strength for the mirror’s sake.
But think about the differences among people, and the differences among hands. Some hands like tools of machinery, other hands value tools of artistry, other hands value tools of gardening. When I think of my values, I think of things that are core to who I am that others may or may not share. Beauty and mystery are the two easiest to put here, because so many people don’t think about beauty and lots of people just flat out dislike mystery.
When it comes to churches, it seems what makes any body of people unique are not only the things they value (or care about), but they shared ways in which they value them. Any church is a unique work of the Holy Spirit in a given time-space reality, impacted by culture, by generational understanding, and by the specific work of God in a given place.
Does your church have a list of shared values that reflect what they actually value? Or does your church have one of those church lists that says what any church anywhere ought to value, but by their actions, clearly don’t. Another to way to ask it is this: do declarations of values reflect current reality, or call us to a new and different reality, shaping us by reaching toward the “ought”?