Ministry Philosophy and Core Values
Jesus - the Word, the Way, the Truth and the Life
Fundamental to our core system of beliefs is the acceptance by faith that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
That being said, however, we believe that in the Church today there is sometimes a distorted emphasis on the "letter" of the Scripture that hinders true spiritual understanding of the Bible, and it is based on the idea that the Bible is the primary "word of God". If the Scriptures are really to be our source of doctrine, then we must accept what the Bible actually teaches about the "word of God" over and above what we may have traditionally been taught. Remember that Jesus told the religious crowd that they were making the word of God of no effect through the traditions they had passed down (Mark 7:12-13). In this passage, by the way, Jesus was referring not to the written Scriptures, but to the words that God had spoken through Moses (see verse 10).
While the Scriptures are undeniably the written words of God and divinely inspired, we must recognize that the Scriptures were given to man to reveal the living Word of God. John 1:1 tells us that, "In the beginning was the word...". Verse 2 refers to the word as He (not it), and the Scripture carries that thought even further to declare that nothing came into existence but by and through Him (John 1:3). Before anything existed the Word was. Verse 14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We often quote Hebrews 4:12 to emphasize the idea that the words written in the Bible are powerful (and they are if the Spirit of God is breathing on them to speak into our current situation), but we seldom continue on to verse 13 that states that no creature is hidden from His sight. In other words, Jesus is the Word of God, not the book, though we can count on the Bible to reveal Him!
Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39-40 that while they were searching the Scriptures, they were missing the life that He came to give. The Scriptures were never intended to be our source of life. From the beginning, the Lord intended that He Himself would be our source. Scripture was given to testify of Jesus, but Jesus told the Pharisees they refused to come to Him for the life they were seeking. We believe that the main reason for the general ineffectiveness of the Church today, and a cause of much of our disunity, is that we are substituting the pursuit of knowledge and information - particularly knowledge of the Bible - for a relationship with the living Jesus Christ. This leads to unending conflict over who is "right" and who is "in error". It leads to fear, mistrust, disunity, division, and wrong judgements concerning the Body of Christ.
Though we can only discover who He is through diligent study and Holy Spirit-inspired understanding of the Scriptures, we must never allow our knowledge to be the thing that sustains us. Knowledge is given by God to lead us into intimate relationship with Him. We must not forget that it was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that initially separated man from God, and led him away from the tree of life (Genesis 2:16-17). This principle applies today as well. The pursuit of knowledge can (and frequently does) separate us from He who is the tree of life. Jesus made an astounding statement when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6). In one bold declaration, He nullified knowledge and information as "truth" and personified it. Knowledge, information, understanding, logic, wisdom, doctrine, etc. were all relegated by Jesus to the realm of "facts". These things will never be truth unless they personify the living Jesus Christ. "You will know the truth..." Jesus said to those who will abide in Him, "...and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32). Only four verses later, He said, "...if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (verse 36 emphasis added)". The Son is the truth that really sets us free! It is in light of all this that we will take a look at ten of our core principles and values. But first...
Our Ministry Philosophy - in a Nutshell
In our experience we have encountered two fundamentally different approaches to ministry which can best be stated this way: Some use people to build their ministries, others use their ministries to build people. We strive to be the latter.
A Commitment to His Process of Transformation
Many of us believe that God is doing a '"new thing" in this hour. Really, He's restoring a timeless thing! When the early Church was birthed, people were personally touched and transformed by the power of the living Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. This transformation was so radical, and their lives so changed, that it drew people together in worship, praise, prayer and fellowship. Relationships were not formed around attending a local church! The local church grew out of deep, interpersonal, life altering relationships - beginning with the relationship of people with Jesus and extending outward to their relationships with each other. Tragically, what we see today are many local fellowships gathered around common doctrinal positions, giftings of charismatic leaders, worldly marketing techniques, or skilled administration. While these churches may appear effective because they attract a lot of people, the life-changing power that accompanies the presence of Jesus Himself is sadly missing! We believe that in this hour, God is releasing His Body from the bonds of tradition, human thinking, institutionalism and religious tradition. He is calling us to put our trust in Him as He leads us a way we have not traveled before. He wants to renew our minds and change some of our mindsets - about who He is and what He desires, about who we are and the many callings we have as believers, and about the world around us. Below are a few concepts that reflect some of the adjustments the Lord has made in our value system over recent years.
Ten Core Values - not in order of importance!
- The focus of God's heart is people - not lofty ideals of truth, perfection, or accomplishment. The Lord loves humanity and died for all, desiring that every human being come to a knowledge of the Truth and receive salvation (1 Tim. 2:3-4). He passionately loves us not because we believe in Him or worship Him, but because He created us and watches over us with the heart of a caring Father. He even became one of us and paid the price Himself for our sin because of this great love. It is important to note that He did this for each one of us while we were still sinners, running from Him and pushing Him away! Yet in His immeasurable love and mercy, He wooed us and was faithful to continue to work on our hearts until we surrendered to Him and were able to receive His gift of salvation. We strive to treat all others as worthy of the price that was paid for them - the life of the Son. Please note that we are not ascribing to the doctrine of universal salvation, which teaches that all men are saved whether or not they have faith in Jesus Christ. We are ascribing to God's heart which teaches that we should treat our fellow human beings with dignity, equality, respect, honor, and value, whether we agree with their thinking or not. It means "loving our neighbor as ourselves". It also means that, while we are commissioned to share the truth, we are not ultimately responsible to save, change, heal, give account for, or otherwise dictate the behavior of others.
- Our first calling and ministry is to the Lord. His primary passion is intimate relationship with His people. He desires that we have a reciprocal yearning to be in communion with Him. Jesus said the first commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, revealing that our ministry as a royal priesthood unto Him is our first and foremost calling.
- Our second calling and ministry is to others. Jesus said the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. We want to be focused outwardly not inwardly, motivated by His love and compassion. God is love, it's not just a commodity that He dispenses. "For God so loved the world that He gave ... (John 3:16)" We desire Him to be love in us and through us, causing us to be beacons of light in a very dark world, pointing the way to Jesus by our very lives. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13).
- God is more interested in who we are becoming than what we are doing. We recognize that He changes us from the inside out, that it is His inward work of the heart that changes attitudes, thinking and behavior - not the adoption of spiritual affectations. We fervently desire to be transformed people who exhibit the nature and character of Jesus Christ. We also desire to be sanctified people through whom He can release His power and glory in the earth. We are the Church - those called out (Greek word ekklesia) who are intended by God to demonstrate who He is to the world around us. As we are transformed, the Christ (which literally means "anointed") in us, our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), is released and signs will follow. The miraculous anointing of the Holy Spirit should flow through us as we live our daily lives. In other words, the Christian life should not be about going to "church", but rather "church" going with us! Biblical "church" can happen wherever we go, as we are simply who we were created to be!
- Relationships are more important than programs, structure or maintaining control. Fellowship among believers is a key to unity and a healthy Body. Opportunities for fellowship help to strengthen relationships, build trust and enable us to work together more effectively. We understand God's desire for the Church to be like a healthy family - with intimacy, trust, love, care and support for one another, as well as being a "safe place" for those who are hurting. We also believe that fellowship is about relationships, not about attending the same meetings from week to week or uniting around a common point of doctrine. We believe the biblical concept of "church" can take a variety of forms as Christians build relationship with one another.
- Every believer has a unique God-given ministry - and that ministry is first and foremost to personify the love of God. We understand that every gift that God gives man is intended to be used as an expression of His love. "God so loved ... that He gave... (John 3:16)". Because the literal meaning of the word "ministry" is service, we encourage every follower of Jesus to discover and grow in their spiritual gifts, and to serve others with them as the Holy Spirit leads. We believe that the role of spiritual leaders is to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" (Eph 4:11-12). What this really means, is to equip the saints to serve in love - expressed by the giving of themselves - selflessly and sacrificially. It is out of His love and compassion that true ministry flows. Further, our hearts are to release God's people into their ministries, not to conform them into ours! In other words, as we've stated earlier, we believe it is important to use ministry to build people, not use people to build ministries.
- Any ministry the Lord develops through us belongs to Him. We do not believe there is any room in the kingdom of God for the mindset that thinks, "my ministry", "my church", or "my people". Nor is there any justification for violating the freedom of choice that God has given every believer. While we as leaders are called to persuade, we are never to force or manipulate! Control, domination, manipulation, rejection, favoritism, labeling people as "rebellious", or anything else used to pressure people to go along with the will of church leadership, is directly opposed to the 'agape' love of God. We can release any ministry into His hands to lead, guide and direct because we recognize it is His possession and responsibility, not ours.
- Prayer, worship and the biblical principles found in the Scriptures are foundational to every ministry of the Body of Christ. We believe these things should be undergirding everything we do and should be the foundation out of which everything else flows. Much of what happens in the church world today is the product of tradition or human ideas "which seem right to a man but whose end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25), rather than a oneness with the mind and heart of the Lord. We desire to foster change in this area by committing ourselves more fully to time with Him and in encouraging others to seek Him more diligently also.
- God speaks to His people today. It is important that we learn how to accurately discern His voice so that we can respond accordingly. We believe God is continually speaking directly to His people, as well as through the prophetic word, to bring renewed life, hope, healing, and encouragement. However, to accurately discern the Lord's voice requires strong personal relationships with Him, as well as an in-depth personal understanding of the Scriptures, through which we discover the character and nature of the person of Jesus Christ. Though we are a prophetic ministry, our focus is on equipping people to develop their own relationship with Jesus and on drawing closer to Him, not on the prophetic ministry itself.
- Children and youth are just as important as adults. They receive the same Holy Spirit as adults. We believe they are important and valuable members of the Body of Christ, who need impartation, training, equipping and release to share what the Lord is depositing and developing in them. We feel it is important to address the concept often presented within the church world that children and young people deserve our attention "because they are the Church of tomorrow." We vehemently disagree with this statement because it relegates any part they might play or contribution they might make to the future - when they have finally reached adulthood! We would argue that they are a valuable part of the Church NOW, and have a valid part to play in the growth of the Body into the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13-16).