Practices Over Values
Too often “values” are just a list of ideas we like. They have no rootedness in our everyday lives and end up being nice aspirations we hope to live up to someday.
Our actual values are revealed by what we do. So we don’t ascribe to ideas, we embody practices. Practices root us in our everyday relationships and responsibilities in Christ.
Our practices reveal our values.
Rather than merely ascribe to aspirational ideas, we want to embody a way of life together. Specifically, we covenant ourselves to a set of 4 practices that embody and demonstrate our core values, and form us as a community of disciples of Jesus.
Our 4 core practices are WELCOMING, LISTENING, GOSPELING, and GOING.
Hospitality is one of the oldest Christian practices. By hospitality, we don’t mean “entertaining guests” as much as simple making room for others. We seek to be a people who know how to open up space for others to simply be.
Jesus was really good at this, and it was one of the keys to his effectiveness in ministry. So we seek to imitate him and the way he welcomed friends, strangers, and even enemies.
Other prophets maintained austere lifestyles, but Jesus came “eating and drinking,” so much so that he was often accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34). A large amount of Jesus’ ministry took place around tables while eating and drinking.
So this includes the practice of welcoming people into our homes, opening up physical space. It also includes the practice of opening up spiritual space in conversations and in our lives. We seek to create a sense of welcome by becoming fully present to God, one another, and the people God brings into our lives.
God welcomes us at the Eucharist table. We welcome one another in community as we gather around tables in our homes. And we welcome the stranger by extending the hospitality of Jesus out into the neighborhood, eating and drinking with our neighbors.
Reconciliation is at the heart of the good news of Jesus. He has broken down the barriers that keep people hating each other (Ephesians 2:11-22). We, too, are called to forgive our enemies and seek reconciliation with those who’ve wronged us and those we’ve wronged.
The practice of listening is largely lost today, but it was one of the key practices in Jesus’ life. He consistently asked questions of people rather than just “gave answers.”
We seek to imitate Jesus by becoming a listening people. We listen for God’s voice in our midst, we listen to one another, and we listen to those we welcome in from our neighborhoods and networks, knowing this is the entry point for gospel conversations.
We practice mutual submission with one another, honoring the presence and leadership of Christ in our midst, trusting that we are listening for God’s will as we submit our observations and feelings to one another, refusing to lord power over others as well as refusing to abdicate the responsibility of leadership.
We also practice communal discernment together. We discern God’s leading together as we submit to one another. We seek to find out what “seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28), understanding that God speaks to us as a community through the community. We all contribute and we all interpret what God is up to (1 Corinthians 14:26-28).
We seek to becoming a “gospeling” people. “Gospel” is an old word that simply means “good news.” Everywhere Jesus went, he proclaimed the good news that God’s kingdom was available to everyone, no matter your past, present, or pedigree.
We want to be a community that has a gospel habit. A community that knows how to proclaim the good news that Jesus is Lord and we can trust him right now with whatever is going on in our lives!
This good news is not just for our individual lives, but it draws us together into communities of love. God’s love reconciles us to himself and to one another, so we seek to become a peace-making people.
In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s new world has dawned, and we get to proclaim it to each other. What a blessed contrast this is to getting advice!
Week after week in our worship gatherings, we hear a word of good news from God, we learn to proclaim good news to one another, and we grow in our ability to proclaim good news in context to those who are far from God.
Finally, we seek to becoming a “going” people. Like Jesus, we want to actively look for and move toward the last, the lost, and the least, to be present among them and discern what God is doing.
We seek to always be looking for where God’s grace is taking us out of our comfort zone and into new realms of mission. We seek to discern and participate in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, for God’s kingdom to come among us, for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
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