When we initially came up with our core values, the list only included seven. The one missing? This one.
I am actually pretty embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. Our first seven core values represent the things that we want to establish inside our church and the things that we believe will nourish our church body. They are the things that we know will bring people to faith in God and the things that we know will help us grow in that faith. But I had missed one thing. Something that Paul puts so well in 1 Corinthians:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” – 1 Corinthians 3:6
You see, we are called to do many different things as a church. We are called to be faithful to God’s Word and to preach the whole council of God. We are called to take seriously church membership and church leadership. We are called to care about discipleship as much as conversion – which is a lot! And we are called to be thoughtful about where God is calling us to serve. These are all wonderful things that we are called to do!
And yet, in our own power, they will result in nothing. No advancement of God’s Kingdom. No glory or honor to God’s name. And no transformation in our lives or in the lives of those around us. In our own power, despite even our greatest efforts, nothing happens.
I am reminded here of the profession “Funeral Cosmetology.” This is a little grim, I know. But it is a pretty apt example. The job of a funeral cosmetologist is not simply to put makeup on a corpse. It is actually to make the corpse look like the person looked in real life. It is an arduous process that involves many varied techniques. And of course there is extensive training to become good at this job. But despite all of the best efforts of a funeral cosmetologist, at the end of the day, the corpse is still a corpse. The person is still dead.
It is humbling to realize that our best efforts, without the work of God, are merely an exercise in funeral cosmetology. Sure we can do things that might make a person appear to be spiritually alive. We can cultivate helpful practices and introduce new ministries that meet people where they are. These are great things. And we are called to them. But on our own, they result in nothing. The corpse is still a corpse.
That is why we have added in this eighth core value – thankful prayer. Sometimes I get the question, “What is the most important core value?” I couldn’t give a good answer when we only had seven core values because they are all very important. But I can definitively answer that question now. This core value is the most important one!
We do hope to see people in our church find newfound depth in their walk with Christ. And when they do it will be because God gave that development. We do hope to see people return to the church who haven’t been a part of God’s community in years. And when they do it will be because God gave the increase. We do hope to see people who have never repented from their sins turn from their former life to find peace, joy, and comfort in the God they were created to know. And when that happens it will be because God poured out His Spirit in abundance. In short, we do hope to see God’s Kingdom expand through our small church. And when it does it will only be because God gave the growth.
So it is our final core value to function as a church with the understanding that we will only succeed if God pours out His Spirit. And our calling is to pray to God, with thankfulness, that He might give that grace to our church day by day by day.
So if you are reading our blog series, let me ask this one thing of you. Would you pray to our God? Pray that we might be diligent in planting as Paul was. Pray that we might be diligent in watering as Apollos was. But most of all, pray that God would be gracious to pour out the Spirit of Christ in abundance that we might see this growth. Because without Him, we are only doing the work of a funeral cosmetologist.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7