I have been thinking a lot about "values" lately.
This is a theme that is often found in the business and corporate world in recent times, often together with a vision and strategy. Some companies even give themselves a mission.
I am always a little torn by such statements.
For most companies, 50 years ago and earlier, values, vision and strategy could be summed up in the word "profit".
And ultimately, that is the main goal of a company. If a company doesn't make a profit, it will go bankrupt in the long run and all the other nice values, visions and strategies won't matter anymore.
I once looked for values on the web pages of various large companies. At Thyssen-Krupp, for example, there was the sentence: "We build on strong values: reliability and honesty, credibility and integrity."
You get the impression that everyone says that and it's easy to say.
What I liked best was a sentence I read at Bayer AG
I found. It talks about four strategic value levers. That alone is a cool formulation.
As 1. innovation, as 2. cost reduction, as 3. sustainability (must always be included nowadays) and 4. then comes the following statement:
We are developing a global leader in health and nutrition. In doing so, we create value through strategic capital allocation with a focus on profitable growth.
"Strategic capital allocation", I don't think anyone has ever described "making money" so nicely.
Personally, I always find such strategies, visions or even corporate values a bit borderline, sometimes bordering on ridiculous.
For example, if a company presents itself as human and employee-friendly and then people are dismissed for operational reasons, something like that seems unbelievable.
Or if a company only communicates people-friendly values to the outside world and keeps the desire for profit embarrassingly in the background, then it also makes itself untrustworthy. Therefore, this Bayer statement is somehow honest ("strategic capital allocation").
When I was younger and had no responsibility here in the church, I could do nothing with strategies and visions for the church.
We have the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20, so somehow we try to spread the gospel in the city. Why strategy and vision? And I didn't even think about values at that time. I had less of an eye on diakonia. In my simple youthful world view (rather young adult world view) I thought to myself, many do diaconia, rather few spread the Gospel, so we do what few do.
I don't want to judge my thinking of that time too much today, maybe it was not thought holistically enough, but it doesn't seem persé wrong to me today.
Nevertheless, we find values in the Bible and I would like to look at a very well-known Bible passage with you. But please do not see this sermon as an invitation to simply adopt the following values, but as a thought-provoking impulse to go deeper into the topic of "values for our congregation".
Values in the Sermon on the Mount
I read the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-12; NL
Other translations write "Blessed are those...", but I find the more modern translation more understandable here.
Let us look at the values that emerge from the text:
I need God
If you look at our congregation from the outside and ask, what makes the Evangelical Free Church congregation in Leichlingen special? Can we then say that it needs God and is aware of this?
Do we have to walk around sad-faced and sour-faced in order to confirm various clichés about the church?
No, I think what is meant here is that one does not close one's eyes to the worries, problems and needs of others, but shares the suffering and mourns with them. This is talking about compassion.
We share our grief, our burdens, that would be a great value for our community.
Friendly and humble
The tone makes the music. If you always manage to be friendly with each other, then a very special, attractive atmosphere is created. Of course, it's not enough to just be friendly; friendliness must be deeply anchored in the relationship. I have the feeling that we are on the right track.
And modesty: For today, I would derive the following value from it.
The other one contradicts my opinion, but could be right. Maybe I'm wrong.
If we internalise this value, then we would set ourselves apart from today's world, I think.
I think justice is a difficult subject. We often like to claim justice for ourselves. For others, we don't always care so much.
"If he can do it, so can I" is something I have heard adults say, and perhaps even said myself.
We probably won't get anywhere with human justice here.
What about God's justice? We are all guilty before God, all sinners, and through Jesus Christ we have experienced forgiveness from God. And that is God's justice.
Surely that is a value for our lives and for our church: forgiveness. We are patient with each other and are ready to forgive.
Of course, some conflicts are more complex and we have to talk about them, that's clear, but as a basic value I find "forgiveness" good.
I would see mercy as living understanding, help and assistance.
We already had "compassion" under the point "grief" and this is based on that.
Not everyone can solve all their own problems, we often reach our limits. And so we have understanding for our weaknesses, we help each other and stand by each other. This happens often enough today. And that is a value for our community.
Every translation writes "pure heart" here.
This point was the hardest for me. What is a pure heart?
The closest thing I could think of was what the opposite of a pure heart is, namely ulterior motives and treacherousness.
Can we manage to deal with each other in the congregation without ulterior motives (hopefully not even insidiousness)?
Of course, this would also mean that we somehow address and clarify inconvenient questions and differences of opinion. Perhaps this can be done in a friendly and modest way.
A formulated value would then be: We deal with each other without ulterior motives.
Strive for peace
We live in a pretty divided society, especially politically and socially. And through Corona, these divisions have also cut across groups and families that otherwise felt they belonged together.
Can we as Christians or as a congregation contribute to overcoming divisions, to truly pacifying conflicts?
I feel that peace between fellow human beings is an important value, also for us as a congregation. Can we build bridges and rebuild relationships?
It is precisely at this point that I become particularly aware of the first value from the Sermon on the Mount: I need God.
It remains our mission to continue to speak of Jesus Christ, even if some believe that this does not fit into today's world.
Of course, it is not a matter of doing anything in an embarrassing way like perhaps 40 years ago. Each generation has to find its own way, its own language, its own methods of telling others about Jesus Christ. The Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20 mentioned at the beginning still applies today.
And it is important to me that people continue to say about the church in the future: "They tell about Jesus Christ", in whatever form.
Now I have gone through the Sermon on the Mount with the focus on "values" as an example.
At home I also compared the values of some congregations, of "Treffpunkt Leben Erkrath", of the Christ Church in Ratingen and of the revitalisation programme of the Federation. It was really exciting, the similarities and also the differences, but that would have gone beyond the scope of today. Take a look at it at home.
Just before I finish, I would like to quote a sentence from the world of management. I was told this sentence by Marc Stoßberg from Erkrath.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
This sentence is from the guru of management theory, Peter Drucker.
Culture encompasses the shared values, norms and beliefs within our community. It determines how we treat each other and visitors.
Ultimately, culture can be seen as the values we live by. If we work out values and just hang them on the wall, it won't do any good. If we live them, it will change our church culture and attract people. Living Christianity has always been the best witness.
- At the beginning we looked at values in the corporate world and saw that the real value is profit, which is understandable.
- Then we thought about whether and which values are important for the church. For this we looked at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.
- We are aware that we need God.
- We share our worries and problems (compassion).
- We treat each other kindly. And humility in this day and age can mean: I seriously consider that the other person might be right, even though he disagrees with me.
- We want to be ready to forgive one another and thus hunger and thirst for God's justice.
- We have understanding for our weaknesses and help each other.
- We deal with each other without ulterior motives.
- We strive for peace, for overcoming divisions, for resolving conflicts and for new relationships with each other.
- We tell about Jesus Christ.
- Our congregational culture encompasses the shared values, norms and beliefs within our congregation. How do we want to live congregation in the future?