In April of 2000, two months before we held our first worship service at The Crossing, Keith and I wrote out our Six Core Values that would shape who we are and how we would do ministry as a new church.
And those who are part of The Crossing will see that the same Six Core Values we wrote out eleven years ago still correspond to The Crossing’s approach to ministry today.
I’ve previously discussed our Mission Statement and our First and Second and Third Core Values in previous blogs. Today I want to discuss our fourth, which to many is our most controversial one.
This is what Keith and I wrote eleven years ago:
Core Value #4—Intentional, Culturally Contextual Outreach
We recognize that effective ministry to our changing culture involves more than just verbally presenting the gospel message. Lasting ministry is process-oriented rather than event-oriented. We value the process of sowing the relevancy of the gospel into the culture through acts of love and words of wisdom. We seek to reach out in a way that is relevant to non-Christians, is intellectually informed, and is relational in approach. Our passion is to be the kind of church that makes the gospel attractive to those outside the church. We’re passionate about treating all people with respect, tearing down stereotypes, and building bridges. This is a church’s role in biblical outreach.
And then after this paragraph, we cited a few verses…
Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 5:13–16 (TNIV)—
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
The New Testament describes the earliest Christians this way in Acts 2:47 (ESV)—
“[They were] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The apostle Paul commands all Christians in Colossians 4:5–6 (TNIV)—
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
The apostle Peter tells all Christians in 1 Peter 2:17 (TNIV)—
“Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
What these biblical passages have in common is the need for all Christians to be wisely intentional about how they reach out to “outsiders” in their community. Christians are not to just stay behind their castle wall of the church. Like Joseph in Genesis and Daniel in the Book of Daniel, Christians should not be cultural separatists. Rather, we should seek to be cultural insiders who demonstrate the attractiveness of the gospel.
- We are to be like “salt,” that makes the gospel savory (attractively desirable to outsiders).
- We are to be like a lamp on a stand that shines the light of God’s wisdom in a confusing world. This means that we are to reach out into the life of the community and be intentionally seeable and knowable and relatable to outsiders rather than being hidden “under a bowl” of safely.
- We need to be wisely intentional about “having favor with all the people” in our community. In that way God is able to add to our number day by day those who are being saved.
- We are to wisely “make the most of every opportunity” to have conversations with non-Christians that are “full of grace” and “seasoned with salt.” This, of course, means having conversations with non-Christians about issues that non-Christians are talking about. It means having a relational approach that is “full of grace” rather than full of law. It means seasoning our conversations “with salt.” In other words, people are just a bit more attracted to the gospel after talking with us.
- We are to show respect and honor and love to everyone, regardless of whether they agree with us or not, or even like us or not, or are kind to us or not—regardless of whether they live the way we do or not, talk the way we do or not, think the way we do or not, vote the way we do or not, look the way we do or not, etc. Respect. Honor. Love.
To many, this has been our most controversial Core Value because, in carrying it out as a church in Columbia, we have purposely and intentionally reached out to build bridges and relationships with people and organizations that are rather different than us in many ways, while also finding real ways where we share common ground and can talk about things we both care about. Cultural groups and organizations like the True/False Film Fest and Roots ‘n Blues and Ragtag are current examples of these efforts that some in our church have questioned. But our desire has never been simply to build bridges only with those who agree with us on everything. Quite the opposite.
Our aim has always been to be the kind of church in Columbia that intentionally reaches out and is passionate about treating ALL people with respect, tearing down stereotypes non-Christians have of Christians, and building relational bridges—especially with those who do not agree with us. Non-Christians will NOT agree with us on everything anymore than we’ll agree with them on everything. That’s always going to be a reality of any bridge we build with communities within our community.
So let me repeat this Core Value we wrote 11 years ago with all this in mind—
“We recognize that effective ministry to our changing culture involves more than just verbally presenting the gospel message. Lasting ministry is process-oriented rather than event-oriented. We value the process of sowing the relevancy of the gospel into the culture through acts of love and words of wisdom. We seek to reach out in a way that is relevant to non-Christians, is intellectually informed, and is relational in approach. Our passion is to be the kind of church that makes the gospel attractive to those outside the church. We’re passionate about treating all people with respect, tearing down stereotypes, and building bridges. This is a church’s role in biblical outreach.”
[Update: You can read about The Crossing's Fifth Core Value here.]
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