The last two weekends, my family and I have visited new churches in the Hendersonville area. One pastor preached a sermon from James about holding your tongue. Another pastor preached a sermon about changing lives. Needless to say, I was more impressed by the second church. It had its priorities properly focused on the outcomes of mission, or changing lives with the power of Jesus Christ. The first church was focused on behavior, which is a telling characteristic of a declining church.
I just read this quote in a new manuscript from Lovett Weems, which will become Focus (Abingdon, 2012):
In the early years of any organization, mission is paramount and values are assumed. Values are commitments honored in fulfilling the mission. They are as important as the mission but never viewed apart from the mission. Values do not compete with mission, but rather shape how the mission is fulfilled. After an organization has been around for a long time, and particularly when in decline, values tend to supplant mission in importance. Thus a time of decline grows worse, since nothing contributes more to weakness than forgetting purpose. The problem with making values the priority is that one can fulfill values perfectly while being unfaithful to the mission.
This is brilliant and applicable at a local church and even at a personal level. Mission is what matters most; values are important but serve the mission. Values are the trees to the forest of the mission. When we become focused on the trees, we lose sight of the forest. The difference is subtle but crucial.
Is your church or organization focused on its mission? Or has it become side-tracked by its values?