By Scott Nelson, lead pastor
The last couple of times I’ve written on this blog, I have talked about the mission statement and core principles of Covenant Grove. Now I want to talk about the key values of our church. These are the things that define what it feels like; this is the experience we are going for in our church.
The first one is about CHARACTER. We root our lives in God’s word and live with integrity. Character matters most. We think deeply, ask questions, and devotedly follow Jesus. We pursue God‘s righteousness in our lives and God‘s justice in the world.
This value embraces the audacious belief that we should actually live out what Jesus taught. This means there are no shortcuts. We will not gimmick people into the kingdom of God or try to entertain people into heaven. We will not compromise on the standards that Jesus established. This doesn’t mean that people have to be perfect. But it does mean that we expect our leaders – no matter how long they’ve been in the church or who their family is – to live up to the biblical standard of leadership. This includes me as the pastor. Character matters most. I remember early on, gently confronting a leader about them gossiping. They accepted the feedback, but they were surprised that I had come to them one on one (although that is what we all agreed to do). We were able to go beyond the words–and live out a loving community that talks directly to people rather than perpetuating even more gossip. Even though we had less than 100 people in our church at the time, I was willing to have this conversation, even if it meant the person would leave the church. Integrity matters.
The next part of the value talks about thinking deeply, asking good questions, individually following Jesus. We don’t worship the Bible; we worship Jesus. The Bible is God’s letter to us and it is the only perfect rule for faith doctrine and conduct. So our thoughts–even when we are doubting and wrestling and struggling–are based on God‘s word. We ask good questions, but we do not use questioning as an excuse not to make decisions and follow Jesus. In fact, we see good questions as a way to grow closer to God (who is the answer to our deepest longings).
We value living out God‘s word in our lives. I think this is what God is longing for us. Rather than us coming to Him with our script, He is trying to get us to live out His script… Scriptures. In the New Testament, the word righteousness and the word justice are the same word (the Greek word dikaiosune, used almost 100 times). Some people pursue God‘s justice in the world yet ignore people’s personal sin problems. Others focus on personal righteousness yet do not understand the need for systematic change. We value both, and we pursue both in our thoughts and actions. Our lives are rooted in God‘s word, and our prayer is that through us God’s kingdom will expand in both personal righteousness and systematic justice for all. We believe that God can change the world for the better through us. The world can’t change if we aren’t changed first by God’s grace. This is the work of character, and this is why character matters most. We focus on the heart of each person, not superficial spirituality. I love leading a church that values character!