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What Do We Value at UPC?

When I was growing up, my family spent a lot of time at a lake about an hour's drive from where we lived. I have great memories of lazy summer days fishing, skiing, and hanging out with my family and friends at our lake house. I remember a particularly warm, sunny day when I'd taken our little fishing boat out by myself. I grew sleepy so I closed my eyes and dozed off with my line in the water. When I woke up, I looked around and didn't recognize where I was. I'd been asleep for almost an hour! I'd floated out into what my dad called "the big water." Thankfully the lake was practically deserted that day so I didn't get clobbered by a ski boat.

What had I done wrong? I'd failed to throw out an anchor. Consequently there was nothing keeping my boat stationary. I had drifted into a potentially dangerous place where the changing winds and tides of nature were in control.

The same thing happens every day in churches across our nation. Because they lack an anchor, they drift from their original mission and accommodate to the fads and fashions of the times. Now I'm a believer in being contextually relevant. But as G. K. Chesterton once said, the church is supposed to move the world, not move with the world.

Here at UPC, we don't want to drift away from our mission of making making disciples of all nations. That's why we exist. So what must we do? We must keep going back, again and again, to our core values.

Core values serve as our anchor. They guide us in making decisions, planning for the future, setting goals, creating opportunities, and presenting our church to other people. They guide me as I think about what to preach on and how I spend my time as your pastor.

We've had these same values from the beginning, when Mark Bates planted UPC back in 1991. Our core values are:

  1. GRACE
  2. KINGDOM
  3. COMMUNITY
  4. CULTURAL RELEVANCE

Grace means God loves you - not because of what you do, but because of what Jesus did for you. Kingdom means Jesus reigns over all of life, is redeeming all of creation, and is drawing people from every nation under heaven to himself - so his exaltation should be our passion. Community means you can't do life apart from authentic relationship with other believers. And Cultural Relevance means we should present the unchanging grace and truth of God in forms that make sense in our cultural context, without compromising the message.

Do you see how these four values can check us when we're tempted to drift off course? Do you see how useful they can be when you're trying to decide on a curriculum for your next Bible study, or when your Life Group is discussing ways to serve others, or when you are evaluating your own fit at UPC?

And by the way, you need an anchor too. I encourage you to come up with a list of four or five core values for yourself and, if you're married, for your family. A few years ago I wrote out my core values for my life and ministry. Here they are, in case you're interested:

  • Being before doing – I minister out of who I am.
  • Family – My wife, children, and grandchildren are the most important people in my life.
  • Community – I cannot survive without significant relationships with others.
  • Honesty – People need me to be real. The gospel frees me to be real.
  • The Church – God still uses his wayward Bride to transform the world.
  • Truth and Grace – Jesus modeled both in his ministry; one cannot exist without the other.
  • Gospel Transformation – I change by believing the gospel.