Vision and Values

I have always liked to think of myself as a visionary type. But I have been wondering whether that is always the best thing to be. I have raised aspects of this issue in the past here. The favourite verse of a lot of church visionary types is the verse from Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision the people perish”. But this is in the King James Version and newer and better translations (better because we have access to better earlier manuscripts and we understand the Hebrew better) have a different take on the verse:

Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint (NRSV)

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint (NIV)

If people can’t see what God is doing,
     they stumble all over themselves (The Message)

What we see here is not a vision focussed church but a God focussed church. The passage turns out to be more about discipleship rather than vision casting. So all of the translations end with something along the lines of “happy are those who keep the law”.

Then when we look at the life of Jesus we don’t necessarily get great visionary statements. Some have talked about the Jesus manifesto in Luke 4:16-30 as what Jesus was about or they talk about telling Peter that he will “fish for men” in Mark 1:17, or they look to Mark 1:14-15 with the first message that he preached, or the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.

But when you look at all of these we see that they are important statements by Jesus but that his vision isn’t always stated clearly. Indeed if anything Jesus keeps hiding what he is up to. What I keep noticing though about Jesus is that he is more interested about the values that we live out of than casting grand vision statements.

Vision often seems to me to be more about a sugar rush. You listen to a great inspirational speech and you get a “sugar rush” of emotion. You can get caught up in it and you can get carried along with it and vow to change. Now some of this is great and I love to hear inspirational speakers. The problem is that the feeling all too often fades and it is easy to fail to see any change in our lives. The result is all too often disillusionment.

Instead values start to change what we do and how we do things. They inform our actions and define what we do and don’t do. As I have often said (having nicked from someone else)

We do what we value and value what we do

In other words if we value prayer we will, over time, grow in our prayer life. If we value our small group then we will go and often try and re-arrange our diaries to make sure we can be there(I know there are exceptions but as a general rule I have noticed that this is the general case). Values are less visible, less exciting but I believe that they are far more effective in the long run in transforming us. They transform people more effectively and they enable people (and churches) to then make decisions for themselves out of those values. Values don’t change on listening to the latest person. Values inform our choices and allow us to realise that we are on a journey.

One of the problems with the recent banking crisis, the media and political crisis is that everyone wants a vision – bigger, profitable banking, growing profitable papers etc but few seem to be embedded in values. Things that you will do because it is part of the core of who you are as an individual or an organisation. Just in passing, it has been interesting to note that Apple appear also not to have a Vision statement but rather a Values based philosophy. This may see a move away from grandiose vision or mission statements in business towards a core set of values.

At Springfield I have seen the change that has occurred in many people through the embracing of the values that we agreed were important to us. We have five key values and it was very interesting to see how different people and groups have interpreted these values but there is a basic understanding amongst us. So, that often people will do things out of these values without even being able to clearly say why they are doing things. So, for example, for us people come before task. People in our cell groups understand this and see this and it is shown in numerous ways such as volunteering meals when someone is struggling, stopping the agenda part of the cell group to pray with someone.

Now vision can be important for leaders. Knowing where you are going and helping others to see that. The problem comes that many leaders get very discouraged because they cast their vision and everyone goes “yes, love it, that’s great” but nothing happens. “We will win this town for Christ” – everyone cheers; but five years later the church hasn’t altered. Why is that? Because the values haven’t been addressed. If a church says that it has a vision for mission but does nothing about it then in 9 times out of 10 the church doesn’t value mission. Or if a church says it has a vision for being a highly relational church I would want to know how that is valued by people, how would I know that this is being lived out? I would rather people had a great set of values than a great vision.

When I first arrived at Springfield I had a vision for cell church. Everyone wanted to know what it would look like how it would work out structurally.  I refused to answer. Instead I spent a church weekend away looking at values and then preached about the values I believed were important for six months before I mentioned anything at all about structures.

Now it doesn’t mean that vision isn’t important but I believe that the key driver for Springfield for some time now has been its values. Those values mean that anyone can have vision, anyone can help be part of what God is up to and it means that we don’t focus on management speak, we try to focus on God and people.

Our five values (explanations in later posts and I will link from this post to them) are:

  • All Involved
  • Becoming Disciples
  • Creating Community
  • Doing Mission
  • Encountering God

I’m planning on going through each of them in a series of posts over the next week or two. I thought that would be good to look at them in more detail especially as the cell leaders and pastors were looking last Monday at what it would look like for a cell to show that they were living out of these values.

So, how about you, which is more life changing for you? Vision or Values?

Part 2 – How can you help your church live out its values?
Embedding Values – All Involved


3 comments on “Vision and Values

  1. George
    September 25, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Values – always.
    It seems to me that everyone has the ability to embrace and apply values to their lives.
    Some values can be positive, eg kindness and compassion – and some can be negative, eg selfishness and greed. Indeed it could be argued that the last two are encouraged by advertising and what is expected behaviour in business.
    On the other hand not everyone has the innate ability to be visionary – which involves a different (psychological?) make-up.
    History is littered with examples of visionary leadership which has stemmed from a set of negative values.
    And this is why it seemed absolutely right – Will – for you to have spent so long on the values prior to working out the detail.
    One of the problems these days is that – partially due to the speed of life and the perceived need for instant solutions – our leaders (in politics and business) only at best give lip service to values before launching into action.
    So…..values it is then……but coupled with an acting out of these values – which may or may not follow a particular vision, but rather may be a momentary act of kindness and compassion.
    God is present not only in the big picture – but also in the moment.

  2. andrewbrims
    September 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Good food for thought… wonder if it is a both / and thing, rather than one above the other…

    Could you say you have a vision for values to be embraced above goals??

    *still thinking*

  3. Will Cookson
    September 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I do agree George, that values take time and effort but I also believe that they are longer lasting and often have the ability to go much deeper.

    Andrew, I’m not against vision but I do think that it can be overplayed. Values go further and deeper.

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