Crisis can bring clarity. When I first heard that simple observation from a friend, its truth immediately resonated with me. A crisis has a way of demanding our attention and diminishing the less important things in our lives. The result can be a clearer vision of what truly is important to us. In other words, crisis can clarify our values.
The crisis of the past year’s pandemic has certainly been a value clarifier for many. It’s been both encouraging and discouraging to see what the people around us have chosen to value, and what they have chosen to devalue or even abandon. Even values that are declared get tested in a crisis.
Still, clarifying values is a good thing. Recently our IBSA leaders and staff have been engaged in a strategic planning process that asked, “What are our core values? Which of these are most important to protect and pursue as we seek to serve IBSA churches?”
Hours of workshopping and weeks of reflection led us to identify four primary values, all linked to the service of churches. Those values are Engagement, Helpfulness, Excellence, and Advance.
We value Engagement with churches because engaged, trusting relationships are the foundation on which so many other values are built. Isolation leads to atrophy and discouragement. But fellowship and cooperation lead to encouragement, resilience, perseverance, and joy. As network leaders, we value knowing and demonstrating care for each church.
We value Helpfulness to churches because each church has unique challenges to meet and unique gifts to offer. The network should seek to meet each church where it is, to understand its context and its leaders, and to deliver value, whether from shared resources or by offering pathways of sharing with others. The heart of God and his revelation of himself throughout the Bible and especially in Jesus is “I AM…whatever my people truly need.” We value imitating God’s helpful, sacrificial heart and posture toward churches.
We value Excellence for churches because the churches that gave us this network stewardship deserve our very best. Quick, caring responses, knowledgeable and humble staff, quality events and materials, trustworthy assistance—are all expressions of both love for the Lord and love for his churches. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Since you are eager for the gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” We value excellence in every way that helps build up churches.
We value Advance through churches because that is the ultimate goal of our work together. Delivering the gospel and an accessible church in every community in Illinois, and sending missionaries throughout our nation and world, is the Great Commission advance for which we all long. Yes, IBSA seeks to engage each church with helpfulness and excellence. But our ultimate motivation is that the gospel and the Kingdom of God will advance through all churches, working together.
As we discussed “what’s really important” to IBSA, it was with great intentionality that we linked each of these values with a preposition to the local church. Engagement with churches. Helpfulness to churches. Excellence for churches. Advance through churches. As the bride of Christ, churches are really the preeminent value of our network, present in each of our core values statements. It is because we love and value churches that we value engagement, helpfulness, excellence, and advance.
Whatever crises may come our way as churches in Illinois, I hope each one reveals these as the enduring values of our network. We promise you our very best, in a spirit of helpfulness, each and every time you engage. And we do so because we want the gospel to advance through your church, and through each church in our Baptist family.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.