Over the next several months, in preparation for our national gathering, we will be focusing our Thursday blog posts on ECO’s nine values. We will spend a month of Thursdays on each of the values, where I will write an introductory blog post and then other authors will expand upon our Biblical understanding of the value for the next 3-4 weeks. We are excited to dig in together and pray that you will join us in this journey as we strive to stay connected until we see each other in person next January!
Biblical Integrity: We believe the Bible is the unique and authoritative Word of God, which teaches all that is necessary for faith and life. The prominence of God’s Word over our lives shapes our priorities, and the unrivaled authority of the Bible directs our actions to be in concert with Christ’s very best for our lives.
Rich Kannwisher, pastor at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, reminded me of a great line adapted from the work of Jim Collins. Collins says, “An organization needs to preserve what is core and stimulate progress.” I use this phrase a lot when talking to churches or groups about ECO. ECO needs to be abundantly clear about what is “core” to who we are and what is “progress”. I often mention that progress is the structures, ministries and process that we implement to fulfill our vision. But I will always articulate that at our core is “Biblical Integrity.” Biblical Integrity has implications for many things. How we view scripture determines our understanding of the person and work of Jesus. It shapes how we view our mission in the world. It shapes the way we conduct our lives.
Biblical Integrity is the second of our core values in ECO. We express it this way, “We believe the Bible is the unique and authoritative Word of God, which teaches all that is necessary for faith and life. The prominence of God’s Word over our lives shapes our priorities, and the unrivaled authority of the Bible directs our actions to be in concert with Christ’s very best for our lives.”
I love so much about this statement regarding the nature and application of scripture to our lives. I love that it reminds us that while we study and examine the Word of God, the ultimate purpose in studying the scripture can change us, rather than us changing scripture. Our core value statement reminds us that scripture is our ultimate authority. Our society certainly isn’t the ultimate interpreter of truth, and even our own conscience does not determine truth. Truth comes from God’s word alone.
I would bet that most people in ECO reading this would fundamentally agree with what I have said. They may use different language, but it would express the feeling of those within the denomination. The question is whether or not our actions and attitudes reflect the above statement.
There are two ways that we often allow this value of Biblical Integrity to become aspirational rather than actual. It is easy to claim biblical integrity until the Bible pushes us in a direction we don’t want to go. I call this “but-itis”. Here are the symptoms of “but-itis”, “I know the bible calls me to give sacrificially of my time and money, but…I can’t afford to.” “I know scripture calls me to love my neighbor as myself, but… you haven’t met my neighbor.” One objection that comes up to ECO is whether we have biblical integrity with our officers in areas other than sexual standards. It is a good question. Our essentials and polity call us to examine officers in such a way that we are ensuring that they are seeking to live their lives under the authority of God’s word.
The other way this value becomes aspirational is when we don’t give the scriptures the proper prayerful attention they deserve given what we proclaim about them. Congregants say, “I believe in the authority of the Bible, but the pastor needs to tell me what is says.” These people are unwilling to dig into the scriptures for themselves and allow God to shape and mold them based upon his Word.
My prayer is that we would live out our values as individuals as well as corporately within ECO. I pray that those of us who are leaders and teachers would continue to uphold the full counsel of God in our teaching, preaching, counseling, and more. Let’s ensure that we are not just feeding the sheep, but that we are equipping the sheep to feed themselves. Let’s continue to commit to preserving the core of Biblical Integrity as we stimulate progress among our ECO congregations!