How do you identify your ECO church? Some ECO congregations have had to change s...
Over the next several months, in preparation for our national gathering, we will be focusing our Thursday blog posts on ECO’s nine core values. We will spend a month of Thursdays on each of the values, where Dana Allin 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 pray that you will join us in this journey as we strive to stay connected until we see each other in person next January!
The affirmation of biblical integrity as a core value is one reason I joined ECO. When Christ was forming our new church, we were not sure what we were doing (and we’re still learning!), but we knew faithfulness to the Bible was paramount. We desire to have integrity as we follow Christ and His Word. First, the Bible says integrity is an expression of our love for God, as are walking in God’s ways and being in obedience to God’s Word. Secondly, we know people are watching to see if our walk matches our talk.
Biblical integrity is more than simply preaching and teaching from the Bible. Those two aspects of ministry are important to be sure. Faithful teaching and preaching grows from faithful and honest wrestling with the Word as individuals and as a church. We desire to demonstrate biblical integrity in all aspects of our lives as well.
One of our ministry tools at Grace 242 is called Life Transformation Groups (LTGs). Based on Neil Cole’s book, Cultivating a Life For God, LTGs are groups of 2-3 people who meet regularly. Each week, a group reads 25-30 chapters of Scripture broken up into 5-6 chapters at a time, 4-6 times a week. For instance, this week my group is reading First Corinthians 1-5, five times. The purpose is not Bible study. The purpose is meditation and asking the Holy Spirit to use the Word to shape us into the image of Jesus. I cannot overstate the value and power of simply reading God’s Word over and over again. It shapes our thoughts, our perspectives and our feelings. Interestingly, the second component of LTGs is a set of accountability questions to help identify those areas where we are still being transformed and invite one another’s prayer and encouragement. The questions are honest and pointed. The LTG’s journey of meditating on God’s Word and encouraging one another through accountability has been truly world changing! My wife Karen is a champion in our church’s LTG endeavor, and welcomes opportunities to help other congregations start LTGs. In fact, I think LTGs affirm another of ECO’s core values: accountable community!
Another way we try to cultivate biblical integrity is through our leadership training and practice. Our elders and deacons read Tim Laniak’s book, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks: Forty Daily Reflections on Biblical Leadership, and complete a training program using The Leadership Opportunity: Living Out the Gospel Where Conflict and Leadership Connect. Together these tools help scripturally anchor our identity and ministry as pastors, elders and deacons. We are training ourselves to see the world through a biblical lens and talk about our ministry using biblical language. Our leadership training shapes the way we talk about the church and membership. It defines our understanding of discipleship and our peacemaking/conflict resolution ministry. Our desire is that if non-believers see how we live and lead together, they will see the Word at work in ways that brings glory to Jesus.
Our commitment to and work towards biblical integrity brought two surprises. The first surprise was a little discouraging. Not everyone who started with us wanted to follow us on this journey. Even with great patience and grace, some left. However, the other surprise was awesome: freedom! We don’t have to figure this out on our own or know it all. When people become covenant partners with Grace 242, we tell them that we (the leaders!) are sinners, ministry is sometimes messy, and people WILL make mistakes. Thankfully the Bible describes this same truth in detail, so we did not invent it nor are we alone in it! The difference we can make is in how we are going to respond to these inevitable realities. We will seek the counsel of the Bible, for it leads us in all truth and hope.
I did a little study on how often key leaders in the Bible referred to “the Scriptures” for authority or illustration. In the New Testament alone, Jesus referred to “the Scriptures” 49 times, Paul over 50 times and Peter 6 times, just to name a few. You can do a word search on any online Bible using the phrase “the Scriptures say” and you will find similar results. Simply stated, at Grace 242 we desire to be a church “as the Scriptures say”. We are thankful that ECO upholds a framework in which we can thrive in our desire to strive for biblical integrity and then with the help of Jesus, seek to live it out in our everyday circumstances.