What follows is a vision and values statement for a new kind of church (fictitious of course) and would really like some feedback here. Over the next few posts I’ll cast a mission and strategy, where I hope to get some chatter going on those topics as well.

Please take time and provide comments answering the question: “If I were to land on a website of a new church in my community with the info below, what do I see that is attractive? What issues raise concerns or additional questions that I would ask?

(See also, Ray Ortlund’s A little foolishness.)

We envision a new kind of church where . . .

  • It’s OK to ask questions or explore the claims of Christianity
  • The Gospel is thoughtfully, intentionally, and lovingly shared with those who are sincerely seeking God
  • Devotion to God’s Word (the Bible) moves increasingly from learning it to loving it to living it
  • True delight and happiness are found in seeing the image of Christ formed in others
  • Worship is an authentic response to our ever-increasing love for Jesus
  • Dependence upon God in prayer is a daily reality
  • Fellowship results from deepening and maturing relationships
  • Spiritual disciplines are intentionally integrated into all of life
  • Outreach to the disenfranchised and poor is actively and compassionately pursued
  • A global concern for God’s work in the world generates creative and strategic involvement

If these values capture your interest, then we invite you to browse around
and consider contacting us. Whatever your background, our doors are always open to you.


  1. Initial reaction: thoughtfully written, welcoming, accurate expression of God’s desire for action from his children, and humble

    Only concern: speaks of God’s word, but no mention of the Bible. I’d want to know where “God’s Word” derives… and be assured it’s from the only book of truth.

  2. When I read this list, I feel a bit fatigued. It’s possible that I’ve been part of so many churches in recent years that really are trying to live out the gospel in a way that makes us “peculiar people” rather than the culturally churched. However, buzzwords and hot ideas can become so prevalent that I have a hard time remembering what we are doing and why. It’s possible that I am merely suffering from spiritual fatigue and would like to be lazy and shut down. Your first point regarding questions and explorations of the claims of Christianity, though, is why I love being part of A29, Ray Ortland’s network. I feel permitted to unpack and take a long look at what I have believed my whole life and will continue to believe until my death. But, sometimes I need the freedom to ask, “Hey, why are we supposed to do or think such-and-such,” with no threat of recoil or horror from my church community or leaders. If I’m in sin in my thoughts, I’ll own up to it. But even Paul says with great patience and grace that if some point we think differently than the Gospel on some issue, even that God will eventually make clear to us.

  3. Thanks, Justin. Appreciate your comments. Interesting that you picked up on my use of the expression “God’s Word” as possibly something other than the Bible. I did not intend it to be construed as such, but do understand that it may. So, I’ll add a modification.

    Since you’re picking up on details, allow me to return the favor. You say that we must be assured the Bible is “the only book of truth.” What kind of “truth” did you have in mind? Spiritual, mathematical, logical, personal? I have several books in my library that are not the Bible but contain truth. Clearly there is truth outside the Bible. Even the Qu’ran teaches that only one God exists as does the Bible. Is the Qu’ran wrong because it’s not in the Bible? Agreed that what is meant by “God” is not the same, but the basic propositional statement, “Only one God exists” is replete throughout both bindings.

    Too often Christianity is taken as a narrow, intolerant religion with statements like “there is no truth outside the Bible.” Just a few weeks ago Patty and I were engaged in a discussion with other believers who were insisting upon this dogma. It reminded me of J. P. Moreland’s excellent essay “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What can be Done about It”. I highly recommend it. His thesis is:

    The idea that from within the Christian point of view, Scripture is the ultimate authority, the ultimate source of relevant knowledge, does not entail that it is the sole authority or source.

    Just thinking….

  4. Transparentsy:
    I think I get what you mean here and appreciate the feedback. Sometimes churches do work so hard at being relevant that it’s utterly ambiguous as to what they stand for. These values listed here, however, is just a framework for more details to come and I encourage you to revisit for follow-up posts that will flesh out more detail.

    You’re right. The value of feeling safe and being free to ask questions is quintessential for all churches who embrace timeless claims that are true for everyone, everywhere. Christianity is at least that kind of religion and it is this value that gave rise to the Reformation and all Protestants (think, Martin Luther’s 95 theses). If, at the end of the day, what Christians embrace is true, then it can withstand the questions, which will only serve to sharpen our edge.

  5. Looks like you’re looking for a new heaven and a new earth in these “new church values”. It’s worth striving for, but the here-and-now prohibits absolutes.

    Also, agreed on your perspective of the authoritative nature of the bible. My two cents: we need to take care we don’t ascribe more authority to Scripture than the Scripture claims for itself.

  6. I meant to include more explanation, but I was on my mobile and accidentally posted prematurely!

    Ok. I sure didn’t mean to limit Bible to be the only book of truths… concerning all books. Here, I’m going to write a book: 1+1=2. There. It’s a truth. But… that’s not my intent on my statement above. When I called the Bible the “only book of truth”, I was speaking as a believer in Christ who’s spiritual and moral foundation is built on the belief that all of the bible is true… that God’s word was/is breathed thru the text of the Gospel. Can that be said of other texts?

    Now, that doesn’t mean God’s word and his moral/spiritual truths can’t be found elsewhere. As statements. Essays. Pulled quotes. Gospel knock-offs. Etc. But, philosophically, MUCH can be expanded on and discussed to the point of passing out from exhaustion and dying of malnutrition! Which I’m fine with… well… maybe not to the point of dying.

    Is all of the Qu’ran true? Is it the spoken and inspired word of God? Many die for it every day, but is it God breathed? Are our interpretations of the Qu’ran… or the Bible… completely accurate? True? Of God? It’s hard not to get caught up in relativism and the like in these discussions. Where shall we go from here?

  7. No doubt the “here-and-now” prohibits, but one can dream, right? ‘-)

    “more authority” than Scripture claims for itself? Do explain please. This is intriguing.

  8. “posted prematurely” …. yep; done that on not a few occasions.

    If I understand you rightly, you’re saying the Bible is unique and I would agree. The Bible is unique as it’s not only true but inspired by God. No other text is of that ilk. When other texts echo the sentiments of Scripture, then they too carry the weight of truth, but only in so far as they comport with what God has already said in his Word.

    And so, back to the original issue you raised re: “God’s Word”….I would say there is God’s Word written (the Bible), God’s Word spoken (preaching, prophecy), God’s Word revealed (in creation/general revelation), and God’s Word Incarnate (Christ Jesus).

  9. Right! I’ll dream too! Actually, more than dreaming, I think it important for church leaders to have the orientation you’ve laid out. One caveat, though, one that I’ve been trying to work to understand: “asking questions”. This is a difficult one. The good or bad of asking questions seems to depend on one’s epistemological framework. Too often today questions are asked, more and more within the evangelical community, from a perspective of needing to prove God or God’s actions or biblical claims to God’s historical acts rather than accepting God as a priori. Even within the evangelical camp, there are those who truly “believe in” God and yet approach inquiry from today’s cultural perspective of “epistemological self-deity”: we evaluate questions with ourselves as the starting point and evaluate according to our standards. Contrast the biblical authors for whom belief in God’s immanent presence and control of the world by virtue of being creator was the starting point of inquiry.

    My point on the authority of Scripture is simply that it doesn’t claim, even implicitly, sole authority for itself. And if it was supposed to be the sole authority, then it should say so, because it would be. It kind of sounds trite, but there you have it. There seems to be two facets to the “sole authority” claims.

    First, in the Protestant world, we seem to have over-reacted against the slippery-slope Catholic perspective on spiritual authority. However, we need to take care because “sole authority” has great danger in ignoring God’s continued and ever present work and voice within the church. God’s Spirit speaks again and again through people who necessarily belong to the church and is necessarily authoritative, though, that authority is necessarily derivative of Scripture.

    Second, it’s easy for Christians today to approach the Scripture from today’s deontological perspective of living life by a set of rules or claims. Not that this is anything new, but that perspective seems to be ever heightened today. (The extreme of this is expecting the bible to have direct answers to scientific questions. This issue is tied to the first paragraph above.) Rather, I’d argue that the bible claims ultimate authority at being an absolutely reliable witness to God’s self-revelation in history and ultimately in Jesus Christ. (Absolute reliable witness to Christ is found in John 16:12-15.) This self-revelation has to do primarily with making one’s life-orientation that of fearing God, rather than claiming oneself to be god. Only from this reorientation can one live out life in any facet, living by the Spirit of God.

    Long answer to a short question! Should have made a blog post instead.

  10. Carl…
    As always, appreciate your comments and insights. Agreed that asking questions should not be so valued that we devalue answers. Postmodernism (esp. Brian McClaren) has fallen into this trap, which hardly provides solid grounding for hope. Starting with a priori commitments is always a good beginning, and then move out from there to define a consistent framework for conducting research to affirm/disconfirm our findings. But of course, that is the rationalist/Platonist in me vis-a-vis the empiricist/Aristotelian.

    As for authority, I would think you’re correct that Scripture does not claim to be the “sole authority”. Given God’s Word will surely be/has been fulfilled in all details ((Matt 5:18), it is not a far epistemic distance to travel to claim it authoritative, at least in the sense that it is true, must as you state it to be “an absolutely reliable witness to God’s self-revelation in history.” Nevertheless, as I mentioned below we have more than one rendering of “God’s Word”.

    God’s Word written (the Bible), God’s Word spoken (preaching, prophecy), God’s Word revealed (in creation/general revelation), and God’s Word Incarnate (Christ Jesus).

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