Our Core Values: Authenticity
Pastor Matt Benton begins service the same way every Sunday. He introduces himself, welcomes all in attendance, and details the mission and vision of our church. For those of us in regular attendance the words often glide by, skipping across our consciousness as we prepare for worship and look to find our friends in attendance and perhaps scan the crowd in search of any new faces that might be in need of a warm and attentive welcome. Today though, I want to take some time to examine the mission of our church and what it charges all of us to do. “To help people authentically encounter Jesus Christ through worship and small groups for lives of service.”
As a member of the Spirit and Life’s council I know it by heart, if only because the council chair has us recite it at the beginning of every meeting. I have heard it many times over and I can recite it from memory and can even recall discussing it with the pastors when I first joined as a member. However, it was only very recently that I realized that despite hearing and reciting this mission many times over I had never taken the time to deliberately examine internally what that mission statement really means to me personally. Or what it charges all of us to do as members of the church, and how it might shape the atmosphere of our worship. When I did this there was one word in particular that stuck out to me as a defining characteristic of who we are as a congregation. A core value of our church that to serves to both guide our decisions and manifests as the unique value people see in Spirit and Life every Sunday. That word is “authentically.” But what does the Bible tell us about what it means to be authentic as Christians and how can we continue to adhere to this core value in the future?
Isaiah 29:13. “Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote…”
God commands us to worship not by memorized response and not because of habit, but out of reverence for him and in love with one another. When I first started attending Spirit and Life I think a large part of what drew me to return was the lack of pretense. The service was contemporary, but more than that the congregation seemed to be comprised of good honest, and normal people, humble before God and happy to worship together. To often modern contemporary services feel more theatrical than honest. The production values seem more important than the word, and people keep to themselves either not deigning to let new people in or afraid of opening themselves up to new people. Our church felt humble, authentic. Our hearts are with God and we worship deeply and plainly. We welcome new people to our services with happiness and find joy in being together. We share our highs and lows and sing to God in a single voice. This interconnection and mutual support is part of the fiber that forms the cloth of our humble church and it is how God commands us to worship.
Hebrews 10:24-25. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I chose not only to return to our church, but to join, and then serve in a leadership position because I felt the honest sincerity of simple worship and it called to me spiritually. Our church is not wealthy in worldly terms but it has always felt rich in sincerity. The authenticity of our worship, the love for God and one another and the simple clarity of being called to serve and live a God commands us to. Perhaps because we lack some of the trappings of other contemporary churches in terms of stage lighting and scenery it is easier to see the soul of our church because there are fewer distractions to draw our minds away from our purpose.
1 Timothy 1:5. “Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”
Authenticity is in our Church as a core value.
We are a humble church, with no grand building to house our family on Sundays but we are rich in authenticity and strong in our bonds to one another. When we sing and pray it really feels as if we do so in a manner that worships god rather than revels in our own magnificence. We worship authentically and we worship biblically. That is what compelled my family to join Spirit and Life and I believe that this sense of earnestness and godliness is what has allowed us to make this church our home.
Colossians 3:15-17. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Conor currently serves on church council as Annual Conference Representative.