Ten Values to Live By and Some to Die For

If the best is yet to come—and with all my heart I believe it is—then there are certain values, both human and spiritual, that must be essential in our journey toward that “best.” As I have reflected over the forty years we have been privileged to pastor this beloved Pioneer parish, here are ten such values I choose to embrace.

#1—The Maker of all things loves and wants me. This truth about God and His character may be the most contested truth in the universe (given the rebel angel’s assault against God’s Kingdom). But what truth so compellingly defines God’s reign of love throughout the cosmos than this single line? If we re-embraced this maxim each morning, would we not flourish with daily peace and quiet assurance that all is well between our Savior and us? Is there a greater value?

#2—Be a voice for the voiceless. The marginalized of earth, the alienated, the disenfranchised desperately need men and women to speak up and act up in their defense. In a culture that mocks the weak and disdains the powerless (from the unborn to women to the poor and immigrants), let the Spirit of God raise up brave souls who find new courage to speak out against injustice, who will call the majority to recommit to and recalibrate the priceless value of human life. Should we not be that voice? 

#3—Embrace loyalty. Or has loyalty become old-fashioned, blasé? What ever happened to a personal loyalty to those who lead you, a personal loyalty to those who follow you? Where is that I-got-your-back fidelity to others that means you can be counted on to be the defender rather than the prosecutor of those you know when they are not around? Jesus was One who was loyal to a fault. And while He paid the price, He also modeled the way, the best way.

#4—Remember the Golden Rule. Or to put it another way, the process of Matthew 18 works when you work the process. Do you have a brother or sister who has hurt you or who has something against you? The red-letter admonition is clear: “‘Go and point out their fault, just between the two of you’” (Matthew 18:15). How much heartache in congregations and institutions and even families and friendship circles would be spared if we lived out that “just between the two of you” proviso. It’s the genius of Jesus’ Golden Rule—treat others the way you want to be treated.

#5—“Save them” is our priority mission. The only mission statement Jesus lived by is ours as well: “’The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost’” (Luke 19:10). Everything we do as church or school must ultimately incarnate His saving mission, from the youngest to the oldest. No congregation or school should have to choose between saving lost people and saving the institution. Calvary trumps institutional survival every time. Because if we do it Jesus’ way, He will find a way to keep us doing His way.

#6—Listen to the lady. Over my fifty years of pastoring, I have learned the veracity of this biblical injunction: “‘Have faith in the Lord your God, and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful’” (2 Chronicles 20:20). And so without apology I testify today that any success in my ministry is attributable to my decision to trust God’s ministry through the writings of Ellen White. To choose otherwise, I have observed, is to settle for less than the divine success God still promises. The greatest spiritual leaders I have known listened to the lady and followed.

#7—Leadership is servanthood. What I’ve learned from the church is that the man or woman or teen who volunteers to serve is usually the man or woman or teen who ends up leading. Why? Because followers see something eminently attractive about the person who chooses to serve, and they often make that volunteer servant their chosen leader. Like the Eleven who followed Jesus even more closely after He washed their feet.

#8—The young are what we do. I am always amazed to learn of campus congregations who “opt out” of ministry to students—“it’s not what we do.” Really? Jesus spent three years driving home the compelling truth the Kingdom of Heaven is all about the young—and not only are we to “do” the young, we are to emulate the young—or there’ll be no Kingdom for us. Period. Not to prioritize the young for the church’s mission is to prioritize the loss of that mission, the loss of that church. Period.

#9—Share the credit. Nothing does that faster or better than publicly thanking those who keep showing up to do the work, to fulfill the dream, to carry out the mission. Sharing the credit means acknowledging the significance each has contributed to the accomplishment. No task is disparaged, no contribution too small. Read the end of Paul’s letters celebrating those who kept showing up. “What hath God wrought!” When we share the credit, God gets the glory.

#10—“Even so come, Lord Jesus.” Whatever you do, never lose your Second Coming focus—and never apologize for confessing the imminence of Jesus’ return. “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7) has been the testimony of the church from the beginning. This confession is the fire that must continue to ignite the Seventh-day Adventist church. Those who would persuade you otherwise are battling with their own conscience. The soon return of Christ is not only our “blessed hope”—it is confirmation of the very Adventist truth—the best is yet to come—with Jesus.