I’m in the final throes of writing a recommendation report for a congregation I did a consultation with. While making a recommendation for the church to better define their values, I got distracted by discussing the difference between one’s beliefs and one’s values. I’ve long said that beliefs drive values and values drive beliefs, but it occurred to me that… well, here’s what I wrote:

Some churches claim to have defined their values, but upon inspection, their “values” are statements of beliefs rather than of what they find important. To understand the role of values, it’s important to understand the role of beliefs. Beliefs are at the core of our very being. One can tell a lot about a person by what a person believes. The key, though, is that what we say we believe isn’t necessarily what we actually believe. It is true that our beliefs drives our values and that our values drive our behaviors. But the converse is equally true. Our behaviors reflect our values and our values reflect our beliefs. And, without making a leap whatsoever, it is therefore also true that our behaviors reflect our beliefs.

Okay, so there you have it. A possibly painful reality that what you do and what you say reflects you better than perhaps you’d like. It’s certainly true of me. Many churches tell me how important evangelism is to them… indeed, I’ve actually been told, “Everything we do is evangelism.” But when I listen to sermons written for those who have been in church their whole lives (and therefore know and use words like homiletics, justification, sanctification, redeem, doxology, benediction, deacon, disciple, etc.), and when I hear them sing songs that only church people understand (or claim to understand… what’s that ebenezer that you’re raising?), when their hospitality is all about “Us” and not about “Not Us,” and so on, I “see” that their behaviors don’t match their “beliefs.” That is, they don’t REALLY believe evangelism to be important. They agree that it’s important, but clearly not for them.

The fact is, what we do not only speaks louder than what we say, it’s the only “say” that accurately reflects our beliefs (and our values). This remains the number one reason those outside the church claim they won’t attend a church: Hypocrisy. Our verbalizations don’t match our actualizations. Sure, we can claim that “everyone is a hypocrite,” but the fact is, those of us in the church are the only ones claiming to be “little Christs,” which is the literal meaning of Christian. We’re the ones saying that our relationship with Jesus determines our behaviors… because whatever we “believe” is reflected by our behaviors. So if our behaviors aren’t matching what we say we believe, we can be assured, they’re matching what we actually believe. And we can protest ’til the cows come home, but how we act is an accurate reflection of what we believe.

When a church begins to take seriously what it says it believes, then it will spend its time and its money in ways that match that belief.

  • How much time does the church spend in meetings compared to the amount of time it spends with the unchurched in their community?
  • How much time does the church expect its professional leaders to invest in the membership compared to the amount of time it expects its professional leaders to invest in the not-yet membership?
  • How much money does the church spend on creating a comfortable space for its membership compared to how much money it spends on specifically equipping and enabling its members to have conversations with not-yet-members?
  • How much time and money does the church spend on creating indigenous worship for the nearly-always-churched compared to how much it spends on creating indigenous worship for the nearly-never and the never-churched?

Question: Do your church’s actions line up with the values you claim? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.