Consider a Values-Driven Church?
By Dennis Jackson – Consider these statements: “People don’t come to Church only because what you do is good; they will also come because it must be good for them.”
And: “As a Church in this region, we are not making an impact, both on the people we serve and in society. “Society changed and the Church needed to respond to those changing needs differently and effectively.”
These quotes are by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha, the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).
Over the past several months there have been a number of interactions and engagements, through various Church forums, on the future of the Church.
For many, it started with the Divine Renovation conference in August 2018. In 2019, after much discussion, debate and the conference in September, the Johannesburg archdiocese published its Synod 2019 document. In January this year, the SACBC launched the Pastoral Plan. During this time, some parishes might have also started their own initiatives.
When one looks at the feedback and listens to the leadership of the Church, you will note that, to a large extent, it meets the needs of the faithful at a physical and mental level—it provides an essential service. Some may say that’s what people want.
Not so. There is a cry for the leadership (clergy and laity) of the Church to move beyond that glass ceiling, so that there would be, in addition, an emotional and spiritual connection between the Church and the people it serves.
People are also looking to strengthen their emotional being by connecting more deeply to their spiritual wellbeing. It is about building their self-esteem and confidence in their Christian faith.
It appears that the faithful are prepared to push the boundaries—but they need help, guidance and support.
For the Church, it is the opportunity to guide its people towards the calling for renewal—the calling for missionary discipleship.
We can do so by creating a conducive learning environment, where everyone is empowered to extend their sense of Christian identity, not only by becoming stewards within the Church but also within society, contributing positively to the environment.
In so doing, the Church can create more meaning in people’s lives as it connects in a real sense to where people are, and allow them to find fulfilment in making a difference in themselves and others, by being of service.
In essence, it’s a “new way of evangelisation” by showing up and reaching out rather than remaining “in isolation and comfort”.
It Means a radical shift by leadership
This means a radical shift at a leadership level, in moving the Church from an essential service to a service that is built on values-based principles and application.
This is a culture that will shape the Church, by adopting and applying a clear set of foundational ground rules that will steer the leadership and the faithful in working together towards the Church’s desired future.
Values are guiding principles embodied in relationships and will apply in decision-making, actions and a sense of community.
In a values-driven culture, there is a close alignment between personal values and those of the Church, creating a unified and motivated community serving God, society and the environment (see the illustration).
As a Christian community, we should automatically be values-driven. The Bible is our values-driven guide book.
The critical issue is whether these values are conscious, exposed, shared and lived—or do they remain undercover, unconscious and undiscussed—which is reflected in our day-to-day relationships and behaviour.
It is about “walking the talk” with values being the “talk” and behaviour being the “walk”.
When values are defined, understood, applied and lived, the culture is defined by the personality (or personalities) of the leadership. And if the personality of the leadership is stuck at the lower levels of consciousness, then the Church will remain serving people at the lower order of needs.
Interestingly, none of the documents at hand talk about leadership effectiveness or cultural shifts or supporting change capacity. It is now critical for the leadership to set the example by building capabilities and the agility to not only respond to change but to be responsive to change.
When the time comes to review the new Pastoral Plan, we cannot have a repeat of the concerns expressed above by Bishop Sipuka.
“Being Church” means becoming responsive!
Dennis Jackson is an internationally certified and accredited integral coach, and managing member of Nirvana Consulting.