It seems to us that what really matters is what kind of church we want to create, and why. And the best way to get at that (aside from nice long conversations over Cold Smoke) is to look at...
The Things We Value Most
- Above all else, we value Christ, the Scriptures, & the church - We realize this is not exactly a popular position these days. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a core value if we only held it because it was trendy. We align ourselves with the historic Christian faith, not because we think the Christians got it all right, but rather because we think Christ got it right for us. We think this is the essence of real Christianity - to put all confidence in his perfection rather than in our own.
- In an age of deep skepticism and uncertainty, we also value truth - We think people desire truth, and we believe truth is knowable. This is not to say we have it all figured out - we just believe that real Truth is accessible, because it is located in a real living person, Jesus Christ, who has been revealed to us. We believe the Christian faith is profoundly rational (it stands up to intellectual scrutiny), and that it is also existentially satisfying (it makes a real difference in our lives).
- We place a premium on authenticity & integrity - We desire to be honest and upfront, not just about what we believe, but about how we as humans constantly fail to measure up to our own standards. We think real integrity requires us to admit our ongoing lack of integrity, not just in our deeds, but in our thoughts and motives too. We think the church is for sinners (like us), not the righteous. So we desire to create a community where sinful people can be brutally honest about their struggles - their doubts, their questions, and their faults - without being rejected for it.
- We also value genuine community - where people are accepted not because they agree with us or affirm our position, but simply because they are our friends, created in the image of God. We believe real community meets people where they are, while at the same time caring enough to point out where we still need work. It's a fact: we are often blind to our own sins and shortcomings, even though we are very good at spotting the deficiencies in others. And this is precisely why we need community - I need others to help me see my own flaws and weaknesses, to bear these burdens with me. We are not meant to walk through life alone.
- We welcome outsiders & skeptics - people in all stages of their spiritual journey, regardless of where they are (or where they end up). We appreciate questions, concerns, and doubts, even when we don't know the answers. This is true even for those who disagree profoundly - we think you should be able to be a part of what we are about, even if you don't yet believe everything (or anything!). We want our church to be a safe place for people in process to work out their faith, even if it ends up leading them down a different path than ours. We'd rather hang out with honest pagans than dishonest religionists.
- We appreciate beauty, the arts, & culture - wherever we find it, whether it is "Christian" or not. We believe God is alive and well and working all over the place, and we're more than happy to celebrate the good and beautiful wherever we find it. We desire to promote these things within the broader community of Missoula, to reflect them in our worship. Ultimately, we desire to live beautiful lives that are focused outward rather than inward, in service rather than consumption.
- We are committed to service & stewardship - We believe the church exists to serve - not just itself, but our neighborhoods, our community, and our environment. We need to care about things that matter, about the poor, the oppressed. We should be passionate for justice and sustainability. We seek the welfare of the city, and desire to love the city on its own terms, without strings attached. We must never think of our faith as abstract, or simply theological - real faith works, it makes things better in the world around us.
- We value diversity - ethnic, cultural, economic, ideological. We believe a healthy community welcomes a wide range of perspectives and opinions. The last thing we'd want is a church full of people that look and think just like we do (trust me on this).
We also value dialogue - We think that ideas matter, and the best place to work on them is in a community where people are free to think differently. Ultimately, we believe that the Gospel gives us the ability to discuss real differences without fracturing friendships or requiring monolithic agreement. This is only possible when our identity is not tied up in what we think, do, or feel, but is instead located in who we know: Christ.
When I really understand what it means for him to accept me as I am, the acceptance of others becomes much less important. The gospel gets us over ourselves, which is vital for real dialogue in a diverse context.
- We are committed to peace & reconciliation - We believe that Christ calls us to be people of peace, and that true peace always starts on a personal level, beginning with those around us. We believe we have a responsibility to seek reconciliation with those we have offended (whether intentionally or not). This happens when we confess our own faults, ask for forgiveness and seek to make amends if need be. If we have wronged someone, we are sincerely committed to making it right.
- Last but not least, we value public worship - We believe that all people created to worship, but we are quick to worship all sorts of things other than the living God of the Bible. We are a people prone to idolatry (yes, even in these modern times), and part of our responsibility as a church is to call one another back to true, spiritual worship. While real worship is always more than just a Sunday service, public gatherings are certainly appropriate. It will be a while before we begin this aspect of ministry, but we'd love to have you join us when once it starts (whether you are a believer or not).