Know them by their fruit
Posted on March 14, 2015 by Aaron Kauffman
Last spring, I bought a new (to our family) vehicle. The 15-year-old minivan we were using at the time kept having maintenance issues. The starter faltered. The transmission was unresponsive at times. But I was prompted to action when the fuel line sprung a leak right over the exhaust manifold. The mechanic told me it could have burst into flame at any time. That was enough. I wasn’t going to risk the safety of my family just to squeeze a few more miles out of this old van. The importance of my family’s well-being won out over my value of simple living. I upgraded to a vehicle that was only eight years old.
What motivates you? What underlying beliefs and values inform the decisions you make? These are hard questions for many people to answer. Our convictions and motivations often lie below the surface, beyond our full awareness. Yet they are at work all the time. They show up in our concrete decisions and behavior. We can only uncover our core commitments when we pause to reflect, especially in the company of others.
Commitments guide organizations, too. Sometimes they are stated in a list of “core values.” Words like integrity, innovation and excellence often appear on these lists, though they may be more aspirational than actual. If you really want to know what matters most to an organization, you have to look at what it does, not just what it says. You will know them, Jesus says, by their fruit.
Virginia Mennonite Missions recently completed a process of identifying the core commitments that inform what we do. We began by reflecting on what motivates us personally as followers of Jesus. Then, to get at the historic values that have shaped us over 96 years, we took a look back at past accomplishments. An especially helpful document was Holding Forth the Word of Life, a booklet published in 1969, recounting the first fifty years of our work. Finally, we put all of this together into a draft of core commitments, revising it multiple times in response to feedback from board, staff, workers, and the delegates of Virginia Mennonite Conference.
Through this process of reflecting on our personal, collective and historic values, three key commitments have emerged as especially important for our ministry:
Faithfulness: In response to God’s great love, we give God our lives in obedience and praise.
Partnership: We join the church in sending God’s people to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Transformation: By the Holy Spirit’s power, we live out God’s kingdom among neighbors near and far.
We believe that these core commitments describe who we have been at our best. Our intention in naming them explicitly is that they guide our work, both now and in the future. But don’t just take our word for it. Look at the evidence on display through the people and ministries we support. The fruit of our labor reveals what we really value. And we invite you to help us stay true to God’s call.