It’s a Wonderful Life Conference 1a – A Church’s Core Values

Pastor James Emery White on:

leading church
growing church
being church
surviving church



Play Session 1a – A Church’s Core Values

This session was recorded at Milton Keynes Christian Centre

Other sessions available:

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It’s a Wonderful Life Conference MP3/CD Set

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What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary – James Emery White

Conference Description

In the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey was given the chance to see what life would be like if he had never lived. In like manner, James Emery White was given a chance to see what life would be like without serving as a church pastor.

He experienced what he believed to be a dream opportunity, taking a position that would allow him time for teaching and writing and reflecting on ministry, God, the Bible, and the church, without the headache of weddings, deacons’ meetings, raising money, or dealing with how regularly Sundays always seem to come around.

He resigned within two years and returned to the church he had left. And he was so glad. In his most recent book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary, he emphatically states, ‘for those of us who are called to ministry in the local church, please hear me say: no other vocational pursuit will satisfy.’

In a day when the demands upon church leadership seem higher than ever, where stress is on the increase and the tension of fight or flight is keenly felt, veteran pastor James Emery White brings a vital message to leaders on the front lines.

About James

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Church and Culture, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture; and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.willowcreekevents.org.uk/ministries/leadership/a-churchs-core-values/


  1. Willow

    Notes from James Emery White’s ’It’s a Wonderful Life’ seminar at Milton Keynes – Will Salmon

    The first thing about leading a church is to determine this:
    What hills are you prepared to die on? What stands are you going to take no matter what the cost? How you answer that will determine your core values and your church’s DNA.

    If you compare churches in regards to doctrine, purpose or mission, you probably wouldn’t find much disparity. But what separates churches are the hills you will die on; the values.

    The core values at James’ church:
    1.‘The Bible is true and the catalyst for life-change. We tell people to ‘go to the Bible and then go with the Bible…’
    2.‘Lost people matter to God and therefore they better matter to us. This puts us on mission….’
    3.‘Remaining culturally relevant while being doctrinally pure. The message of the gospel is unchanging. The method of communicating it has to change according the language, the culture and the background of the audience….’
    4.‘Spiritually authenticity: We maintain that it is the norm to manifest authenticity and grow in maturity. We need to be real. Being real means being honest about our sin. It also means becoming more like Christ…’
    5.‘We think that the Church should operate as a unified community of servants stewarding spiritual gifts… Everyone is a minister… The ministry should be based on how God has gifted people… This value is about a servant’s heart… not a prima donna about your gift… There are certain things that we’re all called to do as a community… ‘
    6.‘Loving relationships should permeate every aspect of the church. This value as a leader drives me to be a jealous defender of the church’s community… So we do everything in our power to lovingly, truthfully, compassionately and graciously related to each other. And when there is tension we will tackle it head on in love instead of a dysfunctional way of doing which is usually through strife and conflict… We’re not going to let it go underground where it become cancerous… ‘
    7.‘Lifechange happens best through relationships. Other people motivate and challenge us. People bring us the spiritual encouragement we need for life-change… help us make it through times we can’t stand on our own…’
    8.‘Excellence honours God and inspires people… Mediocrity does not honour him and reflect his character… Excellence sends a strong message from which people make a value judgement… We want to honour God with our lives but also because we know that if we drop the bar on that we could invalidate everything we want to try and communicate to those about Christ… Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have…’
    9.‘We believe that churches should be led by those with leadership gifts and structured according to the nature and mission of the church. This means that we let leaders lead and are structured in the way that the Bible intimates that churches should be structured… The church is a a fellowship so we structure for unity… The Church is a family so we organise and manage and lead it like a family… The Church is a body so we’re made up of people with different gifts in different roles… The Church is a flock so it is cared for by shepherds…’
    10.‘Full devotion to Christ and his cause is normal… wholly devoted… the Church is the centre of the action and threfore full devotion is normal to that… see Eph 6:12-13 The Message for a great interpretation of this…’

    Stating core values is meaningless. Living, upholiding, modelling, rewarding, protecting them – that’s what a leader does. A leader defines the church’s values and insodoing writes their job description. Judge how you are doing by your core values.

    What are your core values? Have you ever spelled them out? Until you do, you cannot lead effectively. Leadership is establishing, upholding and advancing your values.

  2. Mike Mitchell

    I was just planning our next leadership team meeting around the need to define our core values and then I was sent this! An excellent message on core values and this is going to be a required listen for my team as we build for the future
    Thank you

  3. Willow

    Great to receive this feedback, thanks Mike…

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