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Our Values

We take values very seriously. They are not a pretty poster hanging on the wall. They are metrics that help us determine what we do and don't do.

I define a value as "an abstract concept that we voluntarily embrace, at the expense of personal pain."

The pain you are willing to embrace reveals the values you actually have, whether you have put them into language or not. One person is willing to embrace the pain of dieting to lose weight. Another person is willing to embrace the pain of a long commute for a better job. A third person is willing to embrace the pain of risking hugely to rebuild a failed marriage.

Those are all choices. They all involve pain. And they reveal the values the person has.

Here are the core values we reference most often.

1) Failure is normative and highly valued.

Failure hurts, so most people carve out a niche of competence where they know they can play well. We know that if we are in our zone of excellence, we are not growing. We are a think tank. We must be experimenting with ideas that are beyond the known zone. If we are not failing at some level, we are not growing. If we are not growing, it is because our inveterate enemy, comfort, has crept into our daily choices.

2) Big, dirty people are a good investment.

The fact that someone has been messed up, has messed up others in a big way or has messed up themselves does not say anything about who they are. People with a huge potential are a good investment, no matter how badly they have played their hand in life so far. We know that it can be expensive to invest long enough in a broken person to make them dangerous in the Kingdom, but big, dirty people are still a better investment than nice, small people.

3) Never, never, never trade in legitimacy.

Buyers and sellers of religious legitimacy abound today. It is every bit as disgraceful as the selling of indulgences was in Middle Ages. We at SLG seek legitimacy from our relationship with Jesus Christ, not from our accomplishments. We do not accept legitimacy from people, nor are we in the business of legitimizing other people. We ask God to reveal our legitimacy crutches and seek to discard them when He does. Legitimacy is NOT a commodity to be monetized or traded.

4) Empower people; don't enable them.

The contemporary church has disseminated a theology of spiritual welfare that is sucking the vitality out of the Body of Christ. I define a welfare spirit as a broad based conviction that help comes from outside me. In the social/political landscape, that means the belief that a person cannot resolve their challenges without financial intervention from the government. In the church, it means that a person is unable to progress in their spiritual walk without the help of a spiritually powerful person to minister to them. This has created a sissification of the American church. Powerlessness abounds. As does entitlement.

It is easy to mother someone by meeting their needs, making them happy and validating their welfare spirit. It is much more work to father someone in an empowering way that finds and unpacks the treasures within them. People who are accustomed to being enabled generally turn cranky when we try to empower them against their will.

Nonetheless, those are pains we are willing to embrace although violating the social contracts of the Christians with a welfare spirit carries a high price of criticism.

5) We are called to be transformational, not informational.

Karl Marx famously said, "Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently. The point however is to change it." Religion too, is long on punditry. SLG is committed to being a change agent, therefore we invest our best resources in partnering with people who are already being transformational. To the degree we can make them more dangerous, the world will be a better place. We spend much less time broadcasting new ideas to the masses.

6) Let history be our judge.

We have critics and enemies. We will discuss theology with them with an eye to reconciliation, if they wish, but broadly we do not try to defend our reputation in the short run. John 9 is our metric. The people who have experienced deep transformation through our principles are the proof of their validity, not some ecclesiastical court.

These are core values.

Here are some others that are important enough to be written down in our leadership metrics document.

Value:

  • Never compete. Fill the vacant niches.
  • Focus on the Principle of Design.
  • Always have a blue sky project going.
  • Cause every person we work with to grow in awe or leave.
  • Give dignity.
  • Always have an option for the broke implementer.
  • Equip and release. No one belongs to us, no matter how much we have invested in them.
  • Demand skin in the game from those who want our help.

Value:

  • Hire for chemistry.
  • Maintain a nimble structure designed for those with sonship. Minimize written policies for slaves.
  • Seek excellence, not perfection.
  • Differentiate through blazing fast service with a personal touch.
  • Never be stopped by rejection.
  • Earn authority at all times, especially when you fail.
  • Make time for play every week.

Arthur Burk
February 2015