Are you confusing ends and means?


valuesIt’s quite the thing these days for churches to have pithy descriptions of their values.  A list of them, usually around five in number, starting with the same letter, appears on a large number of church websites.

I think this is a great idea. It clarifies and prioritises.  But I think sometimes we fool ourselves – we’re not as clear as we think. Just because they all begin with the same letter, or have the same grammatical shape, we can easily think they are the same kind of thing.

I saw a list recently of seven phrases, which I think had been cobbled together from other short lists I recognised, and it went like this:

      • Exaltation     – corporate and private worship of God as king
      • Evangelism   – bringing lost people to meet our king
      • Edification    – building up the relationship we have with our king
      • Extension      – reaching into society with the compassion and justice of God’s kingdom
      • Equipping       – identifying our gifts, and serving God and each other with them
      • Exporting       – sending young people to seminary to train for future ministry
      • Employing      – arranging for them to have posts on a church staff when they return

Now those are all good things, but they are not all the same kind of thing.  Exalting God and Employing staff should fit together, of course – but one is an end and the other is a means; one is unchallengeable, and the other could be dropped in an instant if that church so chose.

If we muddle means and ends up like this, we run a double risk:

  • We risk not seeing that our ends require means in order to be accomplished
  • We risk not seeing that our means require ends in order to have value.

So here are three lists of biblical values, from some of today’s theological heavyweights.  I’ve added the column on the right, and your tasks are:

To work out if the value is a means or an end.  If it’s a means, what is the end it works towards? And if its an end, what are the means we use to accomplish it.  Ready?

Means? End?
John MacArthur, Marks of a healthy Church (Chicago: Moody, 1990) 23¨      Godly leaders

¨      Functional goals and objectives

¨      Discipleship

¨      Penetrating the community

¨      Active church members

¨      Concern for one another

¨      Devotion to the family

¨      Bible teaching and preaching

¨      Willingness to change

¨      Great faith

¨      Sacrifice

¨      Worshipping God


Francis L.Callahan, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1997)¨      Specific, concrete missional objectives

¨      Pastoral/lay visitation in the community

¨      Corporate, dynamic worship

¨      Significant relational groups

¨      Strong leadership

¨      Solid, participatory decision-making

¨      Several competent programs and activities

¨      Open accessibility

¨      High visibility

¨      Adequate parking, land, and landscaping

¨      Adequate space and facilities

¨      Solid financial resources


Mark Dever, Nine Marks of  a Healthy Church (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2000)¨      Expositional preaching

¨      Biblical theology

¨      The gospel

¨      Biblical understanding of conversion

¨      Biblical understanding of evangelism

¨      Biblical understanding of church membership

¨      Biblical church discipline

¨      Concern for discipleship and growth

¨      Biblical church leadership

4 comments on “Are you confusing ends and means?”

  1. Love /care /compassion is sometimes mistaken as a means of church growth rather than an end in itself. When love is conditional on the response of the recipient then it becomes manipulative.
    Jesus tells us that sustainable church life and growth will always be accompanied by a distinctive love.
    The ends for the Holy Spirit sustained church will be related to the great commission: teaching the full counsel of God to the lost who are like us, the lost who we don’t like, the lost who are far away, nurturing people through repentance and baptism, biblical teaching of the church, biblical discipling of Christians, Biblical training of new teachers
    And the great commandment:
    Putting love for God before everything
    Distinctive love within the church
    Distinctive love for community outside church
    Distinctive love for the lost, the needy, enemies

    1. Yup, Graham – I’m working on a model for how a church functions, which has love at the centre: God is love, his love for us, our love for him, each other and a lost world. That’s before we do anything else, and is all ends, not means.

  2. I found Aubrey Malphurs “Advanced Strategic Planning” very helpful in distinguishing Mission -Values – Vision – Plans in churches

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