Our Values: The Principles that Form Our Decision Making

It’s all about Jesus. 

Scripture is all about Jesus.  He is in every passage.  When we read the Bible we should be asking ourselves, “What does this say about Jesus?”  All life is about Jesus.  Jesus is the most important person or thing in our lives.  Without Him, life is meaningless.  So we seek to make Jesus the ultimate content in all we say and do and teach and preach.  We seek to bring all people into a saving relationship with Christ.  The more people who have the mind of Christ the more Christ like things will be done in every area of life: church, home, marketplace, classroom, and government.  Making followers of Jesus will change the world one life at a time, one household at a time.  When people become followers of Jesus, they will be led into serving in His name, giving in His name, worshiping in His name, and doing everything, every aspect of life, in the name of Jesus.  (Col 1:18, 3:17; Acts 4:12)


Arent they all our children?   

Jesus was particularly fond of children and he used them in many examples of what the kingdom of God is like.  Our neighborhood is blessed with many, many children.  Many come from disadvantaged families or broken homes.  We seek to find ways of incorporating them into our church, our families, and our shared life together.  They are the first thing we think about when we’re making any plans.  Even if their parents never attend our church we seek to find ways to show them the love of Jesus Christ and include them.   They are the future of Zion.  (Mark 10:13-16; Mt 18:1-6)


Lets do something beautiful for Jesus.

In Matthew 26:6-13, Jesus is anointed with a lavish amount of perfume by a woman who saw in him her Savior and Redeemer.  In verse 10, Jesus says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  Those with Jesus complained that such extravagance was a waste of money and could be better spent.  But we understand that when Jesus is present extravagance is called for.  We should pour out our lives and all we possess upon Jesus and His great work.  Mother Teresa once said that Jesus travels the world in distressing disguises.  We seek to find ways to intentionally welcome him and pour ourselves out for him in every disguise he can wear, especially when he visits us as the poor or the widow or the orphan or the “least of these.”   This attitude leads us to “see the need and meet the need” because by serving others we are serving our Master.  “What so ever you did to the least of these you did so to me.”   Our constant question to others must be, “How can we bless you?” 


We “get” global.

We are very much a local church with a global perspective.  We currently pray together in over 15 languages and that number is increasing.  We understand together that the world is coming to our city and to our very neighborhood and that means that everything must change as we seek to find ways to connect with our community and our world in order to serve people as if we were serving Christ himself.  We believe in reaching out to those both next to us and across the world.  We understand that God’s Plans are bigger than our ideas and we seek ways to glorify Him in the midst of a rapidly changing world.  We are not “globalists” and have no political agenda in regards “globalism.”  We simply understand that when people come and live here from other countries, what happens in those countries affects our brothers and sisters here and vice versa.  “To walk into the lives of these people is to walk into their suffering and into the suffering of their nations.” (Grace Kline)  (Psalm 99:2)


 Find a way to say “yes” to something

Jesus says to give to everyone who asks.  Sometimes we don’t have what they are asking for.  We are frequently asked for money.  We haven’t any.  But we don’t want to say, “No.”  So what we can say, like Peter, is “Silver or gold have I none but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, be healed!.”  (Acts 3:6)  Or, maybe more simply, “We don’t have any money but we have food and clothes for you, we would love to pray with you, and we can help you find a job if you need one.”  If someone calls wanting space for an event and we are full that day, offer to help them find another place.  It’s about letting people know they are loved and valued even if we can’t give them exactly what they want.  Luke 6:29-31 Jesus says,   “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Give to everyone who asks.  It doesn’t say “give them what they ask for.”  But we try to give them something.  Here is an example in practical terms.  There is a woman from another religion with three or four adult children.  She steals.  Everyone knows it.  She has been banned from four mosques.  But she is welcome here.  Why?  Because we seek to show her the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ.  And Paul tells us, (1 Corinthians 13): “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  Love hopes.  And so we hope and pray for her and others.  And we seek to give them something, not always what they want, but something good.  And, coincidentally, the woman I’m talking about has had communion at Zion. 


We are a part of something bigger than ourselves.

We believe that the kingdom of God is bigger and more important than our congregation.  Jesus taught us to pray that God’s kingdom would come and that things here would be the way they are in heaven.  We believe that God’s kingdom is comprised of all his children and so we seek ways to work with others for the sake of making that kingdom real to the world around us.  We seek unity with other believers and churches and partnerships with others who are engaged in doing good things in the world.  We do not believe that we have to own every idea or ministry.  In fact, we believe that our Master taught us how to die to ourselves and our ambitions and so we hope that we can find ways to bring people together without having to “own it” or take credit for it.  We believe that this attitude will bring many good things into being without our egos getting in the way.  In all things we seek a kingdom orientation.  This also leads us to the conclusion that it is better to make disciples of Jesus than members of our congregation.  So we seek especially to disciple people into membership in the Body of Christ rather than in our congregation.  (Matthew 13:31-32; 28:19-20)


Dont throw back the miraculous catch. 

In Luke 5, the soon to be first disciples of Jesus experience such a large catch of fish at Jesus’ direction that their nets begin to break and their boats begin to sink.  The temptation with too much is to toss it back and save the boat and the nets.  But instead, they signaled for more boats.  We are experiencing a miraculous catch as many, especially children, are coming to Christ and following him and being baptized into new life in him.  A constant temptation is to stop and say, “This is too much, we can’t handle this.  We aren’t equipped emotionally or with enough staff, time or space to handle this.”  Instead, we choose to ask others to help so that not one of the precious ones that Jesus has brought to us will be lost.  This also reinforces our desire for unity in the kingdom of God - that we cannot bring in the catch alone but the entire Body of Christ needs to participate together.  We always need more boats - more volunteers, more time, more space, more help, and this is a good thing because it shows the miraculous abundance and generosity of God. 


One God, One Church, One People

We are a church of individuals, different in many ways, yet called together by God to be one in ministry and mission. As members of the same body, we become more effective when we work in harmony as a unified whole (John 17:20-23). Among us, love for one another is the norm (John 13:34, Romans 13:8), conflicts are resolved according to the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17), and we seek to build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  We seek to eliminate from our life together what is often called, “church politics.”  We don’t gossip, malign, spread false rumors, or seek to glorify anyone’s personality except Jesus. We rejoice together, and we suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:25-27).   We also recognize that Zion is part of a bigger body, the body of Christ. 


Never circle the wagons; rather, fix bayonets and charge.

Churches tend to be risk averse and afraid of failure.  Consequently, fear rules the day and is a major influence in their decision making process.  Over the last few years, Zion has been faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and the real possibility of closing.  In short, we are well acquainted with the possibility of failure.  The tendency, when one is afraid and “under attack” is to circle the wagons and assume a defensive position.  We believe that such a position does not honor the God who has given us the victory in Jesus Christ.  So, we choose another tactic.  Just as the 20th Maine, a Union Civil War infantry regiment, when outnumbered and out of bullets while holding the Little Round Top at the battle of Gettysburg, chose to fix bayonets and charge down the hill toward a superior force, we choose to run head long into our challenges and confront them, confident in victory through Jesus Christ.  Here are some examples:  when confronted with a significant revenue shortfall, we stopped taking an offering during the service and put a box in the lobby instead.  We’re still here today because our help comes form the Lord and not from humans.  When we couldn’t pay our mortgage and consistently ran three months behind, we should have cut our ministries and retreated.  But we didn’t.  We boldly moved forward in faith and God provided a way to pay off nearly all our $1.3 million mortgage.  We are now planning how to support the next generation of believers at Zion.  (Matthew 21:21-22)


Do hard things.  “Is it difficult? Check.  High chance of failure? Check. High chance of inviting criticism? Check.  What are we waiting for?!  It must be God calling us.”

How do you recognize a move of God?  We believe it’s because He calls you to do the impossible.  He calls you and if you respond in faith, He provides the resources and the plans later.  His chief goal seems to be to determine whether or not the church will step out in faith and follow where He leads.  We hope we will always be a church that is willing to put ourselves at risk for the sake of being obedient to what God wants to do in and through us.  We understand that God might even call us to something that ends in what looks like failure.  But we remember Jesus, who died on a cross and was three days in the tomb.  His detractors thought He had lost.  But miraculously, the Father raised him from the grave and 2000 years later we place our faith in His resurrection for our salvation.  (


See the need, meet the need.

If the person in front of you has no shoes, get him some.  If he is hungry, feed him.  If he has no where to stay, find a place.  If you walk down the hall and garbage is overflowing, empty it.  If someone is struggling with a door, hold it open for them.  If someone is sobbing, comfort them and pray with them.  If someone is sick, pray with them that they might be healed.  If children are running wild in the halls, take charge.  (Matthew 2534-40; James 2:15-16)


What We’re Called to Do

During the Next Five Years (2016-2021)


This is what we believe God has in store for us in the next five years:


We believe we are called to racial reconciliation of our city.   

Ours is a unique church.  We are very diverse.  We are multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, diverse educationally, economically and socially.  Currently, we enjoy an excellent reputation in our community as a place that exemplifies the best of what followers of Jesus can be.  We also have many good relationships with pastors of African American churches.  I believe we have the relational currency to host a dialog about race in our city that can start small and grow into something even bigger. 


How will we do this?: 

a.)  By leveraging our current cross cultural relationships to participate.

b.)  By hosting dialog and conversations.

c.)  By showing up to events hosted by African American churches in our city.

d.)  By joining the Ministerial Alliance (formerly the Black Ministerial Alliance).

e.)  By the strategic use of the Zion One Body Fund (an instrument by which we can bless other churches).

f.)   By continuing to worship together across cultural boundaries.

g.)  By future strategic staffing. 


We believe we are called to be a place for civil discourse in our city. 

We can hardly talk to each other.  Our society is so bitterly divided between right and left, conservative and liberal, democrat and republican.  We need to be able to talk about issues as they relate to God’s Word.  Whether that is race, abortion, gay marriage, immigration or anything else.  The Church can be this kind of place because we believe in reconciliation and forgiveness.  Because we believe that love conquers all and that forgiveness is the answer.  We need to bring this to the rest of our society.


How will we do this?:

a.)  By leveraging what we hope will be our successful commitment to racial reconciliation (above).

b.)  By continuing to host interfaith dialog and build on these.

c.)  By hosting Q Commons events (see  http://qcommons.com).


We believe we are called to the alleviation of poverty in our city

Oh, it’s a magnificent claim but we believe it can be done.  Why?  Because we’ve seen our families come alongside immigrant and refugee families and change the course of their lives.  We’ve seen this church come alongside people groups, incorporate them and we’ve seen entire people groups elevated because of it.  Our Chin-Mizo people have a certain reputation among the Burmese population.  That reputation is that they succeed.  Why?  Because they have help and because they help each other.  Our Mizo members are buying houses at an amazing rate.  And not just here in Lower Beaver or Meredith Drive neighborhoods,  but also in Urbandale.  Hickory Lane in Urbandale has six new Mizo families living in grand houses.  Why?   Because together we can work toward the  elimination of poverty by the elevation of the family.    We absolutely believe that what we’ve learned in working with immigrants and refugees will work with the urban core, should we choose to engage.  So, please, let us engage together.


How will we do this?:

a.)  By continuing our efforts to encourage home ownership.  10:30 Swahili service is an excellence place to focus. 

b.)  By continuing our efforts to encourage higher levels of education through our relationships in the STARS program. 

c.)  By hitting the problem of fatherlessness head on. 

d.)  By organizing men’s ministry in at risk communities within our city.

e.) By celebrating the heck out of graduations.

f.)  By finding a way to connect our kids with scholarships already available.

g.)  By participating in The United Way’s Walk for Graduation event. 


We are called to be a sending church.  This means we need to equip our people to go out.  It also means we need to prepare to go to other churches and teach them what we’ve learned about trusting God.  It also may mean that in the next five years we will be ready to plant another church.

  • We have something to share with other churches. It’s time to share with others what God has done at Zion.  Time to encourage and equip others to step out in faith. Our teaching isn’t arrogant, it’s simply a testimony about what God has done. 
  • We believe that God wants to amplify what He’s been doing at Zion. We believe we are called to teach other churches how to advance the kingdom of God. We believe Zion is at the forefront of leading a New Reformation in our region.  We understand that many will misunderstand this.   What do we mean by it?


We do hard things at Zion.  Not once in a while, but routinely - really, if we’re honest, every week.  Don’t you want to be part of a church that does hard things?  Isn’t that why you’re here? 


We do hard things like reconciliation and forgiveness. 

Like helping the poor and the least of these.

Like helping those others have tossed over the side because they are unloving and disrespectful.

Like working across cultural and linguistic and generational and class lines.


We, together, at Zion, understand that it isn’t about whether or not you like the songs we sing or what kind of show we put on on Sunday mornings - it’s about the joy of knowing you’re living the Jesus Life Monday through Sunday and the love we have for our Master and for each other and for the people of the world that Jesus so longs to save.

Together, we can teach other churches how to sacrifice themselves for Jesus - how to offer themselves up as a fragrant offering.  The Church is the only institution known to man whose founder died so that others might live.  That is our calling.  To imitate Him, Jesus, and die to ourselves so that others might live.

History may never remember the name of Zion Church.  But what if we gave ourselves  up so that every church in this city might die to self, consider other’s worthy of greater respect, and so that Jesus might be elevated? 


How will this happen?:

a.)  We’ve had so much media attention in 2016, sooner or later the invitations will come. People will ask us to come and share our experiences.

b.)  People will come to us who want to learn.  It isn’t that we want to impose ourselves on anyone, what we’re saying is that people see the kingdom here and want to know how it happened.

c.)  Pastor John has been asked to be on a panel at the 2017 LCMC National Gathering in Minneapolis and do a break out session on Zion’s ministry. 


We believe we are called to the eradication of loneliness in our neighborhoods.

Mother Teresa called loneliness the poverty of the developed world.  I think there are many lonely people in our midst.  And the church, together, can visit them, talk to them, make them feel that they are valued and belong like no other institution on earth.  So I’m calling you, anyone who feels passionately about this, to come with us and visit the lonely.  Help them in their isolation.  Not for what they can give to us but for what we can give to them - the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We believe at Zion that you need to feel you belong before you can believe.  This has worked for us with the Muslims and the Buddhists and the animists and with the unbelievers.  We believe it will certainly work with the the lonely, the forgotten, the isolated.  But we need to go and seek them out. 


How will this happen?:

a.) Through the identification of lonely people and the effort of going to befriend them where they are.  How do you identify lonely people?  Begin by asking people who know them. 


We believe that one day we will have a combined board structure, that will incorporate the different services into one leadership structure.  

We could be 5-10 years away from this, but we believe it is our future and the things we do today are moving us down the path toward what will be complete unity. 


How will this happen?:

a.)  New bylaws will give us the flexibility to better represent different language groups at Zion.  New bylaws will also encourage the merging of existing leadership structure to give better communication and accountability. 


We believe we will have new bylaws. 

We need bylaws that support the mission we’re on and that are flexible enough to address future changes without holding us back. 


How will this happen?:

a.)  Through lots of prayer and an examination of the ministry we do and how our structures and procedures should be adjusted to further the growth of the ministry.  It will be a process with plenty of time and space for congregational feedback. 


There will be a new staff organizational structure and new employees.

We are growing and changing all the time and we need to reorganize ourselves in order to further the mission and ministry of Zion.  This also means bringing some new people on board.


How will this happen?:

a.)  See attached new organizational chart. 

b.) God will bring the right people and the right structure.  A call committee is being organized to look for the best candidates possible.


We believe we must actively pursue a way of doing ministry that doesn’t lead to ministry being dependent upon one person or personality.  

It’s time to raise up and empower and equip and release leaders to continue the work of the ministry so that the loss of one person (like Pastor John or others) won’t cripple our ministry and keep us from moving forward. 


How will this happen?

a.)  More connections need to be made between ministry leaders and staff at Zion. Relationships need to be made and ownership needs to be taken.

b.)  More people need to own the vision of Zion.

c.)  We need to teach our values for decision making to the entire congregation.

d.)  The ministry at Zion needs to be connected to Scriptural reference and to the gospel.


We believe we will launch Des Moines’ first  mobile ESL classroom. 

We have a lovely trailer in the parking lot which we could renovate into a classroom.  It would be Des Moines’ first mobile ESL classroom and would provide access to those who can’t leave their apartment complexes. 


How will this happen?

a.)  The trailer is already in our parking lot and could be ours for just a few thousand.

b.)  A little planning and removing of walls needs to be done.

c.)  We have good relationships with apartment management and could park the classroom in several different apartment complexes regularly for class.

d.)  We need a truck to pull it. 

e.)  We need a teacher to teach. 


We believe that in the next five years, STARS will become so popular among kids that we will be able to plant it in other churches around the city.

  • This is part of what it means to be a sending church.


How will this happen?

a.)  By finding the right partner churches.  Westminster is asking to join us now.  But some standard needs to be considered when encountering partners.  Are you willing to graciously receive the kids? 


We believe that we will ascertain if there is a need to build anything more on our current campus in the next five years. 

If our current ministry continues to grow, we know we will need more space.


How will this happen?

a.)  In order to prepare for that we need to commission a campus plan.  The estimated cost will be between $6,000-$10,000. 


We believe that within the next five years we will have a sustainable funding plan in place for Zion’s operating budget.  

This is a tall order but it’s necessary.  We need to continue to develop funding sources outside our own congregation and even outside our own community.  We need to do this without compromising our faith or values but we need to have a plan. 


How will this happen?

a).  First, by analyzing our current expenses and revenue sources.  There is much we’re learning as we see the numbers and understand from where they’re coming.

b.)  By maximizing our good will in the community to raise funds.

c.)  By understanding what we can ask the community to help us fund and what we need to fund ourselves. 

d.)  By developing a donor base for those outside of Zion and trying to develop it into a continuing revenue source.

e.) By exploring new ways of making it easy to give to Zion (like i-pads in the lobby with Square device). 

f.)  By putting more effort and thought into the seasons and means by which we ask the congregation for money.  In other words, by being smarter about stewardship. 


We believe that in the next five years we will have trained another level of pastoral and lay ministry leadership for Zion and a future church plant. 

We have wonderful interns who are ready to lead and have wonderful skills.  We have amazing lay people who are anxious to take the next step.  We need to keep on raising up layers of leaders to lead our congregation into the future God has prepared for us.  People at Zion are eager to help and an amazing number of them are engaged in the ministry of the church (65% of able bodied adult members).  But few wish to go to board meetings.  Many think that it will damage their experience of Zion because they believe boards are political and politics in the church is bad.  We need to be looking for our next BSO president and BOA chair and raising up people who can handle the necessary “political” activity to keep us functioning. 


How will this happen?

a.)  We need to develop a solid and repeatable internship program.

b.)  We need to develop a solid process for developing leaders.  This fits very well with our stated objective to develop a way of making disciples at Zion. 

c.)  Development of these leaders will also help us with a future multi-cultural church plant. 

d.)  Reintroduce the Biblical concept of eldership as a leadership model.  Preach and teach about it so that it isn’t intimidating. 

e.)  Discover the spiritual gifts of our congregation. 


We believe that within the next five years we will develop a new dashboard that will become the way we measure whether or not we are succeeding at Zion.

This is another hard task.  It will require a lot of reflection.  But we want to avoid the mistakes of the past where we came to rely too much on numbers of people and money.  Our first measure should be whether or not we are faithful to what God wants.  How do we measure whether or not we are making disciples even if it means that attendance is down or giving is down?  Over the last years we have discovered that being faithful to God doesn’t necessarily lead to more people or more money.  It leads to more ministry.  If the ministry is growing, we will always be short of people and financial resources.  What should be the indicators we track? 


How will this happen?

a.)  We need to develop a way of making sure that the entire Zion community hear’s the miraculous stories those who work here hear on a daily basis. 



In the next five years we will have a clear method and procedure for making disciples. 

We know that we will need to try many things but for now we will begin with triads, groups of three meeting together and encouraging each other to grow in what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  The triads will be encouraged to multiply. 


How will this happen?

a.)  Zion is partnering with INSTE Bible College in Ankeny to provide on site discipleship training via a certificate program.  The two year program is extremely thorough in teaching on discipleship, Christian living, apologetics, and Bible.  We’ll be ready to start this program in the Fall of 2017.  The program will offer education in Zion’s multi-cultural context (that means they’ll be people there from different cultures and races).  This will help to strengthen and grow our mutual faith.  The program also provides accountability for those who might otherwise drift away from a small group or Bible study. 


Over the next five years we will find a way to consolidate our way of thinking and assure that our ministry and methodology will continue beyond our generation. 

This is why it’s important for us to agree upon and teach our congregation our mission, vision and values.  This is also why our pastoral leadership plan is so important and why our new bylaws will be significant.  If the way we do things changes every time we change board members or pastors, we will have no stability in our ministry.   The future of the ministry at Zion isn’t truly secure until the congregation itself completely understands what we do and why. 


How will this happen?

a.)  We need to spend some time every year teaching about our unique mission, vision and values.  These are things that God has given specifically to Zion and need to become a part of our DNA. 


We believe in the next five years we will begin the habit of having an annual youth and an annual adult conference involving all the people of Zion.  

These are cross cultural events and the first is being planned. 


How will this happen?

a.)  By forming teams of Congolese, Mizo, English service attenders and others to plan and execute the events. 


We believe that over the next five years we will worship together at least as much as we worship separately.    

We already worship now on the second Sunday together as well as other major events and holidays.  People seem to embrace this and so we move forward into the future together as one people becoming one church.


How will this happen?

a.)  We believe there will be a desire to worship together twice monthly from the youth of the Zion community. 


In the next five years we will find a way to meet the need we see in our ministry for transitional housing. 

There are so many who have no secure housing.  They live month by month because of other problems in their lives.  If we cold make their housing secure it would give us the opportunity to help them with the cause of the insecurity in their lives.  This is the best way to keep people off the streets, help them transition from the streets for good, and move from financial insecurity to financial security.


How will this happen?

a).  Miraculously and without warning.  God will provide us a place. 


We believe that in the next five years we will have a global missions team that will work together to further our enormous work abroad. 

Things would be so much easier if we worked together to raise funds and draw on current resources in order to finance our work abroad.  We realize that most of our work abroad is a result of our work with people locally in the Zion community.  Perhaps all our oversees workers could be brought together to do one major fund raiser a year that would sustain our work abroad.  Such an arrangement would not curtail fundraising outside the congregation but would simplify our fundraising work within the congregation and bring unity among the diversity of missionaries we support.  Such a plan would also elevate some of the burdens of planning and fundraising currently done by staff at Zion. 


How will this happen?

a.)  It begins with coming together and getting all parties to buy-in. 


I believe we can do these things.  We may not be people with extraordinary abilities but we are people with extraordinary opportunities, and who choose to engage those opportunities in Jesus‘ Name with what abilities we have trusting that the Lord will provide all that is needed for us to succeed in His Name. 

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