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Southwood’s Core Commitments


Southwood’s Core Commitments

The Alabama football team under the leadership of Nick Saban may run lots of different plays with lots of different players, but every Saturday we expect to see a disciplined, hard-nosed, tough team on the field. The Beatles have played many different songs, but we consistently recognize that characteristic strong beat and musical excellence. Paula Deen makes a variety of recipes, but we expect whatever comes out of her oven to be buttery and sugary sweet.

Those are core commitments. Core commitments rarely change. They shape or describe who you are as a person or group. They answer the question of how you do whatever you do. Circumstances may change; strategies for accomplishing your goals may change; but core commitments are priorities you want to remain foundational regardless of what you decide to do.

For instance, as Southwood looks to our future as a church, we can pursue the mission God has called us to as a group of 50 or 5,000. We may at some point find it helpful to add on to our current property or downsize to a storefront. We may decide our pastor needs a different haircut or better jokes (of all the above potentialities, this one seems the most likely). In other words, those particular details and thousands of others, while perhaps very important, are negotiable in the pursuit of our mission. Core commitments, on the other hand, should remain at the center of who we are while other factors change around them.

Most people would say that Southwood embodies aspects of these commitments already. Praise the Lord! It is also true, however, that they function not only as descriptive but also as prescriptive – helping us see what ought to characterize and shape us and holding us to these priorities. We should pray that God would make these commitments increasingly true of who we are as a church and how we do everything He puts before us.

Very Old and Brand New
Where in the world did these core commitments come from? The Session, with helpful input from many others, has been working through these for the past couple of years. So in that one sense, this particular list is brand new. On the other hand, however, these commitments are not a new direction for Southwood but rather intended to state in a fresh way long-held values and priorities of our church. In that sense, this list is very old.

In fact, you can notice in the introductory paragraph that our vision and mission have remained unchanged, so these commitments are helping us to consider in what manner we should pursue those vital tasks. God has called us to advance his kingdom, and the pattern He has established for that is one where his grace flows to us (experience) and then flows through us (expression). Our pursuit of that mission remains unchanged, and the core commitments are to help us remember how we should pursue it.

Furthermore, the Southwood Session believes it is essential that such core commitments are rooted in God’s Word. In that sense, they’re even older than we are! If a church’s core commitments are to be essentially unchanging over time, then they must have their basis in the unchanging truth of the Bible. We would encourage you to read some of the sample passages listed below each one and consider God’s calling on his people and the priorities He gives to his Church.

These are, then, core commitments that at a high level could be adopted by many churches. They are, however, particularly in the explanatory paragraphs somewhat unique to Southwood. While God has called all churches to some basic commitments, He has also made each of us with different gifts, personalities, and particular callings in his kingdom. Reading through these should give you a sense of how things feel particularly at Southwood as well as what we pray God makes us more and more like as we follow Him.

In the coming months, I will seek to flesh out these core commitments one at a time so that we can think together about what it might look like for these to characterize our community even more than they already do. I would love to hear your ideas on that, too, and I ask for your prayers that God would continue to shape us into the church He wants us to be so that we will be prepared for whatever challenges, sufferings, and ministries He calls us to in the future.

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Southwood Presbyterian Church exists to advance the kingdom of God (Our Vision) through the experience and expression of grace (Our Mission). Core Commitments are the priorities that shape how we do everything we do—Worship, Community, Discipleship, Outreach­—and how things should feel uniquely at Southwood. These priorities are intentionally shaped by the Bible—God’s inerrant Word and our only infallible rule of faith and practice.

1.) We are committed to being CHRIST-CENTERED.
The grace of God has been most fully shown to us in his Son, Jesus Christ, and God’s kingdom is not advanced without focusing on Jesus, the King. This means giving glory to Jesus, proclaiming the good news of his finished work, is the goal of our corporate worship, all of our ministries, and our life in community together. Since every page of the Bible points to Jesus, every sermon, Sunday School lesson, and conversation should point us back to Jesus so that we live each day in his strength rather than our own and for his glory rather than our own. We seek to feed Jesus’ sheep—every fellow sojourner regardless of age or stage—by pointing them to the Good Shepherd. Grace is not merely an item we can get enough of or a concept we can master; grace is experienced in Jesus, with whom we always need relationship.
—II Corinthians 4:6, I Corinthians 1:23, John 1:14-18, Ephesians 1:3-14, Luke 24:27, Colossians 2:6-7


2.) We recognize our deep DEPENDENCE and need for PRAYER.
We are a community constantly dependent upon God both individually and corporately. In fact, this is a large part of what it means that we must continually experience grace ourselves. Our relationship with God is one where we remain desperately needy and He remains gloriously sufficient—we repent and He forgives; we depend and He provides. Because God is committed to seeing his kingdom advance, we don’t merely pray for the work of the church; rather, prayer is the work of the church. Prayer is weak people prevailing upon a strong Father to do mighty things in, through, and in spite of us.
—Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 18:1-8, I Samuel 1, Acts 2:42, Psalm 71, Ephesians 6:10-20, James 5:16


3.) We are driven by RELATIONSHIPS.
It is people who are in need of God’s grace, and it is in the hearts and lives of people that God’s kingdom is first and foremost extended. So we genuinely love people and are committed to developing life-giving relationships both inside and outside the church. These relationships with others who are created in God’s image are a reflection of the relational nature of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and we share the heart of God when we put others before ourselves and are willing to share our lives with them.
—Ecclesiastes 4:7-12, Genesis 2:18, I Thessalonians 2:8, Acts 2:42-47, Galatians 6:2, II Corinthians 5:17-21


4.) We strive to love the LEAST, the LOST, the LITTLEST, the LONELY, and the LEFT-OUT.
Because we are aware of our own weaknesses and dependence upon God, we want to introduce fellow sinners to the Great Physician, in whom the broken and hurting find refuge and a home. This happens as we lead with grace rather than judgment in all our relationships, just as God has led with grace toward us when we deserved his judgment. We desire to express grace to the marginalized, the hurting, and our non-Christian friends and neighbors by treating people of all backgrounds and life experiences, as image-bearers of God, with dignity and charity.
—Luke 6:27-36, Matthew 25:31-40, Mark 2:15-17, Proverbs 14:31, Genesis 1:26-27, John 15:12-13


5.) We seek the RESTORATION of all creation in HUNTSVILLE and beyond.
Jesus brings his kingdom both in word and in deed, so we are committed to praying, working, and collaborating with others for God’s kingdom to come here as it is in heaven. We long to see Huntsville flourish and believe God has placed us in this community for this community. Our prayer is that we would be the kind of church that our city would miss if we were gone. Our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our systems, and our institutions are all valuable to God and worthy of our care. The good news of Jesus Christ is for Monday through Saturday, for us as God’s people, and for all of his creation, where the effects of the curse are pushed back and He remakes everything as He originally intended it to be.
—Matthew 6:10, Jeremiah 29:4-7, Luke 7:20-23, Romans 8:18-21, Colossians 3:23, Isaiah 11:1-10