5 Values That Kept Me Focused

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Reflections of a Retired Megachurch Pastor

I never looked in the mirror and felt, Hot dog! We’ve got us a leader! But I did lead when needed, seeking to be guided by our church’s five values, which first captured my own heart.

I never gave myself a 10 on any one of about 4,000 sermons, but I kept trying. And I was glad when the five values showed up in the exposition of Scripture.

I never liked everyone I loved as pastor, but I worked to shepherd them with daily commitment to these five goals. I think they are what give worth to 43 years of pastoring and then these last six of teaching and coaching other pastors. What a profound satisfaction to pastor in God’s church, and now to try to nudge other church leaders to The Five.

After the ever-present temptations of anger, pride and lust—these powerful triplets chase us all, and are magnified by the reverend title—I was probably challenged most by cynicism. Still am. You know what I mean—we all have been lied to many times; and we have exaggerated, even in sermons. We all have said the right answer when we knew it came from our sense of duty rather than our heart. We all have watched the preacher on TV give promises of success and happiness, and wonder, Who is he kidding? But even cynical tendencies are rerouted by these five values. See if they are yours:

1. Grace

It all starts there. We love because he went first. We serve because he is the king of kindness. A church can be characterized by God’s kind of grace, not pride in our size or stature. And I can try to be that way today.

2. Worship

Here the arrow points up, in deliberate acts of praise and obedience, so this includes our weekend services but also personal obedience. When I have served and led to glorify the Lord Christ, instead of trying to look good or allow show biz, it has felt good.

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3. Community

I use that word so that it makes you and the church think of Sunday and small groups, but also so we consider how we receive and seek to build others, care for the hurting, elevate the little people and model the washing of feet.

4. Mission

… Including personal and local and global evangelism and action love, but also meaning who we are as a church and as a person. Are we here to be the hot church in town or to go with the latest bestseller’s new way to say it, or to be the body of Christ wherever we are?

5. Integrity

It is about finances and morality and honesty, but also about the word’s literal meaning: oneness—that what we say is one with the way life really is.

When I stand in front of Christ the Judge—I know that is ahead—I have nothing to say about my own righteousness except, I am with you!

These five feel good. Otherwise it’s just a job.


Knute Larson, an Outreach magazine consulting editor, coaches pastors for personal and church growth, and teaches D.Min. courses for Trinity and leadership for Moody. He pastored 43 years in Ohio, the last 26 at The Chapel, in Akron.