Last week I met with a small church that is ready to seek to new pastor. One of the questions I always ask the committees charged with this task is to tell me the vision of the church. As usual, no one could answer. They all looked at one another, looked down to the table, and admitted the church really didn't have a vision for its future. I then rephrased it a little and asked, "Tell me where you see the church five years from now." Still no answer. I then asked, "How do you know what gifts you need in your next pastor if you don't know where God is wanting to take your church?" Unfortunately, this is a conversation I have with almost every church I assist in their search for a pastor and most churches I consult with.
Like the old western song, most churches are drifting along like a tumbling tumbleweed. They have no sense of purpose and no direction because they have no sense of a God-given vision. They have given little thought, if any, of where they want to be five years from now. Many of them are just hoping to have enough income this year to pay their bills and hoping that in their drifting along that something good might happen in the life of their congregation. Well...hope is not a strategy. Hope is a wonderful thing but it cannot take the place of a God-given vision, and it will not take you to the place where God wants you to be.
Discerning God's vision is not always an easy thing to do. In fact, it can be quite messy at times. I wish I could give you a three step process that would give you God's vision for your church at the conclusion of the process, but I don't know of such a process. There are things that a congregation can do to assist the process, and I've worked with a number of churches to help them with their seeking a fresh vision from God for their church. Unfortunately, not all of those churches had a better sense of a vision than before we started.
I've thought about why it is so hard for churches to identify God's vision for their church. I always begin with the assumption that God still has a vision for each church, so why is it so difficult for some churches to discern what that vision might be? One of the conclusions I've made is that although some churches seem to be seeking that vision, they really don't want it.
Most of the time, a fresh vision from God will require that something has to change for that vision to be fulfilled, and the churches are unwilling to change. Such a vision might require specific demands upon the church's resources, and the congregation is unwilling to make those resources available. It might require different leadership, and persons currently in leadership are unwilling to step aside. Because God knows that heart of each person, He knows whether or not a church is serious about wanting to know His vision for its ministry, and if a congregation is not willing to move forward with that vision He doesn't provide it.
Where will your church be at the end of 2012? What impact will it have made in the lives of the congregation and those who live in your community? Is there a single vision your church is seeking to fulfill in the next year? If your church closes its doors in 2012 will anyone from the community even know, or as we approach this time next year will your community rejoice for the impact your church made it people's lives?