Monday, June 11, 2012

Drifting vs focus

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Several years ago I owned a bass boat and enjoyed fishing in tournaments and in the local lakes and on our river.  My wife enjoys fishing as much as I do so it gave us something we could do together that was a lot of fun.  I learned an important lesson about life in that boat.  The only time I got into trouble in the boat is when I would let it drift down the river while I would fish the banks.  One time I drifted onto a large rock and had trouble breaking free from it.  Another time my motor was wedged in a submerged tree that had been left behind the last time the river flooded.  I couldn't get free and couldn't raise the motor because of the way it was in there.  It took quite a while to get my boat free from that tree.  But, not once did I ever get into trouble when I had either my big motor or the trolling motor running.  See...when the motors were running I was going somewhere on purpose and could steer the boat in the direction I wanted it to go.

Life is like that.  Most of the time when we get into trouble it is when we are drifting.  When we are living life on purpose, when we have a focus to what we are doing, we are much less likely to get into trouble.  When your life has purpose you can steer your life in the direction you want to go.  When you merely drift through life you end up wherever circumstances take you, and sometimes that is not where you want to be.

This is true on so many levels besides just our personal lives.  It is true for businesses, it is true for families, it is true for relationships, and it is true for churches.  The Bible tells us that without a vision the people perish.  Why?  Because without a vision the people are just drifting along without purpose until they finally end up somewhere they didn't want to be and wonder how they arrived there.

Let's just look at churches for now.  How many churches do you know that have a clearly understood vision that has unified the church and that nearly everyone in the congregation not only understands but knows what role they play in that vision?  Some have a vision statement, but that is not the same thing as a vision.  Personally, I know of few churches with such a vision.  Most open their doors every Sunday morning hoping something good will happen, but they've done nothing intentionally to cause something good to happen.  This may well be why we are told 80 percent of the churches in North American are plateaued or declining.  They are just drifting along without focus or purpose, and they are drifting towards irrelevancy.

The most important thing many churches could do between now and the end of the year is to identify a vision from God for the next few years of the church's existence.  The leaders need to begin prayerfully begin a time of discernment as they seek to understand that vision.  Such discernment must include input from a wide variety of people both within and outside the church.  In some smaller churches it should include everyone associated with the church.  It is often helpful to have someone from the outside lead that process.  That may be a denominational leader, a coach, or a consultant.  I have worked with several churches in a process to help them in this discernment process, and it's always exciting to see the light bulbs begin to go off as they draw closer to identifying God's vision for their church.

As long as you drift along you will only go where life takes you.  You will spend your time reacting to whatever life sends your way.  Operating with a vision gives you a focus and purpose that helps you create a preferred future for your life or organization.  That doesn't mean you won't have bumps along the way.  Life does have a way of interrupting even the best of plans, but those interruptions won't derail you.  As you work through them you will return to the vision that is taking you where you want to be.  That is an exciting and much more enjoyable way to live.

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