Last night I enjoyed an evening with the leaders of a small church who want to identify a fresh God-given vision for their future ministry. The church has just began a search for a new pastor, and I encouraged them to first seek a vision for ministry to help them better identify the gifts and passions they will need from their new pastor. The church leaders agreed and invited me to lead that process.
The session last night focused on the core values of the church. I explained how core values shape the decisions individuals and groups (churches) make. Any vision they identify must be congruent with their core values so it was important to begin by identifying those values. Another evening session will look at their bedrock beliefs, and a third session (all day on Saturday) will be spent in Bible reading, prayer, and group discussions.
Although I've led this in several churches, last night's session was very enjoyable. The people were engaged, and when I divided them into small groups for discussion they were very focused on the task at hand. This church has been drifting for some time, and the congregation seems determined to become much more focused on doing intentional ministry in their community.
This church has been like a majority of the churches in North America. They have been content to drift along Sunday to Sunday hoping that one day something good would happen. Hope is a very powerful component in anything we want to do, but it makes a terrible strategy. It is much better to identify God's vision for your church and develop ministries around that vision. This latter approach provides the church with a much more focused ministry and allows it to move forward with a purpose and passion that often leads to a more effective ministry.
Without vision a church can do nothing but drift along with the currents. Even worse, if a church does not have a common vision around which the church is committed it will have competing visions. This often leads to conflict as these competing visions will eventually bump heads.
Let me ask a simple question: does your church have a unifying vision that directs the ministries of your church? If I was to visit your church this Sunday could anyone in your congregation be able to tell me that vision without having to look at a piece of paper? If the answer to these questions is no then your church is not functioning according to a God-given vision. Chances are your church is drifting along with few results to show for its efforts.
The good news is that God has a unique vision for your church, and the even better news is that he wants you to know what that vision is. It will require some effort on your part to identify that vision, and you will have to be willing to live into that vision once you know what it is. As you think ahead to 2015 perhaps the best thing you could do is to begin a discernment process that will you know what God wants to do in and through your church in the coming year.