Last Saturday I spent the day with a small church leading them through vision discernment. This church is in the process of seeking a new pastor which is a great time to begin discerning God's future for a church. We had previously spent a couple of evenings helping them explore their core values and bedrock beliefs, and now it was time to bring all that work together in vision discernment. Church members spent time alone in scripture reading and prayer to see what they heard God saying to them and then brought their thoughts back to the larger group for discussion. It was a powerful time and a day well spent. They did not leave that gathering with a clear vision for their future ministry, but they have began the process, they now have a common language to continue this discernment together, and they understand how critical it is to seek a fresh vision from God for ministry. I am excited about the future of this church.
Earlier this week I met with the leadership of a larger church to discuss their need to go through such a process. Like the smaller church, they have been drifting for the past few years without any sense of purpose or direction. A new pastor has led them in making some organizational changes they needed, but they now sense it is time to really begin looking at what God wants to do in them and through them over the next few years. I explained the dangers of drifting, the importance of a clear, unifying vision for a church, and the process we would use to begin that discernment. The feedback was positive, and I am hopeful this church will decide to pursue this.
Most churches have no real vision for ministry. Some may have a vision statement hanging in the pastor's office somewhere, but no one has really looked at it in years, and it has little if any impact on the decisions the church makes. There is a huge difference between a vision and a vision statement. Visions produce passion in a church because the people believe they are pursuing God's purposes for their church. Who could not get excited about that? With a clear vision the church is united around the church is ready to create its budget, it's ready to determine its ministry programs, and it's ready to do ministry on purpose.
Churches that just drift from Sunday to Sunday often find themselves drifting into trouble. People in the congregation are not excited because there's nothing to excite them. Attendance falters, giving goes down, it becomes more difficult to attract volunteers, guests seldom come and even more seldom return for a second visit, there is rapid pastor turnover, the facility becomes rundown as maintenance is ignored, and church youth leave as soon as they are able. Even worse, the community around the church goes untouched for the Kingdom of God.
Is your church doing ministry on purpose or is it drifting along from Sunday to Sunday hoping that someday something good will happen? If you are in a drifting church you can turn that around. God has a vision for your church. There are things he wants to do in and through your church, and if you will seek that vision and unite around it, great things will begin to happen. It is not a difficult process to begin vision discernment, but it does require intentionality on the part of the church. When we seek God is when we find him, and the same is true for his vision for our churches.