As you know, I am currently serving as the Transitional Pastor of a church seeking new pastoral leadership. Yesterday, the Church Council had its annual retreat. In a beautiful setting we looked at the previous year's ministry of the church and began to look forward into the future. We looked at some of the challenges the church must address in the coming year and the many opportunities we will have as well. We identified some weak spots where we can do better and some ministries in our church that are exciting and making an impact in the lives of people. It was a very productive day.
This, coupled with the vision discernment process the church is working on, is preparing this church for an exciting future. It's always exciting when a church determines to live into God's vision for its future instead of sitting back and waiting to see what happens.
Hoping something good happens seldom produces the results we want. Intentionally working to make good things happen often does produce those results. This church is intentionally working to identify and live into God's plans for its future. I believe their new pastor, when they call one, will be walking into a wonderful place of ministry.
No one can predict the future. The only thing anyone can say with certainty is that it will continue to change rapidly. This does not mean that we cannot seek to discern God's vision for our ministry in that future and become very intentional about living into that vision. As a church begins to understand the values and bedrock beliefs that shape it and the gifts and passions of the people who make up the congregation, it is prepared to minister despite the changes that occur around us.
Many churches seeking a new pastor do not want to do this discernment. They want to wait until the have a new pastor who can "give them their vision for ministry." That is a huge mistake. There is too much danger of the pastor's vision being a poor match for the make-up of the church, and this can do nothing but lead to conflict. It's far better for the church to do the discernment work prior to calling a pastor, and then matching the person to the vision. I am so pleased this church is taking this second approach.
If your church is content to live in the "glory days" of the past, it is on the wrong side of its life cycle. We are called to minister in the present and to prepare for the future. We can't do that if we spend all our time looking in the rear view mirror. Invite God to begin to reveal His purpose for your church and develop plans to live out that purpose. Only by doing this will you have the impact on your community God desires.