I have published a number of articles in this blog over the years about the importance of vision in a church. Working with numerous churches over the years I found that a very small percentage of them had any semblance of a vision, and those that did seldom referenced that vision in their planning or ministries. The majority of these churches flounder around week to week hoping something good will one day happen in their church and wonder why it seldom does.
Vision is essential to a church, but it's also essential that the vision is revisited occasionally. A church should look at its vision at least every 5-6 years to make sure it is still relevant to the ministry needs that exist within and around the church. Also, any time a church is going through a transition is an important time to revisit the vision. Certainly, when a church is seeking new pastoral leadership would qualify as a significant transition time.
This is where the church I'm currently serving is at. They called me to serve as their Transitional Pastor when their previous pastor resigned. One of the things I am doing is leading the church in vision discernment. As I explained to them, it is important to understand where God is leading a church before the church calls a new pastor.
Previously, we spent an evening determining the Core Values of the church and another evening identifying its Bedrock Beliefs. This coming Saturday we will spend the day in a vision discernment exercise. It will be an important day in the life of the congregation and we are praying for a good turnout of people to help in this process.
One of the challenges we will face is common to all churches doing vision discernment. It will be hard to make the distinction between what we are hearing God say and what our individual preferences might be. Most people entering into such a discernment process will bring their own thoughts of what a church should be and do to that process. It is easy to want to filter everything done during the exercise through those individual ideas. The challenge will be to be open to what God is saying regardless of how that might relate to our personal thoughts.
Vision discernment is messy. As Baptists we prefer to discuss things (endlessly at times) and take a vote. The majority rules. While this often works in most things, that is not discernment. Discernment is listening to the still, small voice of God to see how He would lead. The pastor's vision, the deacon's vision, the desires of the largest financial contributor are all irrelevant. What is God saying? Where is He wanting to lead this congregation? What is He wanting to do in and through this church? These are the critical questions that lead to discerning a vision from God, and that is the only thing that ultimately matters.
I'm looking forward to this Saturday because we have excellent people who attend this church who truly wants to follow God's leading for their ministry in the community. I think it will be an exciting day.
What is your church's vision? How long has it been since you revisited it? How does it impact the decisions that are made in your church? Is it God's vision for your church or is it something you copied from another church's web site or was given by a previous pastor? These are questions that any church that wants to enjoy God's blessings on its ministry needs to answer.