Sunday, April 19, 2009

Make a Vision For the Future

I have spent the better part of today considering a spiritual flowchart for our church. For years we have not had a plan for people to follow other than show up at all the posted times. We try to meet people's needs as they arise but that only truly works in death.

Why can't we be more proactive in marriage, parenting, and finances?

We don't have a plan. The Bible tell us that where there is not a plan people will run into chaos. Rick Warren has a plan. However, his plan probably does not work verbatim in your community. Ed Young has a plan, but does your community have 6 figures as a base salary? Bill Hybels has a plan...for Chicago.

Now we feel cheated.

The reason each of these men and the churches they lead have done well is because there was a simple plan that was followed. If we are going to move past the past and live in today we must do so with a vision for the future. If we live in today without a vision for an acceptable future then we run the risk of shifting into living for yesterday. As everyday passes we get farther out of touch with the reality that lies within our communities. We desire "back when". What does God desire for each person?

  1. A saving faith in Jesus Christ
  2. Growing in knowledge and service

Pretty simple. The critical issue is that we figure out how that translates in our local communities. Every community has a DNA that must be unraveled and understood. If we try to place our personal preferences onto a community that does not have a shared heritage or interest then we run the risk of creating a wedge among the people. I have learned over the years that what works at one church does not necessarily work at another. You have to back up the thought pattern to a common denominator and begin restructuring the plan of attack in each setting.

Paul said that he became all things to all people. He contextualized ministry and so should we.

Making a vision for the future means that we must embrace what God wants, contextualize it where we have been planted and engage in ministry. Of course, this means we must begin making plans and preparing for needs before they get there. Here are a few questions to consider:
  • What evangelism method works best in your community?
  • What is the front door of your church? When do most people attend?
  • Do you know what the next step should be for them?
  • How about the next one?
A great chess player thinks several moves ahead of the opponent. If we are making a vision for the future then we must think several moves out. Post-evangelism flow is important. Once a person has entered into the flow of church through worship, what comes next? So often, we simply lay out the schedule and tell them to pick what is best for them. Whoever heard of sheep deciding where to graze? That was, and is, the shepherd's responsibility. We need to lovingly guide people through the development process. God desires that we grow in knowledge and service. How will you do that? What does it look like?

I believe that we must balance our approach. Sunday School, or whatever you call it, needs to remain shallow. If people are coming to those small groups as the entrance to your church or as the step after large group worship, then often they are not prepared for deep abiding doctrine and spiritual philosophy. Let SS be a time where they get a taste of friendships, shared ministry, and a relevant truth from God's word.

The next level is to move them into a directed and guided balance of development and service. This allows for a bright future of developed and mature servants of God. This approach also creates a new expectation and model for future generations, but it does require a paradigm shift. We must make a few adjustments so that we are not adding to but complementing what is already provided for by our schedule.

Without a vision the people perish and so do families, children, churches, and a positive future.

By God's wisdom and your prayerful commitment create a vision, cast the vision, and change the face of your community forever.