Vision is a "Must"
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am about to do a new thing; now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” –Isaiah 43:18-19
Successful endeavors require vision. CEO’s of companies know that, some leaders of countries know that, and the Church should instinctively know that, too. Why? God had a vision for humanity since the Creation. We see his vision turned into action in the 1st Chapter of Genesis. Then it was pronounced good. Even when harmony between God and man was severed, God communicated His vision that Jesus Christ would enable man to look forward to a victorious end of his strife because the God of peace would crush Satan (Romans 16:20).
In His time on earth, Jesus communicated an exceptional vision: the saving of souls. He told his disciples that they should open their eyes and look at the fields that are ripe for harvest (John 4:35). He sent 12 workers into the harvest field, equipping them to do their work (Matthew 10) by providing 37 verses of instructions. Then, our omniscient God knew the importance of goals and objectives. He communicated a Great Commission that contained both. The goal (what can be done): Go and make disciples of all nations. The objective (how it can be done): Baptizing and teaching. But he didn’t stop there. “God with us” ensured a successful outcome by promising to remain with us as we fulfill his command.
Sometimes I think congregations talk about the Great Commission but never really know how to put ‘legs’ on it. They struggle to be intentional about their life together as God’s people and how to live out Matthew 28:18-20. All too often a result is that a church’s vision of God’s work can be too small or too general. I read once that it is a fine plan to go to heaven, serve the Lord faithfully and do the work of evangelism. However, how do we get those results? Likewise then, what actions will it take to get a church to where God is calling it to live out in the Christian community? How much time, effort and money will it take?
It appears to me that when churches think about God’s work, they tend to put human limitations and boundaries on it. In other words, they think too small, failing to set their sights higher. Some congregations are seemingly content with a ‘comfortable’ vision. The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-35) tells us that God’s intention for His Church involves greater things and that He has placed before us an open door (Revelation 3:8). In alignment with that, one church I worked with selected “Opening Doors to God’s Grace” as their vision process theme.
It is my belief that there are certain non-negotiables of a vision for the work of the Lord:
1. God is the author of the vision. Through prayer and discernment a congregation should seek to find God’s leading into the future.
2. A vision needs faith. It needs to be rooted in power – the power of God’s Word and the power of God. (Sometimes referred to as “resurrection power.”)
3. Visions require boldness. Boldness based not on human efforts but on the hope we have in Christ. The Book of Acts recounts the boldness exhibited by early Christians. Congregations should follow suit.
4. Visions require persistence. Don’t give up. Know that your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). “Do not become weary in doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
5. Guard against ‘tunnel vision’ and visions of despair. Know the dangers of focusing on small and often insignificant issues and seeing only the negative.
It is vital to understand that vision builds community, unity and brings members and strangers together. Some might reject the vision. Many more will celebrate it and strangers will be drawn to God’s grace in action. It seems appropriate to compare a vision to a compass, which can make all the difference in times of confusion. (Which I think appropriately and aptly describes Grace’s current state – confused, not broken or riddled with problems.) Leaders and members of Grace should align ALL their activities to the vision – it is a ‘guiding light’ or a beacon.
From what I have observed, churches to be involved in people’s lives. The church realizes it is part of God’s remarkable plan for this planet and the human race. My hope and prayer is that the process that will follow will make it clearer and clearer that together and collectively, we are uniquely created by God, redeemed and called in Christ, with no part of our lives lived outside of that identity, therefore rendering every detail of our existence significant in the context of God’s work of life and salvation.
Finally, when a vision is connected to Christ, a congregation begins to draw closer to the presence of God. There is a realization that in and of itself, the vision has the power to save, transform, give hope and flood the community with God’s Grace.