7 Signs You Are Pursuing God’s Vision
Now that we’ve look at what Vision Is Not, let’s take a look at how God’s Vision for the local church takes shape and form. Remember that God’s Vision is not about how things used to be nor is it necessarily about how things are now (though these two components play a part in discovering God’s Vision). God’s Vision is about the future–how things CAN BE when HE becomes the most important part of our life individually and corporately. Jesus cast HIS Vision for those first disciples and set the pattern for us as we pursue God’s Vision for us. It’s found in Matthew 9:35-38 (The Message)
Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
If an entrepreneur wants to start a business, she or he looks first at the demographics of where this business will start. In other words, are conditions favorable, meaning “Can I be successful and profitable”, in this new venture? If they are offering goods or services that either the community doesn’t want or could afford, it’s highly unlikely they will proceed in that community with that endeavor. Look at what Jesus saw: “Confused and aimless, like people with no shepherd.” So, what does Jesus do? Does He say, “Well, guys, these aren’t very religious folks, we need to go somewhere else.”? NO! He says, “What a huge harvest! We don’t have enough workers! Hit your knees and pray for more workers!”
See, vision isn’t about what was or what is–it’s always about “What Will Be”! The history of the Church has been that we tend to gravitate towards the familiar and comfortable. We tend to stick to what we know and the things we know how to do. Vision, on the other hand, is about what God knows and what He knows how to do through hearts and lives that are open to Him. Let’s try to get a picture of what this looks like.
1. It Begins With Prayer
Since Vision is not from us nor natural, we have to prepare both heart and mind in order to see what God wants for our local congregation. Since it is human nature to bring our “baggage” with us, the first prayer needs to be for God to prepare our mind by ridding us of anything that resembles “our” vision. We go into this process with a clean heart and an open mind. A clean heart is one that God has cleansed from all selfishness. An open mind is one that does not limit God and what He can do with us and our present reality. The only way we can make sure this happens is to make this our daily prayer.
2. It Will Require A Lot Of Time
Unless your local congregation has revisited the Vision every 5 years or so, the odds are this is going to be a long process. When things are not going well at church we tend to look for a quick fix. God’s Vision does not come by text, Twitter or Instagram. The time spent searching is time well spent because we are spending time with the originator of The Vision. The more time we spend conscious of God’s presence not only helps us to see and clarify The Vision but it is also preparing us to cast and implement The Vision. I’m not saying it is going to take years–in fact, if it does, you are either not listening or seeking God’s Vision but rather wanting God to agree with you. Do not be surprised if it takes weeks maybe months to bring The Vision into focus. And it will take time to cast The Vision to the rest of the congregation.
3. It Will Be Bigger Than Anything You Have Done Before
If you have been a program focused church it will be way bigger than anything you have ever done. God doesn’t dream about what you have accomplished. He dreams about what is yet to be accomplished. God is still active, present and at work. Our God is about great things, enormous things. As human beings we have a tendency to rest on our accomplishments and think we’ve done enough. Do you remember Jesus’ parable about the farmer who had a bumper crop? Yes, God celebrates your victories but calls us out to even more. The Gospel is the Gospel of “The More”–more of Him in us and more of Him through us. If The Vision is not a little scary or doesn’t make you feel a little “uncomfortable”, meaning it’s like nothing you have ever seen or tried, then maybe it is just another one of your ideas and not His Vision.
4. It Will Be About The Future
In a world that loves the fastest computer graphics, fastest internet speeds and immediate gratification, the process of Vision will feel foreign to us. Many established congregations are locked into the past. They “pine” for the good old days of filled sanctuaries and active programs and they “whine” about why it’s not like that today. While the backwards glance is helpful in forging our way forward, it is not the model of what the Vision will look like for the future. Our vision of the future is very limited. Heck, we can’t even see and predict the outcomes of college football games. If we could, Las Vegas would turn into a ghost town. God’s ability to see the Future is unlimited. Think of Vision as God’s “MapQuest®” for the journey into HIS future for the church. It is always about the next step towards God’s desired outcome. It is not instantaneous nor short term.
5. It Will Look Like The Kingdom Of God
While we get locked into a “church” perspective, meaning OUR church, The Vision will be a snapshot of The Kingdom of God. Jesus only spoke about the church a couple of times, but He spoke volumes about The Kingdom of God. Remember that The Kingdom of God (at other moments Jesus used the term Kingdom of Heaven) is about the Rule of God in our hearts, minds and daily actions. So it is essential that we learn more about what Jesus says about this Kingdom. Jesus gave us so many word pictures and parables about what God’s Kingdom looks like. The Vision will always, always, always be in alignment with what Jesus said The Kingdom of God is all about. If you do not have a clue about what the Kingdom of God looks like you will never be able to catch a glimpse of the Kingdom.
6. It Will Be About The Least, The Last And The Lost
If we learn anything about Jesus when He walked this earth as one of those He created, it’s His heart for those that have been pushed aside by society. Jesus was always drawn to those who were made to feel worthless and were hopeless. He refused to push aside or ignore those who were hurting and broken. Therefore, The Vision is about the reconciliation and restoration of the fallen. Ever since that moment when Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s rule in their hearts, mind and daily actions God has been active in first reconciling humanity and second, restoring humanity to that Intended Design. It will be more than handing out tracks about the Romans Road Map To Heaven, in fact tracts may not be involved at all. It will be about helping meet the physical, emotional and relational needs of people BEFORE introducing them to the one who meets their Spiritual needs. The Vision will be about first, making us whole, and then helping others find the wholeness that God alone will provide.
7. It Will Be Bright And Hopeful!
Our “pining for the past” only fills us with despair. Our honest evaluation of today will fill us with doubt. But The Vision gives us a picture of the future that is both vibrant and hopeful. It’s a beautiful picture that fills us with what is often missing in our local congregations: Great Expectations! Put oil paints, brush and canvas in front of me and trust me, the picture will not be beautiful. But put those same elements in the hands of Monet and it is beautiful. If we will see God’s Vision, it will draw us into it with both fear and excitement and the excitement overrides any fear or doubt. It gives us “butterflies” in our heart and mind because we will know that because God has given The Vision, we can count on Him to move The Vision from Dream to Reality! If you approach the journey with the attitude that says “We can never do this”, guess what? You won’t! But the first truth about The Vision is that it will be about what God is doing in, for and through us and never about what WE are doing for God.
I hope this will be for you a very big “box” to begin the process of discerning God’s Vision. Maybe you have other insights into what God’s Vision is. Feel free to share them in the comments. And remember…
Love God with all your heart, love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Randy Burbank, a Kingdom Pastor