Programs, Missions, or Vision? Where Do We Start? What Do We Do? How Do We Do It? Part 4

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5 Ways To Find The Vision

Part 4 of this series is not meant to be a “one size fits all” pattern.  Why?  Have you ever noticed that those “one size fits all” rarely if ever fits all?  These are not “step by step” instructions that will automatically produce your congregation’s Vision Statement  What I want you to do is to use these thoughts as a “diving platform” for you and your congregation to jump into the most challenging and frightful thing any congregation can do.  Yet it will be the most fruitful thing you will ever do as a congregation if you faithfully follow the Vision that God will give you.

1.  Enter Into A Season Of Travailing Prayer

This is for the entire congregation and NOT for a select few.  I recently “relearned” that word “travailing” at a Conference I attended.  It means “to work very hard”.  This isn’t a simple time of “now I lay me down to sleep” praying.  And it isn’t a time of “The Lord’s Prayer” praying where we recite words from memory and then we are finished.  Think about the model of prayer that Jesus gave, and no, I’m not referring to the Lord’s Prayer.  It was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I would call travailing prayer “Gethsemane” praying.  In case you forgot what that looked like, look at Luke 22:44 (NLT)

 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

When was the last time you prayed so hard that you worked up a sweat?  You are about to challenge the arena of the Enemy to take back from him what rightfully belongs to God and he is ready to go to war with you.  He knows if you go at him in your strength, he wins.  And I am certain that when we “work up a sweat” in prayer, he shudders with fear because once again he sees that image of Jesus in that Garden and remembers the outcome.  So, what should you be praying about?  Praying for?  Now on this point, you need to follow it step by step:

  1. Pray for God to reveal, if you do not already know, and remove what is getting in the way of your relationship with Him.  Is it some fear?  Anger towards another person you haven’t forgave?  Anger towards God?  Guilt?  Some sin that has not only remained in your heart but has plagued your heart?
  2. Pray for the one or ones who will be selecting the Vision Team that they will select the right people for this process.  God has already selected this Team and whoever selects this Team needs to hear from God.  And do not bring your ballot with you in this time of prayer.  Do not ask God to make sure that Betsy gets on it and Henry does not.  Give God room to BE God.
  3. Pray for protection around this Team once it is formed.  As I have already said, this is warfare and the Enemy is not going to surrender.  His attacks will come from both within and from the outside.
  4. Pray that YOUR heart will be open to all that God is about to reveal.  It’s easy to look out on your congregation and immediately assume, “Well, I know that Jack is going to throw a fit.”  Start with your heart, after all, it’s the only one that matters for God’s Vision to come alive.  YOUR heart is the only one that you can control.  Make sure that you’ve given that control to the Spirit.

2.  Begin Making A List Of Potential Team Members

This does not mean that every name you write down automatically becomes part of The Team.  I wrote down and scratched out several names, not because there was something wrong with them.  But for whatever reason, God had not chosen them.  And it certainly wasn’t because God saw something wrong with them.  God is sovereign and He certainly doesn’t need us in adviser roles.  Remember that time when the early church was having trouble with their food distribution program?  Acts 6:3

And so, brothers, select seven men who are well-respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.

As you make this List, write down beside each name either something you see in them that will benefit the process or why you think God wants them there.  When you hone down to that final list, send them an invitation to participate and why they are receiving that invitation.

3.  Make Sure The Team Is Diverse

What I have discovered in our process is that God wants us to look deeper than what is on the surface.  Almost immediately my mind is going back to the time when God sent Samuel on the mission to replace Saul as King.  And we read in 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Our world is a very diverse.  And I would bet that your community is also.  The local congregation should be a reflection of that community, but most often it isn’t a reflection of the social and racial diversity that exists within the community.  This means you may need to invite some “non-members” to be a part of the process.  I have invited several millennials to join us in this Process.  Some are music students from a local university that sings in our choir, one is a college student who grew up in this church and another is the product of the youth ministry.

Do not limit yourself to just traditional church people.  I am not talking about style of worship, rather those who think that Christians think and act in a limited arena.  Yes, make sure you have some who are well rooted, have wisdom and are respected in your congregation.  In fact, it is advisable to make sure one or two of them leads the Team.  Your “seasoned” sages are the ones who will keep this Process on track.  But look within your congregation for other types:  those that obviously think differently because you are doing something new; those that are passionate about life as a whole, for without passion the Vision is never seen; and those who love Jesus with all their heart, often quietly but love Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.  These will not be in your known circle of “leaders” but have something important to contribute.  And who knows, maybe they will emerge from this process as your new leaders.

4.  Know Your Community

This is my shortest point.  Make sure you know your community and if you do not, have the Vision Team plan some “field trips” out in your community, not to witness to others, but simply getting to know them.  Why?  I’m so glad you asked me that.  Because the Vision will include reaching out to them in ways that will open the door for them to become disciples of Jesus.  Right now I’m thinking about Matthew 9:10-11

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.  But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

This wasn’t an isolated incident.  Jesus was always in the middle of where people lived every day.  He was down at the pier where some fishermen were working.  He was in the homes of everyday ordinary people.  If you do not know your real community you cannot find the True Vision.  God is always moving towards people and not away from them.

5.  Start With A Blank Sheet Of Paper

Now that you have done the legwork and homework you are ready to start.  But make sure that you set aside everything that you are doing now.  This isn’t a peer evaluation nor a time to measure how effective our current programs are doing.  Remember, Vision is not about programs, but about the activity of God through the Holy Spirit.  You are to dream God-Sized Dreams; something you can never do unless God is with you and working through you.  Most congregations have never done this because most often decisions are made based on budgets, staff and volunteers (oh, and traditions).  We are not talking about “what is”, but “what will be” when the rule of God happens, when Jesus becomes the Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit is our Guide and only source of power.

Take meticulous notes on everything you talk about and dream about.  I have set up a Shared Folder on Google Drive for our Vision Team to keep notes.  ONLY members of the Vision Team have access to and rights to add or edit any file kept there.  I recommend Google because not everyone has Microsoft WORD™ on their computer and Google Drive has “Google Docs™” that anyone can use on the internet and is compatible with WORD™.

Here is something to remember:  Expect Failures Before The Final Success.  Not every idea or dream we have fits God’s Dream.  What I am trying to say is do not wait until everyone is 100% agreed on what the Vision should be and say.  The key is to allow the free flow of thoughts, hopes and aspirations for somewhere in the middle of all of them is God’s Dream!  Oh, and that part about keeping great notes?  One never knows when something brought up now will become important in the future.  God has a funny way of doing that.

Now, a final word to my fellow Pastors:

Stay Out Of The Way!

Do not, under any circumstances, be the official or unofficial leader of the Vision Team.  I’m not saying you would do this, BUT if you are leading the Team it will give to some the appearance of being “your vision” and not God’s Vision.  Your role as Pastor is to be both Coach and Cheerleader.  I am attending the first Team meeting and then I am stepping out of the way, and they will know it and why.  As Pastor, I will attend meetings only when requested to answer questions that will come up.  This congregation knows up front this is part of the process and why.  And I will show up occasionally to encourage and to ask them how the process is going.  It’s called “accountability” and that is part of my calling and role as a lead pastor.  My deepest desire, my ONLY desire is that God’s Vision becomes clear and that together we faithfully follow it as we live out our faith in the Kingdom of God.

 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

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