Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Principles for Progress in the Church, Part 3: Vision

Can you imagine the end of your life? Most people probably don’t want to do that. But I mean it in the best possible way. Imagine that you have reached old age, and that you are satisfied and content with the way your life and ongoing legacy have turned out.

It’s what I affectionately call the rocking chair moment: You’re near the end of your life sitting in cozy chair with your favorite coffee or tea, and you’re thinking through all that God has done in and through you. Again, imagine that things turned out the way you would want them.

Can you imagine that scenario? Now ask yourself: What would have to happen in order for that life reflection to be a satisfying one? How would you have treated your spouse, or what would you have done with your single life? Your children? Your career? Your finances? Once you think through what that would look like, what would you need to do in the next 30 years in order to get there? The next 20? 10? What would you need to do now in order to get there?

Now apply that to the church. What would we need to do in our churches to get us where we would want to one day be? We would probably come up with ideas that are different than what we’re actually currently doing on a weekly basis.

We have been looking at principles for progress in the church, and have noted that making progress requires intentional and strategic action. In the previous post, I mentioned that after understanding God’s purpose for the church, every local church should agree upon mutually held values. Once values are agreed upon, it’s time to start thinking about God’s vision for your church.


With godly values in place, develop a church vision for what you pray your church will become by God’s grace and ability. The next logical step is to ask God to show you what our church can become—for His glory.

Think of your vision as God’s guiding work to make you into what He has already planned. Notice how the KJV translates Proverbs 29.18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish….” We can see that the proverb is saying that when there is no guiding, agreed-upon principle, people throw off any restraint and recklessly do whatever they want.

But there’s more. The word behind what was translated vision has the sense of revelation. In other words, we need to hear God’s desire and plans, and then build our lives around that. The second half of the verse makes that clear. Here it is in the HCSB:

Without revelation people run wild,
but one who listens to instruction will be happy.
(Proverbs 29.18)

So vision does involve dreaming up big plans, but not without the revelation and instruction of God, primarily through His Word, driving the dreaming. How do we do it? I think Paul gives us an idea of that in Philippians.

For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (19) Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, (20) but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3.18-20, HCSB)

The answer is that we start to dream and cast a vision for our churches as citizens of heaven. I think there is an interesting play on words in verse 20 above. Certainly it is true that the Savior for whom we wait will come again from heaven. But Paul was also addressing their (and our) mindset as citizens of heaven. Our thoughts should be there. So while we wait for Him to return, through heavenly thinking it’s as though the work is already accomplished, and as though we wait from there for Him to finalize the work down here.

In other words, take a heavenly view of life now.

Outline a vision based on lasting, godly values. Ask:

  • What type of church will we be?
  • How will we spend our funds?
  • How can God use us in the coming months…years?
  • What can we be doing now to prepare ourselves for Him to work in and through us?

When we do so, we’ll be casting a lasting vision for ourselves, our families, and our churches, that is driven by His purposes and shaped by His values. Next time we’ll look at setting goals.

[This is part 3 of 5 in the series, Principles for Progress in the Church. Here are the previous posts: Part 1, Part 2.]