Where there is no vision, the people perish
Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
Of all of the things that I have seen, the one that is most destructive for any local church body is a lack of a vision. Gossip can be dealt with, divisions can happen but they can be dealt with; how can you deal with a lack of vision? This results in a church that goes nowhere. It might amble on for a while, but then someone comes up with a really great idea, and there is no way to tell if that idea will move the church forward or sideways because nobody has any thought about where to go.
Sometimes Christians feel that churches should exist to meet the needs of those less fortunate, so they push for programs to meet those needs… and the church dies, but nobody can figure out why. Didn’t Jesus urge His followers to help the poor and sick? Yes, He did, but that wasn’t why He established His church!
We know exactly why Jesus established His church, it’s in the church’s Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
If this is what we, as the Body of Christ are commanded to do, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should have a vision in our local churches that encompasses this imperative? I would say so!
I found myself in a church that utterly lacked direction and vision, and had been so blinded for a quarter of a century with predictable results. For reasons that I’ve never quite been able to comprehend, I was asked to join the leadership of the church after I had been there for a couple of years. As the “new kid” in the group, I decided that early on I would mostly just listen, and boy did I hear a lot of nothing. Now, to be fair, I wasn’t new to church leadership by any means, but I was new in town and new in that church; in fact after being there over two years, I was still the newest member of the congregation! Seldom did I ever hear anyone mention God’s purpose for the church when something was discussed; it was usually all about what would be fun and what would be popular with the “old people.” At first I thought they meant elderly people, but I came to realize that they meant the ones who had been in that church the longest: Yikes!
I convinced the other leaders that we should adopt a vision for the church that we would apply to everything we did, and they agreed that I could develop and present a proposal. My proposal took the form of a 12 page document that contained the Biblical imperatives for the church, discussed the various aspects of the application of these principles, drafted a ‘Vision Statement’ and outlined a method of implementation of the Vision Statement so as to impress upon the congregation its importance to the life of the church… and shock of all shocks, they agreed! This was the beginning of the complete transformation of our church.
The Vision Statement that I came up with was nothing more than a re-statement of Matthew 28:18-20 in a form that showed the two aspects of the passage: GO and TEACH TO OBEY. Most Christians have a handle on the GO part, but once the person comes to Christ they seem to think that the job is done, when in fact it has only just begun: That kills churches!
Here’s what I came up with:
The Vision of Milan Christian Church is to take the Gospel of Christ to those who need to hear it, to bring them into relationship with Christ through the waters of Christian Baptism, to teach them to become disciples of Christ, and to equip and encourage all Christians to live their lives as Christ would live.
You may well wish to criticize this for one reason or another, and that’s fine by me. I am not suggesting that these are divinely inspired words. Some might say that it’s too long, but as I see it, a vision statement is not a slogan, nor is it a mission statement for a company or other secular organization. I have seen some churches that have a similar statement that says something like “Our vision is to bring about the Great Commission” or something along those lines, and that might be easier to remember, but most people aren’t sure what that is, so I spelled it our as applied theology. (Oh, sorry, I wasn’t going to be ‘academic’ in this)
This post is getting kind of long and I want to be respectful of your time, so tomorrow let’s pick it up from here. I would like to pique your curiosity by leaving you with one little point…
From the day that our leadership decided to implement this vision statement, each and every ministry activity that goes on in our church must explain how that activity will accomplish our vision, even if it is obvious. It always amazes me how many people want to lead a ministry, but have never given any thought to how it fits into God’s purpose for the church… but these days, we have solved that problem by forcing them to think about it, and our ministries all have God’s priority as their priority, and the people no longer perish!