DOES YOUR CHURCH HAVE A VISION?

 Blossom White
National Director Department of Missions and Evangelism

 

Over the past two years, pastors and churches in the Missionary Church in Jamaica have been asked to include the vision of their church as a part of their Annual Conference report. The stating of a vision is arrived at by focusing on a precise plan and purpose for the church. 

John Stott describes vision as an act of seeing. It is an imaginative perception of things, combining insight and foresight. It involves imagination and judgment. But more particularly according to Stott, it is compounded with a deep dissatisfaction with what is, and a clear grasp of what could be. In fact, it ferments out of the struggle of what is, as opposed to what should be. “Indignation is indispensable to vision.” 

Research shows that every successful organization has a vision and the church should be no different. It means that there is a clear understanding of what God’s plan is for the future. It involves dreaming about what a situation would look like if God’s will were done. 

In a study carried out on twenty-four successful churches in the United States, George Barna describes some characteristics which healthy, growing churches had in common. One is the vision – a clear understanding of God’s plan, which these churches had. The following points were identified and which could perhaps assist any church, which so desires. 

1.    The vision of the church is not perceived to be that of the pastor, or a strategic planning committee, neither is it one which is promoted by the denomination. Instead, it is what is understood as God’s vision for the church at the local level and it is arrived at through a significant amount of study, prayer and discussion. 

2.    In each successful church, passion for the vision is handed down from the top of the church leadership ladder – that is, from the pastor down.  

The pastor, the leaders and the church staff have to be fully behind the vision. If they are not, the chances of creating a congregation which passionately follows the plan, has little chance of success. The vision invariably starts with the pastor and is then passed on. However, the leaders cannot be the only ones to possess the vision. 

3.    One of the most crucial responsibilities of each individual in the church is to catch the vision and transfer it to others. Therefore if the leadership does not pass on the vision to the body with excitement and fervour, it will bear no fruit. It has to be shared and embraced by the rest of the church. Ownership of the vision by the membership is a crucial part of the church’s success. 

4.    The vision must become the call to action that motivates the entire congregation. It must become the filter through which all church activities are evaluated. Activities which coincide with the vision must be pursued and those which fall outside the perimeters of the vision must be rejected. At all times, the words, actions and programmes of the leadership  must reinforce the vision. 

5.    Barna stated that In all of the growing healthy churches, the average member was able to say what the vision was. Although each person might use different words, different examples and even different applications, the vision was essentially the same. This must be the reality in every church which has a vision. 

But to go one step beyond, in successful churches, people are encouraged to express the vision through lifestyle. This means more than repetition of the right words. Although Barna found there was a variation in the degree of emphasis from church to church, all of the growing churches clearly believed that their behavioural modeling was the most effective means of communicating the vision to people outside the church. A vision that is translated into action by the people is a vision that has real support and leadership.  

6.    A church with a vision is focused, because it has the ability to communicate a clear direction and purpose. The church’s attention and energy must be concentrated on a specific goal that it believes God has commissioned it to accomplish. From Barna’s research, successful churches acknowledged that they could not accomplish everything, and being spread too thinly was not a virtue. They therefore composed vision statements that defined specific target audience and missions that would serve as the focus of the church outreach. 

Yet, church leaders were careful not to undermine the perceived ministry of an individual when it was different from the focus of the church at large. Individuals were encouraged to fulfill the vision for ministry God had given them, and to seek creative ways in which that outreach might be done in cooperation with what the church was doing. 

7.    The successful, healthy churches articulated the vision and communicated it through a well-conceived strategy. Among the strategies used for passing on the vision to others, churches did the following: 

·        In the new member’s class, the time was taken to explain  the vision in detail.  

The churches also: 

·        Preached an annual sermon devoted to restating the vision and tying it to the goals and programmes of the church. 

·        Placed a statement of the vision in the weekly bulletin/programme, newsletter or a church publication. 

·        Provided an audiotape of the vision (explained by the pastor) to all who were involved in the church. 

·        Had every ministry leader (elders, deacons, heads of departments and auxiliaries) include in any request for new resources (money, time, labour, materials) a justification based upon the meshing of the activity with the vision. 

8.    In all growing churches, every leader and the average member was able to state the vision for the church in one or two sentences. If the vision statement takes more than two sentences, it may not be clear enough for people to grab it as their own it. If it is too broad, it is almost equal to no vision at all. The vision statement should therefore be stated with precision, and should enable the church to evaluate how each ministry fits in.  

So as a church: 

-         Pray about the vision

-         Know what God wants

-         Write it down

-         Focus on it

-         Plan to fulfill it

-         Put strategies in place.

-         Be passionate about it

-         Implement the plan

-         Put your heart into it

The question therefore is: 

WHAT IS THE VISION, MISSION OR PURPOSE OF YOUR CHURCH? 

Does your church have a vision?

 

Copyright  © April 2006, Missionary Church Association in Jamaica

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