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The New Testament church was born as a fulfillment to the prophet Joels words: Your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams (Acts 2:17). The church continues to move ahead when there are church leaders out in front dreaming dreams and casting a vision of the future for their members. A professor at the Harvard University School of Business recently said, The task of leadership is change. Leaders inspire others to their best efforts in order to do better, to attain higher purposes. Leaders are not satisfied with the status quo. They are not satisfied with maintaining things as they are. They are idealists who believe things can be better.
Indeed a church without a clear vision is one without purpose or direction. Yet many churches dont take the time to articulate a clear vision for their church. Yes, the church is to be about evangelism, ministry, worship and discipleship, but vision more specifically communicates how the church leaders see their church accomplishing such in its local church context.
I recently had lunch with a minister in his early sixties, who began working with a small, rural congregation just over a year ago. You could see the excitement in his eyes. He spoke of the wonderful growth that God was sending to their church. For years the church membership had leveled off in the 60s and 70s, but today the church has over 150 members and has recently purchased eight acres of land to begin planning towards a new facility. Why the change? Why had growth come to their congregation at this point in time and not in the past?
The answer can be found in the vision cast by its leaders. Yes, it is God himself who brings growth to a church (Col. 2:19). But we as church leaders have an important part in nurturing the health that brings lasting church growth and authentic spiritual renewal to a congregation.
I believe what God is trying to teach us is that church growth lies not in the latest church growth methodology, but is found simply in doing those things that brings the greatest level of health to the body of Christ. In the same way that health brings growth to our physical body, God honors healthy churches with spiritual and numerical growth.
The health of this small, growing rural church was evident. But how did that health come about? The minister spoke of a meeting with the elders and deacons a year earlier. The purpose of the meeting was to come together to dream dreams, to think about future plans for the church, and to imagine where they wanted to see their church family in five, ten and twenty years in the future.
Less than one year later much of their vision and plans had already come to pass: An increased level of spiritual and numerical growth, a full time minister, improved facilities, improved congregational stewardship, development of a small group ministry, appointment of elders and deacons, and a year-round calendar of activities for their young people. The conclusion: Vision works!
Our vision for the church, however, must be based upon an understanding of Gods will for us. Jesus said I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). It is His church. He died to establish the church and it is His purpose we are seeking to become clearly focused upon. Our vision, then, must be aligned with the same vision Christ has for His church.
For that reason visionary church leaders must use Gods Word as the basis for their vision, with an emphasis on the vision being applicable to their current situation and desired future state, and then tailoring that vision to reach their local community for Christ.
Would you describe your church as a visionary church with visionary leadership? If not, let me suggest a method for your church to begin the process.
Make sure to have a flipchart to write notes on. (I personally like the new flipcharts that have special paper made to adhere to any type of wall surface. As each page of notes is completed, tear if off and put it up on the wall)
The good news is that no matter what situation you face in your local congregation, God wants your church to be healthy, and His desire is to bring spiritual and numerical growth to your church family! I encourage you to make great plans, dream big, and create a vision for your church that will inspire your members to accomplish great things for the Lords Kingdom.
HEARTLIGHT® Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
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Article copyright © 1998, Archie Luper. Used by permission.
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