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A vision for the church

Allen Browne

(Photo: Unsplash)

The vision night for our church got me thinking about how we set goals.

What’s the vision of your church? Do you have an annual goal-setting time when leaders reveal targets for the coming year and call people to get behind them?

The church I attend gave a very different vision presentation last night. Missing were all the usual goals for greater attendance, giving, and volunteerism as a measure of the people’s buy-in of church programmes.

Not very SMART

SMART goals make sense in business — overseeing outcomes that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. That won’t work in a church where God is doing stuff: we can never manage God like that.

So how do we discover what God is doing? Well, he tends to work in people, so we could start there. If we believe that every believer is a minister in the service of King Jesus, we look for what he’s doing in and through them.

That turns everything upside down, doesn’t it? Instead of asking people to support the church’s programmes, we end up supporting them.

This is so liberating! Instead of working to convince people that our goals are worth their effort, we just help them find what God has already placed in their hearts, what the presence of Christ in them is calling and empowering them to do in his world.

That’s what we did. For twelve months, we listened to what God was doing in his people. We put those things in words. Since it’s what God is doing, there’s no need to sell the vision.

What goals?

So, what did we find? What where the basics we found God building?

  1. Everyone known in community
  2. Everyone formed in Christ
  3. Everyone a blessing in the city

Everyone is an audacious goal, but that is the heart of the Great Shepherd. In a culture that seeks self-fulfilment and fears being hurt by others, we all yearn for connection and belonging. The Saviour is rescuing us from oppression, forming us into a city that ultimately fills his world, a new Jerusalem where the Lamb’s presence restores everyone and everything. We bear his heart, his sensitivity for people, especially the ones who feel they don’t have a place in community.

And in community, we discover what it means to be human. Our humanity is developing as together we’re formed in him (Ephesians 4:15-16). We don’t need to get the church working to serve its leaders; all we need do is partner with God as he forms people into Christ. The whole harvest unfolds from there.

When we stop asking people to give their lives to serve our local church’s goals, we free them up to carry the blessing of God’s presence in the wider world. I guess the scary part is that we’re no longer in control of the process. We can’t supervise what God is doing, and much of the divine blessing is being poured out in the city, beyond the church walls.

It’s alive!

Manufacturing outcomes is the wrong metaphor for church vision. We’re not factories, but farms where God is growing a harvest:

Mark 4:26–29 (ESV)
26 The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

That was Jesus’ paradigm for ministry. The farmer doesn’t make the seeds and plants grow; he just sows and reaps. The rest of it happens by itself. Seeds come to harvest because God decreed fruitfulness for his earthly realm in the beginning. Lives are transformed because the Spirit germinates the life of Christ in us.

This is so liberating! It takes the pressure of everyone. It’s alive with God’s life.

What do you think?

Is your church already listening for what God is doing in his people, rather than setting goals we can manage?

Do the three goals above relate to what God is doing in your church, or what do you see there?

How do we hear about the outcomes of the third one? We can see people becoming known in community, and we can model being formed in Christ, but to hear about the blessings that extend beyond us? Maybe we need to invite people to tell stories when we meet, to hear and inspire each other.

How do you understand our King leading his earthly realm? How do we support each other as kingdom servants?

Related posts

On Christ’s goals for the church in Ephesians 4:

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia
View all posts by Allen Browne

Used with permission of the author, Allen Browne.

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