Church 2.0: Part 10.15: Vision-casting, Part 2

Church2I have a few more thoughts on this subject to share.

First, remember that God equips certain members of the church as pilots — people equipped to navigate the church between the rocks and shoals.

We assume that these people are elders, and that would be fortuitous indeed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The church’s best pilots may be on staff or a part of the ladies Bible class or volunteers in the food pantry program. Find these people and have them help in designing the vision-discernment effort.

Second, “vision” does NOT mean “vision statement.” I have no interest in vision statements. I think they’re a waste of time because they inevitably say too much. Committees strive for perfection, and in church work, that means comprehensive doctrinal correctness. So while a vision statement ought to be along the lines of “Seeking the lost,” we’d far rather say, “Training, praying, serving, and helping those having spiritual and/or physical needs.” Blech … I find no guidance or direction in a 30-word vision statement that sounds like the product of a committee.

The subject, you see, is vision not vision statements. A vision is something someone sees. And the goal of the process is to help the church see what it could be if, with God’s help, the church is led to realize the vision.

It’s not a vision statement about educating the illiterate. It’s being able to see in one’s mind’s eye what the church would look like if we educated the illiterate and brought to Jesus many of those we teach while we’re at it. Think about it. Picture it. Envision it.

Can you see study centers? Someone visiting social agencies and low-income housing to recruit persons to educate? Training sessions for the teachers? Literature designed by experts to help an adult learn to read while learning about Jesus? Follow up classes and programs? Training teachers on how to live and share Jesus while teaching the alphabet to adults? Doing it right by consulting with other churches that have done this successfully? Secular nonprofits that have had success? Talking to experienced leaders about how to do it right and what mistakes to avoid?

Just asking the questions helps paint the picture. But a vision statement about adult literacy and Jesus does not. In fact, it tends to create the impression that we’ve already done the hard work, when in fact we haven’t even begun.

Now, if the preacher can help the church to see the vision in fact — and to see that this is God’s vision for this church at this time — then he’s got something for the ol’ resume. And he’s done great work for the congregation he serves.

And if he’s done this, then the members will develop the habit of asking whether the church they see today looks like the church they’ve envisioned. And when it doesn’t, they’ll know that it doesn’t — and likely why it doesn’t, because the vision has been painted so very clearly. Even if they haven’t memorized the vision statement.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to Church 2.0: Part 10.15: Vision-casting, Part 2

  1. John says:

    When we speak of the vision of the church, especially that of denominations such as the Church of Christ, Independent Christian Church, Southern Baptist, etc, the question must be asked, “Are we willing to be more than a cultural church?” From what I see, because of the social changes that have taken place, churches such as these have pretty much settled into being the “best Biblical southern culture churches” they can be. Because of the misnomer that the southern culture is the bastion of morality, many congregations of these denominations see being Biblical and protecting the culture as one and the same, and as long as this notion persists, then having a vision and being a force for spirituality in the nation as a whole will only be something discussed rather than actually desired.

  2. Amen and amen, with a hear, hear (as in harken) thrown in as well!. Most vision statements are little but platitudes that do not paint a picture and do somewhere between zero and nada to inspire action.

    On the other hand, questions such as, ‘what if we…?,’ ‘why don’t we do…?,’ or ‘who in our neighborhood is hurting and how can we help?’ just might get a few folks engaged. Those few, with some success under their belt, will inspire (excite?) others to help in that project or even to see other opportunities.

  3. David Himes says:

    Personally, the best vision statement I can imagine is taken from John 13 and John 15: Love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you and gave my life for you.
    what else is there to say?

  4. Ray Downen says:

    John speaks of “denominations such as the Church of Christ, Independent Christian Church, Southern Baptist, etc,” and may be right on the Baptists, but surely is wrong in naming the first two denominations. Is there a denomination called “Church of Christ”? I know of none. I know of many Church of Christ groups of congregations, but a denomination has headquarters and officers and the “Church of Christ” has neither. Same with “Independent Christian Church.” I’m a member of one independent Christian Church. I promise we have no headquarters and no officers and no denomination. As a group of churches we are PROPERLY called “Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.” And we are a GROUP OF INDEPENDENT CHURCHES, not in any way a denominational organization.

    In our small city, we have several Churches of Christ. They are less united than our separate Christian Churches. Two congregations are one-cup, and they seek no fellowship with the other churches of Christ. I know of no fellowship between the one smaller church which is located about half-way (in compass directions) between the two larger churches of Christ. If there is any fellowship between any of the churches of Christ in this city, I haven’t heard of it. What’s sure is there is no headquarters recognized by any one of those congregations, and the same is true of the non-Disciple Christian Churches.

    Two congregations are part of a denomination, the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church). The several other congregations in the area are not associated with any denominational organization. This includes two quite small congregations and two very large ones (one having usual attendance of over 2,000 most Sundays and the other with over 3,000 in attendance most Sundays) and several smaller congregations. Each is separately ruled, in no way part of any denomination which could control the finances or teaching of the congregation. John’s description simply is wrong in every way in listing Christian Churches or Churches of Christ as a denomination. Baptists, yes.

  5. Royce says:

    Oh, I get it Ray. In my pocket change I have groups of quarters, dimes, and pennies. The are not denominated, they are grouped.

    denomination; a recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church.
    synonyms: religious group, sect, cult, movement, body, branch, persuasion, order, school; church
    “a Christian denomination”

    1. denomination
    a religious group, usually including many local churches, often larger than a sect:

    a group of religious congregations having its own organization and a distinctive faith
    examples: Christian Church, Disciples of Christ
    a Protestant church that accepts the Bible as the only source of true Christian faith and practices baptism by immersion

    We use the English language and the usual meanings of words. And according to all the dictionaries your group is a denomination. I know there is a different, private definition for churches of Christ and Christian churches but it isn’t true and fewer and fewer and fewer people are buying it.

  6. As a brother who pays too much attention to words…please bear with me.

    “seeking the lost” is a mission statement. It is what we are or should be doing right now.

    I think Jay is getting closer to true vision in his paragraph that begins “Can you see study centers?”

    The vision that comes from the mission of “seeking the lost” is more like, “I can see entire family trees changed by the Gospel. I can see three generations into the future where grandchildren know Jesus Christ because of a few words spoken in love to a stranger this week.”

    And so on…

  7. Dwight says:

    It is true when we get to certain definitions we often change the definition in order to get around it. Denomination basically means to have a name or be grouped by a name. Once you take a name and then use it to differentiate from others and include with others by the name, you are denominational and sectarian in nature.

    Now the word or concept of denomination isn’t sinful as many would like to make it, even when applied to religion. Only sectarianism is.
    If you call yourselves Christians as many do and you call yourselves the church of Christ and bow down to the hierarchy of Christ as the head then you are by the coC definition a denomination.

    The reality is that nowhere in the gospels does it say to call yourself a name or to not call yourself a name. But it does indicate that it is sinful to divide along the lines of the names in I Cor.1-3.

    I know many who would call the Baptist a denomination and they would themselves, even though they don’t have a hierarchy set up where the individual congregations are controlled by a master organization. The individual churches are independent in rule, but will align with other churches and will listen to the arguments of the SBC, but still consider themselves independent.

  8. Thank you, Royce, for saying what I was thinking.

  9. Vision for a group committed to doing the will of God would of necessity come FROM God. Anything less would suggest that we cannot hear from God, and thus we cannot actually follow him. There is a difference between doing that which is of God, and that which is for God. The former carries the weight and unction of “thus saith the Lord”. The other can be nothing more than really good human intentions, and thus is subject to change, depending on what particular good intentions hold sway in the group at the time. The word of God carries with it the creative power of the Creator himself. Lacking this, a vision can be nothing more than persuasion to follow a course of action created by men and limited to the power of those men.

  10. Dwight says:

    True Charles, but in the OT God often gave men the freedom to form a plan of attack…literally. Very rarely did God tell man how to attack or make war, but did tell man to make war.
    Even in Jericho God told them how to take the walls down, but not how to assault the city.
    God often gives the basics and then wants man to carry it out, in whatever way it can be done.
    Often the limitations we place on ourselves is thinking that we must have a “thus saith the Lord” and in the end not doing anything.
    Those that were given the talents weren’t told what to do with them, but they were supposed to increase them.

  11. Dwight wrote “Often the limitations we place on ourselves is thinking that we must have a “thus saith the Lord” and in the end not doing anything.”

    Or even worse, we split the church when someone tries to do something because we don’t like either what they are doing or how (or neither).

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