Does Your Church Need A Vision Statement?
By Paul Anderson
Is a vision statement necessary? Yes and no. Churches need a sense of direction, just like a company or a sports team. You need to feel like you’re going somewhere in order to attract people. Many churches are into maintenance more than mission, survival more than significance. The ’90s stressed vision statements, so many church councils went off on retreats and came back with mission statements, most of which were generic enough to be applied to every other church in the county. Did they provide vision for the church? Hardly, but the people felt good that they at last had a mission statement. What was wrong?
Vision comes to an individual, not to a committee.
There is no example in Scripture in which a vision came to a group. God speaks to an anointed leader, who receives the vision and agrees (sometimes reluctantly) to carry out the vision. Noah received the vision to build the ark, Abraham received the vision to start a new family, Moses received the vision to lead the exodus, Joseph received the vision to lead his people through plenty and through famine, Nehemiah received the vision to build the wall, David received the vision to reign as the warrior king, Jeremiah received the vision to prophesy against Judah, Paul received the vision to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Vision comes in God’s timing, not ours.
You can’t force a vision by saying you are going off for a weekend to get the vision for the church. It comes as we seek the Giver of visions and are sensitive to His holy will. A vision comes from heaven, but earth must be open to receive it. Some people don’t have a vision because they haven’t been ready and willing to receive one. Pastors and congregational leaders should pray, “God, give us Your vision for the people you have called us to lead. Show us where You are taking us, so we can follow you.”
A vision is something you see, not just something you think.
Noah saw a boat, Abraham saw a family, Moses saw the Promised Land, and Nehemiah saw a wall. Florence Nightingale saw clean hospitals, caring properly for the sick. Yongghi Cho saw a large sanctuary full of people when it was actually empty. Lutheran Renewal sees dead churches coming alive, worshipping in spirit and in truth, relying on the life-giving Spirit.
A vision must be communicated with others.
A leader sees it-then he says it. Vision is shared as an anointed leader draws others into the vision. Noah’s family bought into the vision and helped build the ark. Moses shared the vision with the children of Israel and they believed him, although they often struggled with his authority. Nehemiah shared his vision and the people said, “Let us rise up and build.” David began to gather around him able men who shared his vision. A vision is a rallying call to those who are looking for a leader with a sense of mission, with a purpose worth following. A leader who is going somewhere will have followers. While teams don’t get a vision, they are essential in carrying out a vision. Teams are also important as they help answer questions which support a vision, like: “Who are we?” “What do we value?” “How do we make things work?” A leadership team is also able to hone a vision once it has been communicated.
A divinely given vision effects everything.
It is central, not peripheral, to a church, an organization, or an individual. Just look at the people already named-Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Nehemiah, and the rest. They lived their vision. It was not a written document that they filed away and made reference to on important holidays. It defined their life. Success, then, can be measured by whether or not the vision is realized. A half-complete ark, or a two-thirds complete wall or a smelly, inefficient hospital would mean that the vision was not accomplished. Jesus didn’t come to preach or teach or model the good life-He came to die. When He breathed his last, He cried out, “It is finished.” He had accomplished what He was sent to do. Paul could say near his death, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…”
A vision often relates to a person’s gifting or passion.
There is sometimes a naturalness to vision that fits the leader. Abraham’s entrepreneurial outlook fit the vision God gave him of leaving his home and starting again in a new land. Nehemiah’s vision fit his administrative gifts, and likewise for Joseph and Florence. David’s vision of building a temple did not fit him, although he had a heart to do it. He was a warrior-king; his son, Solomon, was more the builder-administrator, and God chose him for the construction of the temple. Different leaders bring different gifts and therefore different emphases. That means that congregations need to be open to change, and leaders need to be open to God’s call for a congregation. Optimally, a visionary pastor will remain long enough in one place to see a vision at least realized in part. Sometimes, a transition in leadership is needed to bring a vision to completion, as in the case of Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon.
Vision requires faith for implementation, because it is bigger than life.
Joseph’s vision could not have been carried out by Joseph, but he was faithful in the little things. He did his part-and God did His. Because a vision comes from God, it requires the presence of God for the fulfillment. That is why people of vision are people of faith. They can see what other people cannot see. The people in Moses’ day could only feel the oppression. The people in Nehemiah’s day could only see the rubble. Leaders see beyond the present to the future-and are able to take people with them. When followers begin to see what the leader sees, hope replaces despair.
But some may ask, “Isn’t the vision for every church basically the same?” True, each church is called to disciple people to Christ and equip them to do the ministry, but the way it functions will be determined by its own destiny, just as the churches of the Revelation each had individual strengths. One church may target baby boomers, while another has a strong family emphasis, or a missionary focus, or a special ministry to the poor. So to answer the original question-yes, every church needs a vision, but the way it comes and is carried out will be unique to each congregation.
You May be the Answer to a Mother’s Prayer
By Denise Siemens
I had just placed the order for 100 helium balloons at the counter of the party supply store. As the clerk was pulling the various colors, I decided to go to another department to choose something else for the school-sponsored party. When I came back to the counter, the clerk was talking to a young woman in her early ’20s. I walked up and noticed that the she had bruises and scrapes on her arms and face. She had come into the store hoping to find a friend of hers who was employed there. Even though I was standing there, she kept right on talking to the clerk. As I listened, I found out that “Sarah” had been beaten by her boyfriend of three years; it wasn’t the first time.
I usually don’t interrupt private conversations, but Sarah would look over at me while she was recounting what was happening. I started asking some questions to get a better idea of the situation, and the Lord prompted me to share His love for her. I told her of God’s love, and how it is never OK for anyone to hit us. I talked of how special she was in God’s sight, and that it hurt His heart to see her being treated that way. The clerk who was still standing there just nodded her head in agreement.
The friend that Sarah was looking for wasn’t at work that day, because she was at her other job. Sarah was going to walk to that store, but since I was on my way out, I offered to give her a ride. During our time in the car, I found out that the family of the friend had given her support on other occasions when she had been abused by this boyfriend, so I knew that she had a safe place to go. When we got to the parking lot, I asked her if I could pray for her before she went in. She agreed, so I parked in a remote area of the parking lot. I prayed that she would come to know the love of the Father; that she would understand such a great love that He sent His only son into the world. When we looked up, she had been crying. I looked her in the eyes and said, “You know, it really is true. His love can heal and restore you. He loves you very much.” Through her tears she answered, “Yeah, that’s what my mom tells me all of the time.”
As I later told Dan of that experience, and what Sarah had told me after I had prayed for her, he said, “Denise, you were the answer to a mother’s prayer.” The depth of that realization caused us both to start crying as we felt in our hearts all of the love and pain and longing that the mother must be feeling for her daughter. We also sensed the heart of the Father who was also feeling both the pain of the mother and that of the daughter.
This story is for all of the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and co-workers who are praying for the souls of those you love. Don’t give up-don’t lose hope. Your prayers are not falling back to earth. God hears your prayers, and you can rest assured that He is working to bring your loved ones to the knowledge of the truth. You are praying according to His will as you pray for salvation to come to others (I Tim. 2:3). You can pray with confidence and boldness knowing that this is His will.
Sometimes, especially after we’ve prayed for many years, we may become discouraged. We wonder, if the answer hasn’t come yet, will it ever come at all? We need to remember the story in Daniel 10 where Daniel had been fasting and praying for 21 days. A heavenly messenger appeared to Daniel and told him how he was detained from bringing a response because of war in the heavenlies where even the angel, Michael, was called upon to assist in the battle. The war for the souls of mankind is not fought here on earth, but is fought in the heavenly realm (Eph. 6: 12). Even though we may not see a lot of action in response to our prayers, we can rest in the knowledge that the battle is being fought in the spiritual world.
We have hope because we have assurance that salvation is His will for all people. Hope is only operative when we don’t see the answer. When we see the answer, we don’t need to hope anymore, because the reality of the situation takes away the need for hope. We don’t hope because of our confidence in how well we pray, or in what a good witness we are, or in how well we can explain the Bible. We hope because we are convinced of the power of the love of God, and “hope does not disappoint because of the love of God who has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:5). We hope in the God who is, not in who we are. We look to him, not to the present circumstances. We believe that He will move heaven and earth to accomplish His will in those we love, and there will be times when we are unaware of all that He is doing. He will communicate this love in the most unlikely ways and in the most unlikely places. And He may even use you.
Denise Siemens along with her husband, Dan, is on staff with Lutheran Renewal. They have two teenage daughters. Denise feels especially called to bring a message of freedom, release, and joy to the Church.
Dancing in the Wind
By Shirley Lambert – Westminster, CO
with my Lord
to the rhythmic music
of the wind,
through the lilies of the field
of His grace,
underneath the covering shawl
of His forgiveness.
a day, a millennium,
in the sunrise of eternity,
Blessing the Lord,
in an unfettered,