Vision for the Present AND The Future

By Jordan Seth

We’ve recently been doing a sermon series called Flourish: A Vision to Flourish Our Church. I’m personally excited about this because I’m a big believer in casting vision from the pulpit often. Reminding the church of the overall mission and why we do things and talking about the future is important to do regularly. In my opinion, most churches don’t do this enough. Casting vision for a church has a way of reigniting a flame that may have dwindled and allows members to think creatively about new possibilities. Casting vision to the church can create an excitement that has the ability to bring new life and vitality to a church that may have just been “going through the motions” for a period of time. Reminding the church of the reason we want to stay on mission can also be an indicator that a pastor truly cares about his church and community. When we cease to cast vision, revisit the mission, and invite people into what’s happening, we can see our members (and ourselves) become idle within the church. Frustration can begin to mount and we often see members consider leaving the church altogether. Our pastors, leadership and staff may become complacent, and the church as a whole might become apathetic and plateau towards giving, inviting and serving. We’re seeing this happen in many of our smaller churches today.

On the flip side, casting vision can be difficult for many people. It’s usually the most difficult for church members who have been in a particular church a long time who have emotional attachments to positions and processes. Sometimes talking about the future can be uncomfortable, because in many instances, it involves change(s) to these positions and processes. Unless you truly have a healthy culture of regular revitalization within a church, change can be seen as something bad, unnecessary and unreasonable. For many life-long members of a particular church, casting vision or doing something different can result in the simple question heard around our nation, “Why change what has worked for us in the past?”

Speaking generally, this question is the result of our failing to teach our leaders the need to embrace change regularly. It has led to many of our leaders (not all) holding on to “the torch” of position and process so tightly that they were never taught to keep the flame growing through mentorship, with the eventual passing of the torch to the next generation. All the while, many of these same leaders are confused and frustrated with anyone within the church (adults, young adults and teens) who may not be stepping up into leadership the way we truly need them to do.

The fact of the matter is, throughout history, the Church and its leaders have constantly made changes to adapt with the culture and context to make the biggest impact possible for the Kingdom of God. We see this regularly throughout Scripture as it calls us to seek the Lord, to ask for new things, to be changed by the transformation and the renewing of our minds through Christ, and to encourage and edify the church through words, servanthood and regular seasons of change (Philippians 3:13, Isaiah 43:18-19, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 4:22-32, Romans 12:2). This does not mean we change our foundational beliefs as a whole, but rather, be willing to adapt to a new way of presenting it to our culture and trusting God to help plant and grow the seed in new and exciting ways. Many times, this means listening to the cultural needs of our future leaders who are currently in our church. Sometimes this means going back to square one with each ministry and leader position to ask, “Is what we’re doing still relevant to have a church that flourishes inside and out?”

I love the way Jeremy Foster talked about vision at a recent conference,

“You’ve got to get a clear vision for your [church’s] future, so your present can produce it.”

What he’s saying here is—if you never talk about the future; if you never ponder the things of heaven and where God may be leading the church as a whole; if you never consider new ways based on your culture; if you never raise up leaders with the tools they need; if you never seek God about where to use your individual talents and abilities within the context of your church; if you never hear your pastors, leadership and staff talk excitedly about all things new on the horizon—then, you will never fully get to the place of being a unified people. It is likely that many churches will have dissension, hitting a plateau and slowly letting the flame dwindle until it is extinguished. However, if the decision is made to call people into prayer and unity, trusting each other according to their talents and abilities, embracing change and taking Kingdom minded action, we might see new, flourishing churches sprout up all across our nation. The Bible calls us repeatedly into unification as being “like-minded” and “in-one-accord” with one another. The unification within a church that has a similar heart, soul, mind, spirit, prayer, mission, vision, and strategic plan forward is where amazing things happen. It’s where we see God live and move and breathe. It’s where we abandon ourselves to our own selfish desires so that God can use us in ways more than we could ever hope, dream or imagine.

I personally desire to see God move in our church at Hallsville UMC. I desire to see us unified, serving each other, building relationship and lifting each other up in word and deed in the name of Jesus. I desire to see us reaching out of our comfort zones, encouraging others to do the same. I desire for us to join together to have the biggest impact in our community possible. I desire for us to seek God in every available moment so that we might be in unity with God and His direction for our church…

—but none of this happens without a people who are willing to embrace Kingdom minded changes through prayer and unity.

So I ask you to prayerfully consider your personal answers to these five questions:

  • Will you pray with me that we become unified in prayer, vision and mission as one church body?
  • Will you trust and pray for our Pastor and our church Council to take us into the next chapter of our church, whatever that may be according to God’s will?
  • Will you prayerfully consider stepping out of your comfort zones to build relationship with people within our church?
  • Will you consider using your time, gifts, talents and abilities to further the Kingdom work of the church…even when it’s not convenient?
  • Will you pray for and begin to invite those in our community to come to church with you to hear the life-giving Word of God that they may have the opportunity to give their heart fully to Christ?

I hope your answer is an emphatic yes to most, if not all of these questions. I know mine is! I truly believe the Lord will guide our steps on this process. We will see the lost found; the proud humbled; the sick healed; and our church flourish. I can’t wait!