With A “Vision” The People Often Perish
In fact Habakkuk 2:2 “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets”
Matthew 11:12 “The Kingdom advances because forceful men lay hold of it”
were my pastoral “one, two…punch” so to speak.
And I always figured I did better than Habakkuk since he only wrote his vision on tablets but I made xerox copies for each and every church member. We would then spend a Sunday morning every 6 months or so going through the vision so everyone could “get on board”.
These were some of my favorite Sunday services as there was nothing I enjoyed more than casting MY vision and getting everyone to see it as THEIR vision. (And if I was really lucky, maybe someone would get the vision for volunteering for a job I didn’ t want to do.)
Oh, it was a good vision. There were
- short term goals
- long term goals
- attributes we wanted to have
- How we were going to do it!
backed with a healthy dose of scripture references to demonstrate to everyone that God’s vision and mine were one and the same.
We were biblical, but cool, artsy, and relevant!
Equip our people and impact our city for Jesus was my goal. Sounds pretty good right?
Except, underlining many a church vision statement is the hidden desire to make a name for yourself. At the time I was part of a network of churches where I was just one of many church plants around the world. A couple times a year a large number would gather for a conference and although no one would like to admit it, we all wanted to have “produced” since we last saw each other. We all wanted to have some measure of success (usually equating to increased numbers) that would validate us in the eyes of our peers.
The message and encouragement at these gatherings was that “it’s not about numbers”, but deep down we all knew it was all about the numbers.
The pastor who grew their church from 50 to 500 was going to be the guy everyone was talking about. The guy who was saw his church shrink from 75 to 25 and whose marriage and personal life was taking a toll because of it was a cautionary tale.
“So Steve how are things going for you and Tammy in Hong Kong?”
“We’re doing well,” I would answer, “church is growing.”
“Oh, how many people do you have now?”
(Mmmm I would think to myself. How many people do we have? Can I count that couple that visited twice last month. Sure, they came back, so they count. Am I allowed to include numbers of children in this answer?)
Lest you misunderstand, most of these pastors are sincere men and women who genuinely entered ministry with a desire to connect people to God.
It’s just that we bought into a religious system that was much bigger than we were.
We convinced ourselves that we were shepherding New Testament expressions of the local church but really we had just incorporated a business model of expected growth and return on investment with the pastor operating as the CEO. The communion of saints was subtlety transformed into a customer base.
As much as I would have hated to admit it, even I started to separate people in my mind as who are the “right” people for my church and who were the “wrong” people. Not surprisingly the “right” people tended to be well educated people with good jobs and little personal baggage. People who gave more than they needed and could run with my, …I mean, the church’s vision .
The “wrong” people tended to go from job to job, have “issues” that demanded a lot of time and, lets be honest, there is hardly a pastor (myself included) who hasn’t secretly breathed a sigh of relief when one of these “wrong” people decided they are “called” to attend another church.
But here’s the thing that kept nawing at me. Jesus spent an awfully large amount of his time with the “wrong” sort of people.
He spent time with the men who drank to much and had really unsafe sex
He spent time with women who sold their bodies for money
He spent time people who went from spouse to spouse
He spent time with corrupt officials who were betraying their own people.
What was Jesus trying to “build”? Did he even have a “Vision and Values” statement?
Yes, Jesus did indeed have a vision but his vision was that he valued people!
He told hurting men and women that God loves them. That they were his children and part of his family.
That they belonged!
Jesus’ vision? Love God, Love People
Then he chooses a team of guys to help promote his radical vision. And who does he end up choosing…all the “wrong” people. The unschooled, the simple, the unimpressive.
Ok, so maybe I still am a “vision and values” pastor, it’s just that I have a much better vision to share…
…and better yet, it’s not even my vision!
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