One of my former pastors defined vision as “being able to see the preferable future”. Andy Stanley defines vision as “being able to see what could be fueled by the conviction of what should be.
There is no doubt that it can be difficult to maintain focus on the vision in a local church setting. Most churches over time gravitate toward making decisions for the future based on what it takes to keep those inside the church happy rather than based on the need to reach those outside the church with the gospel of Jesus. Simply put, it is easy for vision to slip and drift.
How do you stay focused on vision? How do you stay outwardly focused in a local church context where you began with the idealistic dream of reaching those outside the church with the incredible message of redemption that Jesus offers?
In Andy Stanley’s booklet Making Vision Stick, he offers some gauges and indicators to keep your eye on that will signal vision slippage or vision drift. He mentions six organizational warning gauges that can warn you concerning the loss of vision or the gradual drift of the vision of your church.
This is a huge issue for Church Planters!
These gauges or indicators are divided into two major groups:
Projects, Products, and Programs
People or ideas that are presented for new programs can infringe upon the vision of the church. They can be GREAT ideas and potentially rewarding in how they attract and reach out to new people. They can be presented in a way that make them hard to resist and turn down. In the early stages of a new church they can seem necessary for survival. THEY CAN ALSO DISTRACT FROM THE VISION! Stanley refers to two practical ideas that surface in churches. Some people want to start a christian school and some people want to start a sports program run by the church. Starting a school most often results in changing the direction of the church. Starting a church sports program takes followers of Jesus off the recreational fields in the community where they have contact with unchurched, disconnected and unconvinced people. Why would you want to take followers of Jesus away from having contact with people that need Jesus and bring them back into the safe confines of the church facility? Stanley states,
“We have turned them down because a sports program is actually counter to our vision. One of the best ways for believers in our community to connect with unchurched people is through their children’s recreational activities. Why would we bring all of that in-house and pull our folks out of the recreational parks and gyms in our community?”
Requests, Stories, and Complaints
The questions people ask about your church, the stories they tell and the complaints they make reveal what they value in life and what is important to them regarding the life of your church. Questions, complaints, and stories will tell you a great deal about what is on the minds and hearts of the people in an organization. Begin to take note about what information people in your church ask for. Notice what they talk about after a weekend when reflecting on the services. Do they talk about the music, the sermon or do they take notice that there were not a lot of visitors or guests? Do people ask or talk about unchurched people in the community? Do they tell stories about their conversations with people and who they are reaching out to? Do they complain about parking, the length of the service, the coffee and snacks, or do they complain that the church isn’t seeing people turning to Christ or having enough impact in the community?
Keep these indicators and gauges in mind as you consider how to monitor how well your vision as a church is sticking with people or if it is potentially drifting or slipping from where it began.
Vision is vital to any church, but particularly a church plant. Many, if not most, church plants suffer from vision drift and typically end up looking very different in 5 or 10 years from the way and intention they began with. Most drift toward keeping the members or “already convinced” happy and satisfied. In our culture where as much as 85% of the people in our communities are not connected to a church, we need to stick to our vision of reaching the unchurched, disconnected and unconvinced!
What are thoughts? Post a comment and let me know.