Bill couldn’t wait to share the good news.
He had just received word that a donor had offered five acres of beautiful, wooded land along with seed money for building a new church campus just outside the city. He would share the news at the elders’ meeting that night.
As pastor of the downtown, inner-city church, Bill had struggled with the constant demands of the upkeep of an old building and the flow of immigrants, homeless persons, office workers and loft dwellers. While the church certainly thrived in its current location—many needs were met and people were equipped for ministry—the land and new building would give the church the opportunity to expand.
Bill found himself dreaming of state-of-the-art facilities and all that could be built on five acres. He felt the new campus would increase the church’s ability to serve and perhaps provide the means for more ministries.
The Missional Vision Question
Yep, it’s the vision question.
It’s an important question, because God calls communities into being for his purposes, for his future. And since communities are as unique as individuals—history, context, calling, etc.—their participation in and contribution to God’s kingdom is unique and sacred. If Pastor Bill and the elders accept this gift of new land outside the city, how will that decision impact the vision and future of the church?
Every decision influences the vision, whether to enhance or destabilize it.
It’s not as simple as just accepting land and building a new campus. Why did God call this church into being? What were the future outcomes God envisioned? Will a new campus help this church community accomplish what God envisioned? In order to decide whether or not to accept this gift, this church must return to its reason for being, as expressed in their God-given vision and mission.
Vision is the future picture of results or outcomes.
Mission is what a community is called to do, which accomplishes the vision. Notice God’s picture of the future for the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:7-9 (vision) and what the Israelites are to do in Deuteronomy 6:5 (mission). So mission is what we do to accomplish the vision and the vision is what we’ll see as a result, the future outcomes—a present / future feedback loop.
Step 1: An Exercise to Determine Missional Vision
Should Pastor Bill and the elders accept the gift of land and new buildings? Churches facing such a question must respond with their own questions:
- What is the future God has called us to be faithful to?
- What has God called us to do?
- Can we accomplish this future outside the city?
Try imagining the future as if it’s already happened. If your church accomplishes its vision, what will we see? Hear? Experience? Feel? What will it be like to encounter your church?
Try answering these prayer-focused, faith-imagined questions within your community. We will see, we will hear, we will experience, we will feel. Live in that future and envision the answers to these statements. Be as specific as possible and capture the characteristics on flipchart paper, so everyone can see.
Notice the themes that emerge. Do the pictures and encounters focus on the transformation of the people who attend church or are they focused toward the city within which the church exists? Or the world? Or all of the above?
As a community, write a paragraph or two that summarizes what you have captured on the flipcharts. Again, make sure the paragraphs are written from the future perspective. See the following example from a team of church planters working in West Africa.
Our team has asked the question, “What will it look like when God’s kingdom happens in this community?” The vision God has given us is one where people are once again in a right relationship with God, with each other, their environment and with themselves.
There is improvement and transformation happening in every aspect of life (farming, health, community relationships, agriculture, education, clean water, et al). It is a place where there is shalom, where God is king and he gets the glory. It is a place where people want to stay and those who have left want to come back to. It is also drawing attention from surrounding villages and becomes a movement that is spreading to other communities.
Once you’ve “lived” in the future, you’ll be ready to create strategies that flow toward that future. I’ll write about that next step in my next V3 blog post.
Don’t want to wait for the next post? You and your church can find additional guidance now for this visioning process in Made to Flourish: Beyond Quick Fixes to A Thriving Organization and by utilizing the church planting resources and strategies of the V3 Movement.
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