A couple of days ago, I shared in this blog post that we had asked hundreds of church leaders, “What are the significant changes you’ve been considering for 2017?” One of the shifts that came up most frequently in your responses was, “Rallying the church around a new vision.” My friends at Exponential recently announced they’ll be talking about this shift throughout 2017, specifically at the upcoming Exponential East conference in Orlando (April 24-27) and their four other live gatherings. Here in this guest post, Exponential Co-Founder and Director Todd Wilson focuses on the source of that new vision for your church.
We don’t need to look any farther than Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28 to realize that our core purpose, both as individuals and churches, is making disciples that make disciples. Jesus commanded it and left no wiggle room for man-made diversions.
So if we exist to make disciples and be churches that multiply disciples, how does that impact and inform a new vision for our churches?
The Paradox of Vision
If you’re like me, vision has always presented a bit of a paradox. On one hand, as leaders we know that God will hold us accountable for being good stewards of the resources He entrusts to our care. I don’t know a church leader who doesn’t want to face Jesus some day and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
On the other hand, we know that God cares more about our faithfulness and surrender to Him and His plans than our man-made visions and strategies.
Think about the pursuits of Noah, Abraham, Peter, Paul, Nehemiah and Ruth. These leaders we look to didn’t know what they were doing or how God was using them. Noah couldn’t comprehend God’s bigger picture. Abraham said “yes” and didn’t even know where he was going. Peter and Paul had no human idea how God would use them in the greatest movement in history. Nehemiah simply wanted to rebuild some walls and had no idea of God’s bigger vision to rescue His people. And Ruth, she died without knowing the real legacy she’d leave in Jesus’ lineage.
The heroes of the faith were known more for their faithfulness to cooperate with and surrender to God than they were for their vision.
When Jesus shared the last supper with His disciples and prayed for them, He could have laid out the master plan and grand vision for a world movement. Instead, He prayed for their faithfulness and after His resurrection, gave them His Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).
Granted, God’s ways are often counter-intuitive to our ways. I know I would never strategize to conquer a city by marching around its walls and blowing trumpets. Or attempt to rescue a group of people from the slavery by delegating the task to a man with a self-professed speech problem. Or repopulate the world through a man who spent 100 years building a giant boat with no blueprints. Or save the world from sin through a baby born of a virgin girl.
His ways are definitely not our ways.
As you begin to think through your vision for your church, it’s helpful to ask the right questions. The key question is not, “Where do we want to go?” or “Who do we want to become?” but rather, “Where does God want our church to go?” and, “Who does He want us to become?” Think about what Experiencing God author Henry Blackaby says:
“Watch to see where God is working and join Him.”
I also like his lesser-known insight in his book, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda:
“If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them, the world would be turned upside down. How do we know? Because that’s what first-century Christians did, and the world is still talking about it.”
We need to first discover God’s dream and vision for our church, and then build our dreams around His.
Too many times, we do the reverse. While you definitely need a unique vision for where God wants to take you and your church and strategy for getting there, remember that God needs to be the source of both.
As you think through this coming year and what the future looks like for your church, I encourage you to ask some hard but vital questions:
- Have we defined a new vision for our church?
- If so, what is the source of this vision for your church? How strongly is it rooted in Jesus’ commission and core purpose?
- Is our vision more about building our kingdom (our church) or multiplying His Kingdom?
- How can we identify a new vision that has God as the source, not us?
At Exponential, we’re committed to coming alongside church leaders to see the Great Commission accomplished through the increased multiplication of churches. Specifically, we want to move the needle from less than 4 percent of U.S. churches ever reproducing to greater than 10 percent.
If you want to learn more about identifying and developing a vision for multiplication in your church, I encourage you to download our new free eBook, Dream Big Plan Smart: Finding Your Pathway to Multiplication, or any of our free resources. We’re here to help you dream big dreams for how your church will pursue Kingdom multiplication and then develop a plan to get there and actually become a church that carries out the Great Commission!
Todd Wilson currently serves as the Director of Exponential and is founding member of the organization whose core focus is distributing thought leadership through conferences, books, podcasts, software, and small group learning communities.
Todd is passionate about the local church and the starting of healthy, high‐impact new churches. He enjoys starting new things focused on Kingdom impact and multiplication, as well as helping others create an image of future possibilities and the strategy to implement them.
On Jan. 23 at 1pm EST, I’m hosting a conversation with Carey Nieuwhof and several members of The Unstuck Group‘s team to help you Rally Your Church Around a New Vision, as well as two other important shifts: Recognizing the Leadership Structure and Simplifying the Discipleship Pathway.
Register now for Leading Change: 3 Shifts for Healthy and Growing Churches in 2017.