Many churches today are fragmented and dying, not from an obvious or outright source of conflict, but from a deeper and more insidious culprit: lack of shared vision.
Vision is the purpose of the church. It is the reason a particular church exists. It entails the mission and goals of the church. It is the thing that everyone in a church agrees to work toward when they join that church.
The Church, as a concept, should always seek to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and to spread the Gospel. However, the particulars of these goals will vary from church to church depending on a multitude of factors: the population of people attending the church, the circumstances of the surrounding community, the denomination of the church, theological differences; the list goes on.
In order for a church to survive, there must be a shared vision. This does not mean that all people in a church have to agree about everything. That is wishful thinking. However, there should be some consensus where it counts. If there is not, a church will begin to flounder with different groups of people seeking their own ends, and often working against each other whether intentionally or unintentionally.
If someone asked the members of the congregation of your church: “What is the purpose of your church,” what would those members say? Would they all say something different? Do our congregants even know why our church exists? Does the leadership of your church effectively communicate these things to congregants? In many cases, I fear the answer is no.
A shared vision is more than just an ideology. It is the beginning of action. It is how things get done. If there is a shared vision, then when a vote is taken, the vision of the church guides how people vote. When people are needed to serve in the church or in the community, it is the promise that prompts people to serve. When there is conflict, it is the thing that people measure the situation against to determine whether or not a church is staying true to its purpose.
So how do we begin to instill in congregants a common vision? Here are 4 steps to start.
- Put it into words
Words have power. All we need is the existence of Scripture as God’s Word to know this. Putting a church vision into words does not limit the church, but gives the church the freedom that comes from structure and discipline. A church vision should be a short statement that congregants can easily familiarize themselves with. It should encompass belief and action. It should be printed in bulletins and posted in common areas around the church. It should be something that, when someone outside your church asks, “what is your church all about?” you can hand over to show them. It should be something people in your church agree to support if they choose to be members of your church.
- Get input from the congregation
A church is not the church leaders’ playground. Leaders are called to serve the church, not to make the church serve them. A church should work together to craft the vision. What is important to the people of your church? Ask them in a meeting or have them write it down. What do your church members believe Christ is calling your church to do? For a vision statement, it is good to be specific rather than general. Is the church called to serve others? Yes. But, if your church can identify that it feels called to care for the homeless within their city, and can put that into words, it is even more powerful. Pray over the vision of the church regularly.
- Regularly communicate the vision of your church
A church vision should be reinforced often. When a new program or ministry is proposed, ask outright, “does this serve Christ and the vision of our church?” Preach sermons about the topic. Make it part of your church’s spiritual ethic.
- Consult Scripture
Make sure that the vision of your church reflects Scripture. Reference specific scriptures in your vision statement that demonstrate how the vision of your church is Biblical. Everything our churches do should be based on the Truth as is revealed to us in God’s Word.
A church vision can help move a church in the right direction and push it forward after a dry spell.
May God bless your church.