Vision is a way of helping us stay focused on the central mission of the church’s life. Through clarifying vision, decision making has a constant reference point. Through clarifying vision, the church has common language to deepen its sense of community. Through clarifying vision the church gives its various ministries the ability to integrate with and support each other.
Typically vision statements respond to three different calls from Christ:
- Matthew 28:19,20 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (NRSV)
- Matthew 6 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, (NRSV)
- Matthew 22:37- 40 37 He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (NSRV)
While there are variations on the theme, the commands of Christ lead us. This is as it should be as Christ is the head of the church. Sometimes a quick approach to visioning that simply restates these fundamental calls is sufficient to get us moving in the right direction.
Vision: A journey of change, not a destination
Remember that vision is more about moving an organization in the right direction than arriving at the destination. We don’t expect to arrive till we get to the new creation. How we go about living with this vision in a congregation depends much on the DNA of a particular congregation. What gifts do we bring to the task? What passions do we carry?
Working with a vision will always stretch us. Whatever else we might say about the commands of Christ, we at least need to acknowledge that we could do better than we are. That means change. Change is not easy but change that is led by the call of Christ at least stretches us and moves us in the right direction and with godly purpose. Taking this quick approach is helpful.
But sometimes a congregation or council needs to engage in a full scale visioning process. This process is helpful when it is important for the congregation to have a conversation about its common identity and shared life in following Christ. It is also helpful when it is important for the congregation to name some particular shared goals for congregational ministry. It helps put the “common” in our community life.
Every process has potential dangers and limitations. Vision – in response to the call of Christ – is easily written. How can we disagree with what Jesus said? But accepting that Jesus spoke does not necessarily mean we have ordered our lives accordingly. We can say "yes" and do "no". If at the end of a visioning statement everything is the same, maybe we have not sorted out enough.
The congregation needs to be prepared not only for visioning but changing. Consensus in the process can mean the fears and comforts of majority rules. That can mean that we fail to listen to the voices from edge of the church and prophetic voices. Sometimes leadership is required to enter into unfamiliar territory and go into places where there is no clear roadmap. A process can sometimes prevent new ventures in the kingdom because the majority are anxious about what they do not see. However we approach the vision we have for our community life, in the end we need to follow Jesus together in the mission of God in this world.