Pay Attention to the Vision
Ask yourself, “Why am I attending this particular church?”
There are many legitimate reasons for individuals to attend their church. The reasons may range from something you are receiving from the church, to what you can offer. It all depends on your maturity level. Babe Christians tend to go for what they are receiving. Mature Christians tend to lean to what they are able to offer.
There are other common reasons given, that I question, such as:
It is close to my home
I grew up in this church
I like the choir
Although these reasons are acceptable as secondary reasons, they should not be given primary consideration. When we choose a place to fellowship and worship, we are entrusting our spiritual growth to the leaders of that church. Therefore, we should be more diligent and invested as we seek out the right church home. Why? Our souls are on the line.
The Need for a Clear Vision
Over the years, I’ve known individuals who have been members of their church for decades. On the one hand, I believe that their faithfulness should be applauded; especially when the individual and the church are growing in God’s will. Yet, on the proverbial ‘other hand,’ I often question if they may have stayed too long. I question this when I see they are still going through certain life issues, are not growing spiritually or are in a negative state of complaint and bitterness. Of course, only the individual can answer this question.
Those who stay too long may experience (or cause) unnecessary hardship and trial within the church that could have been avoided if this individual was in their rightful place.
The best way to make a decision about where one should be would be to examine the vision of the church, and determine if the efforts of the church align with the stated vision.
The stated and practiced vision will determine if you are the correct match for a particular church. I intentionally emphasized the ‘practiced’ vision for a reason. The stated vision can easily draw us in, but the practiced vision will not be evident until you have fellowshipped a few times and labored among fellow parishioners.
It is important to recognize when the practiced vision is not consistent with the stated vision. The stated vision draws on our emotions; the practiced vision engages our intellect and spiritual discernment. Unfortunately, individuals often go with the leading of their emotions when choosing a church, which is faulty because emotions can be easily manipulated. It is best to observe the practiced vision of the church so that you’ll be able to make an intellectual and spiritual decision rather than a decision rooted purely in emotion. However, before we dissect how to examine the vision, let’s be mindful of the following:
Thou shall not confuse the vision with the course. Courses change all the time, but the goal of the vision may remain the same.
Courses can change because of the maturing of the Leader or the direction of the Lord. Either way, don’t confuse a change in course with a change in vision.
Thou shall conduct a vision self-assessment often, and ministry assessments occasionally. We can become too focused on what we believe someone else’s issue is without monitoring our own. Get it? This means check yourself, your goals, your relationship with God, and the personal vision that the Lord has given you with more frequency than you critique the ministry’s vision.
By conducting a vision self-assessment, you are holding yourself accountable for your own spiritual growth and spiritual needs. Too often, individuals choose churches based on location, relationships or contentment. I suggest that we choose by vision. If a church or ministry is not open about their vision, then you should question that as well.
Look, we don’t have a lot of time on earth. Don’t waste time in ministries that do not feed your spirit.
When we stand before God, we will not be able to blame others for our lack of growth. We must assume accountability for our growth, and recognize there is no time to spare. Start now!
Church Leaders Hurt Too
It is important to know that church leaders are also responsible for their growth as leaders and for the development of the vision. Let’s first note that leaders are just as likely to lose track of the vision and become hurt by failed goals. We have misconceptions that leaders are not vulnerable to hurt.
Leaders are often hurt from some of the same issues that affect you. Guess what? Leaders are human.
Now, what does this have to do with paying attention to the vision? It’s elementary my dear reader. Leaders often forget the vision too. Yes, we do. Sad, but true. Here are two common vision related reasons that result in leaders forgetting the vision and getting hurt:
Leaders may get caught up in counting the number of members, instead of the monitoring the hearts of the members. This could lead to a false sense of security. As with any organization, most churches have far fewer members whose visions are aligned to the vision of the church than is reflected by the numerical member count. Thus, church leaders may confuse numerical influence with spiritual influence, thereby believing they have captured the heart of the people.
The leader has immature emotions. When a leader has immature emotions, he or she is likely to place emphasis and pay attention to the wrong things, such as what people are doing or saying. We can’t control these things. Immature emotions can be compensated for if the leader is also wise enough to stay focused on the vision and not allow themselves to be easily swayed by distractions. Stay focused. Don’t allow things such as what people are saying about you, or how they feel about you, to influence you to move away from the vision that the Lord has given you.
Church leaders can minimize the hurt they experience by avoiding these common mistakes, and by setting a clear vision and consistently practicing that vision. Not sold on the idea yet? Well, here are what I consider to be three reasonable explanations as to why leaders should consider the importance of having a clear vision and sticking to it:
A clear vision makes it easy for someone to decide if the vision of a particular church is one they want to follow. God will call us to lead in some capacity.
We must keep the vision clear so that others—our potential followers—
will have enough information to decide if this vision is one they want to
invest themselves in.
It is easier to monitor if you are on the right track towards fulfilling the vision, if it remains clear and plain. This also builds your confidence and trust in the Lord.
A clear vision draws like-minded individuals who share your vision. One day, if you find yourself around people who do not share the same vision as you, then you may just be in the wrong place. If you are the leader, then you may need to examine your actions, goals, and messages to determine if they are still aligned to the vision you profess.
Don’t allow the vision that the Lord has given you to be clouded or muddied by these common mistakes that may lead to emotional hurt. Pay attention to the vision. Ask yourself,
“Is this a vision I want to follow? Does the vision God gave me for my personal life fit into the vision of the ministry? Is this a vision that I believe is ordained by God?”
If you are the leader, ask yourself,
“Are my goals and actions still aligned to the vision?
Do I teach others the vision, so that they may decide whether or not to follow? Is the vision from the Lord or from me?”
The Lord has given each of us the responsibility to choose right from wrong and to decide what is right for our families and ourselves. He has also given us the opportunity to seek Him for guidance. Do it! Don’t allow yourself to become too comfortable, or fall stagnant with an unclear or outdated vision. Once this happens you are simply operating in the flesh. Follow God’s vision for your life. Pray to Him for guidance—He will answer and lead you. Be well!