My Vision For The Church
One day a man took an old friend for a drive in the country.
They drove off the main road through a grove of trees to a large uninhabited expanse of land. A few horses were grazing and a couple of old shacks remained. One of the men told the other what he wanted to do with the land and encouraged his friend to help him buy some to help him get started.
The friend responded, ‘Who is going to drive 40 kms out into this wilderness to go to this crazy project.’
He finally turned down the project despite assurances that the land would increase in value several hundred times in the next five years.
The first man was Walt Disney. His vision was for Disneyland.
The second was Art Linkletter. The wilderness became Disneyland. It was Linkletter’s worst business decision, and Disney’s best.
Now up to 77,000 visitors attend daily.
Disney was such a visionary that he sometimes got into trouble with his own family. When he was dreaming about Disneyworld in Florida, his brother told him to stop wasting time and to leave the real business decisions to others.
Whatever one thinks about Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, Disney was a man of vision.
I find vision one of the most exciting words in the human language. I think most of us do. It helps us to focus on the future in a hopeful way.
A little boy was amongst a number of children spelling out what they hoped to do for a career.
The little lad said, ‘I am going to be a lion tamer. I’ll have lots of fierce lions, and when I walk into the cage, they will roar.’
His vision was greeted with scepticism by the class, so he immediately covered himself by saying, ‘Of course, I’ll have my mother with me.’
Sometimes we decry modern politicians because of their lack of clear vision. Their vision is sometimes very clear, namely to win the next election, however politicians are becoming increasingly timid about offering any kind of vision. Very few politicians offer anything more than the same because vision requires courage.
The Bible is more interested in vision than any of us; often in its original meaning of a vision, but it also appears countless times as a reality.
Genesis 15:1 – ‘After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.”’
1 Samuel 3:15 – ‘Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.’
Isaiah 1:1 – ‘The vision of Isaiah son of Amos, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.’
What is very exciting is in Acts when upon the coming of the Spirit Peter speaks of the prophet Joel who said, ‘One day your young men will see visions, and your older men will dream dreams.’
Vision came about because the Holy Spirit came into the lives of God’s people. The Holy Spirit and vision seem to be closely linked.
Acts is full of them, such as Peter’s vision in Acts 10 of clean and unclean animals, telling him that Gentiles are acceptable too.
There is Ananias’ vision to go and minister to the beleaguered Paul as well in Acts 9.
‘The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and has seen a vision of a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him…’
And of course Paul’s bright light vision on the Damascus road.
All this flows from Jesus’ vision in Acts 1, ‘You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
This follows on from His earlier vision in Matthew 28 where he told his disciples to go.
Vision is the key word to church growth, and is something I think about constantly in our parish.
Golden Grove has grown up around us in a way that our 1863 founders had never envisaged. High schools, primary schools, a nearby TAFE and a rapidly expanding population surround us.
But that is our vision for it.
What is your vision for your church? I will share a bit of mine, not to try and influence you but to remind you of the possibilities. Hopefully there will be some convergence. This is not just my opinion either but a matter that I have considered deeply as a pastor and a leader.
My vision begins by having us the church that is a true parish, not a number of churches who have little contact with each other. We are close geographically but not relationally. Together we could share each other’s gifts and grow in our intimacy with each other and with a new appreciation for one another’s gifts and fellowship.
I would like the church in the North Eastern suburbs to become a centre for teaching and ministry. I would see seminars, workshops, teaching weekends, conferences, overseas speakers and evangelical teaching go out from this parish.
I would see the vision unfolding to reach out to our neighbours with the Gospel. We need to remind ourselves that there are people moving into a Christless eternity, and we have some responsibility for that. It is tragic enough that many live their lives without knowing Christ as Lord and Saviour, how much more tragic if they move into eternity without that knowledge.
We need to be a parish that gives leadership in evangelism; teaches it and does it and provides nurture for new Christians.
I see a parish where young people and children will know Jesus Christ because of our ministry. We will see that no state school that wants a chaplain fails to get one because of a lack of finance. We will ensure that ministry takes place because we will resource it along with other churches in the area.
5. A Refuge
This will be a church where the broken, the poor and the needy will be welcome. Where they will be at home.
This will not be a parish that just operates on Sundays. My vision includes a drop-in centre where young people can come and talk, chat and eat and where counselling is available. Where we as a parish take a God-delighting role in the elimination of the tragedy of youth suicide.
7. Audio Ministry
I envisage us having an audio ministry across Australia, where messages and teaching are shared with those desperate for it, who lacks leaders and teachers.
I envisage the parish being a place of musical brilliance, where talents are discovered, used and developed.
My vision sees the parish as a place for all ages and tastes. The elderly are to be as much at home here as the teenager. Services will be offered for those who prefer conservative worship through to those whose faith is nurtured by contemporary styles and music. I would envisage director of music, evangelism, youth and children’s ministry and small group leadership.
10. Prayer & Healing
I envisage our parish as being the prayer and healing centre of the state; a place where exhausted ministers and leaders could come to rest and receive. For with all that in mind if prayer is not at the centre, we will just end up with a whole lot of burnt out people. Prayer alone makes ministry possible and vision achievable.
Take a breath. This will also mean the freeing up of resources for ministry, and to look to the future instead of backwards. Though we may have a rich heritage and wonderful memories, we will not let that stand in the ways of the future.
We can help create memories for the next generation. It is better to look where you are going than to see where you have been.
The kingdom of God is more than properties and bank accounts, but those things can help.
So that is my vision. You may not have the exact vision of mine, but I would want yours to at least match mine. If we don’t have a vision such as this then we will just die. Proverbs 29 says without vision, the people will perish, and together we can develop those visions and see the kingdom come in new exciting ways.
By George Robert Iles