Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Immediate Vision

Today, in my annual State of the Church Address, I shared for the first time publicly a new vision that the elders and I have developed for our church. It doesn't replace or supplant our current vision, but rather it adds to it--it provides a stepping stone for how we get from here to there.

Our initial vision we are now calling our "Broad Vision": To become actively involved in planting new churches to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family.

And our new vision we are terming our "Immediate Vision": To trigger a dramatic reaction between our neighbors and Christ in a fusion of real needs and real love.

The Broad Vision is broad geographically, chronologically, and demographically. It encompasses all of Jackson County; it will take time to realize; it is something that we need to build toward and work toward, getting ourselves ready to make it become a reality.

The Immediate Vision is immediate in all the ways the Broad Vision is broad. It relates specifically to our neighbors--the people in our immediate vicinity. It is something that we can begin making a reality right now--we don't have to wait for it.

In some ways, our church is already engaged in the fusion of real needs and real love.

  • The Kids Hope mentoring program at Flora List schools is a great example of what we are talking about. We are coming alongside at-risk kids to invest in their lives and help them experience success and gain confidence to change their future. This is a ministry not only to the kids themselves and their families, but also to the teachers and school administrators, who were begging for mentors to invest in these kids.
  • Our Share 'n' Care ministry, which includes a food pantry and clothes closet, though its scale is small, has helped a number of needy families in moments of crisis.
  • S.P.L.A.S.H. (Single Parents Letting Another Supply Help) is a summer ministry to single parents to care for their kids for a few hours each week so that they can have a break, run errands, or have time with friends during the summer when kids are not in school.
  • At Christmas, we have done an Angel Tree for several years, in which we help needy families with gifts that they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford.

So this ethos of expressing practical and tangible love is already a part of our identity as a church. But our Immediate Vision raises the bar for us by inspiring us to "trigger a dramatic reaction" through the fusion of real needs and real love. In other words, we aim to have people take notice. We want to demonstrate the love of Christ in such a potent way that it is un-ignorable by our neighbors in the Northwest community.

Wherever Jesus went in his earthly ministry, people had a dramatic reaction to him. Some adored him; some hated him. Some surrendered their lives to him and followed him from place to place; some devoted their lives to defeating his movement. Some were amazed by him; some were threatened by him. But nobody was indifferent toward him--that's not a choice that he left to people. And yet we have an entire community around us that is largely indifferent toward Jesus. What a tragedy! Our aim, our vision, is to hold Jesus out so clearly and unflinchingly that people cannot ignore him, that they will take notice, and have some clear response.

These two visions are actually just two steps of the same vision. Together they provide the formula for igniting a spiritual movement in our area. But to spark a spiritual movement it must first start in us, then spread to the people immediately around us, and ultimately across the county, and beyond.

Our Immediate Vision involves the shining of light in the darkness (fusion is the energy process of the sun), and the result of that is that some will be attracted to the light. When God indicates that we are ready, we will launch the Broad Vision in earnest--making the concrete plans to start planting churches throughout our area, which will shine more light to more people than we ever could from our one location.

In both of these visions, the aim is to get our focus off ourselves and look instead to the needs of the people around us and to the God who calls us to be his witnesses. Enriched by God's grace, infused with God's power, immersed in God's cause, and emboldened by God's call, there is no reason for us to fear or to fail:

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see... And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Heb. 11:1, 6

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