Courage and Vision

Our church is considering an exercise that will allow us to discover God’s unique vision and calling for us in our community. But there is a cost. It will take time, effort, and more sensitively, money. We, like many churches now, are in a state of “resource challenge.”

Do you all remember the difference between the urgent and the important? The urgent are those things that jump at you and demand your attention. They are immediate, insistent, pressing, and seem utterly critical. But the so-called, urgent can actually be distracting from the important. The important is significant, long-term, strategic, central, ultimate, essential, and even visionary. The important is, well, important! But the urgent is merely urgent.

Here’s how I see things: the budget shortfall is an urgent problem, our lack of coherent vision is an important problem. I’m not – in any way – suggesting that our lack of resources is not painful, hard, or insignificant. But I really do think that if we have a coherent vision from God, the resource challenge will eventually work itself out with a happy ending. That’s the horse before the cart. But if we unduly concentrate on resources, then we will be stuck there.

Let me illustrate that. Guys who ride motorcycles well will tell you that you always keep your gaze on the end of the curve, not on the roadway immediately in front of you. They tell you that when something goofy goes on (lose traction, avoid something on the roadway, etc.), if you keep your eyes on where you should be going you’ll probably come out all right. But if you shift your gaze on where the bike is actually pointed, you’ll get yourself into big trouble - and it will hurt. And that is NOT easy! It takes real mental discipline and a radical courage and trust in the process – and your tires - to not panic. The point from this motorcycling analogy is that it seems to me that we should keep our eyes on where God wants us and follow that line. It takes real leadership discipline and courage, to trust God’s process and not panic.

This is not theoretical, impractical, or “blah-blah” – scriptures are clear: without vision, people are destroyed. This “vision stuff” is practical, pragmatic, and concrete. If we don’t have a true, clear, and focused calling from God, it will destroy us. Do we need a sense of urgency? Then consider what a couple years of drift, indecision, thoughtless, laziness, and ‘business as usual’ will do to any church. That church will either start to die, actually die, or become a zombie-church: dead, but still moving around causing harm.

Let me address the resource thing a bit more. The world’s values and ethos tells us – because we’ve all lived and worked in it – that if we don’t have the resources, then we can’t do good work. I think the Bible tells us something differently. I think the Bible tells us to do God’s work and then the resources will find their way to us. Not only do I really believe that, I’ve seen that happen time and again.

The definition of success that I like the best is this: One, find out what God wants you to do. Two, do it. From my perspective, the more important thing is to get a true, clear, and focused vision from God on what our church is suppose to be doing. And then do it. Neither one of those two things is easy. They both take leadership discipline and courage.


Eric said...

As treasurer of my church I understand that we basically need more people if we want more money. In addition, it is our mission to be reaching out and bringing people into the church. However, if my goal for bringing in people is to get their money then I'm completely screwed up. It's OK to let the financial issues spur us on to outreach, but finances cannot be our goal.

We've been in financial hot water for a couple of years now. So far God has kept getting us through somehow. Lately more people have been coming to church and, surprise, we've been doing better. I'm glad we have more money, but I'm more glad that people are being ministered to.

emesselt said...

Yep, the "resouce challenge" thing is tough - especially here near Detroit!

A couple of thoughts:
1) While it is really hard as a church treasurer (I speak from experienc), you must strive to not focus on "nickles and noses."

2) I could go into a whole rant about how the mega-church-wanna-bees highjacked the 'church growth movement' creating a mutated monster ... but I'll resist. When you think "Church Growth," think about what you really want there: healthy growth or sick growth? Cancer is growth - but nobody wants that. Encourage your leaders towards building a healthy church first, and I believe the growth will necessarily follow.

As to practical ways to implement these thoughts, I'd be happy to take the discussion off this thread. Send me an email.