by Willis Greene, First UMC Newton
This sounds like a question asked by a preacher during a Children’s Moment in worship. The answer is so obvious, but we’re a bit reluctant to shout out it out. Where does vision come from? It comes from God! The challenging part for us is discerning God’s vision but as Kim Shockley states in her article, Vision and Leadership – A Strategic Partnership, we are able to discern God’s vision by actively praying and listening.
The church I serve is currently in the process of discerning God’s vision and as their pastoral leader, I have found it to be an enlightening spiritual journey. I began the process by asking myself this question: Do I want to know God’s will more than anything else? In other words, am I willing to let go of my preconceived ideas of what will bring health and vitality to this local congregation? Am I willing to listen and be still instead of plugging in the latest formula, program or model that experts tout as the “magic bullet that will grow the church?” Do I want to know God’s will more than anything else? Am I willing to not be measured by what society views as success (worship attendance & size of budget) and instead measure success by how faithful we are to God’s call? Do I want to know God’s will more than anything else? When I answered that question in the affirmative, I surrendered my need to control, opened myself to hearing God’s call upon this church and trusted that God would speak through the work of a twelve member Vision Team.
I firmly believe that we can know God’s will for a local congregation. But it is not an easy thing to know without first completely offering our lives to God and then listening in all the ways we know how to the One who is directing and guiding us. For me, listening comes in daily silence, meditation, journaling and the reading of scripture. For the Vision Team, listening has come in the form of guided meditations, periods of silence and studying scripture. The Vision Team has also listened to God’s Spirit by reading church experts, reviewing demographics & church statistics, studying the church’s history and listening to the current congregation. This is not to say that it has always been a straightforward process. There have been moments when I have anxiously called out in frustration, “God, I cannot figure this out!” And very calmly, I hear God reply, “I don’t need you to figure it out, I need you to be faithful.” Faithfulness, when it comes to discerning vision, is slowing down, being still, and listening. When I open myself and the church to God’s leading then discernment comes naturally, as a gift from God.
The Vision Team is nearing completion of our work together and in the final stages, God has provided clarity and focus. There was no exact formula to follow, no GPS or Siri to direct our way – we simply listened and after we did that – we listened some more. Where does vision come from? From God, of course! Let all those with ears, hear.