I am excited about the vision God has given me for our church! I want to tell you all about it in this edition of our monthly newsletter. In this first article I will tell you how God gave me this vision … and how our elders have wholeheartedly supported it from day one, I will give you a glimpse of the entire vision, and I will answer a couple of key questions. I will give further detail about specific parts of the vision in the articles that follow this one. Let’s start with the questions.
We need to start by asking, what do I mean by “vision”? A vision is how we pursue our mission. But wait, that brings up another question of definition: what is a “mission”? Our mission is the job God has given us to do. What does God want the Church of His Son, Jesus Christ, to do? The Bible tells us very clearly what that job is: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” These are the words of Jesus to His disciples just before He returned to heaven. (See Matthew 28:18-20. Other passages repeat the Lord’s assignment to us in different words, such as Luke 24:44-48, John 20:21, Acts 1:8.) This is our mission and it has not changed. It will not change. We have worded this mission in a phrase with which you are very familiar: “forming followers of Jesus who impact their world.” That is our mission.
Now, back to “vision.” Vision is the way by which we try to accomplish the mission God has given us. Our vision describes how we will actually go about obeying the commission the Lord has given us.
This brings us to another question: why a new vision? Because we want to fulfill God’s call more effectively and more intentionally. We believe we can do better at what God has called us to do, and we want to do better. The reason for our new vision is this: it is to refocus us on our mission, to re-energize us in pursuing it … to refresh our commitment to the mission and to reinvigorate us in doing it. We want to “step up our game” so we will be more fruitful in the Lord’s work (John 15:5). This will bring glory to the Father (John 15:8).
With those basic questions answered, I want now to tell you how God gave me this vision. It all began with a vision for a new approach to corporate worship—that is, how we go about worshiping the Lord in our Sunday morning worship services. This vision has been percolating in my heart for some 25 years (more on that in my Worship Journey article!). About 4 years ago I actually put it into words in a conversation with Sue Ann. Her response surprised me and seriously got my attention. With tears in her eyes, she earnestly said, “I want that. I need that!” I took her response as an indication of God’s leading, that this vision for worship was from Him and was no longer something merely to think about or just talk about—it was something to be acted upon.
My understanding that this was indeed from God was further confirmed when I shared my vision for worship with the Elder Board at our retreat in October 2015. They immediately and unanimously agreed that this was the direction we needed to go. We began to take steps to implement it but then we experienced turnover in our worship leader position. The vision for worship was put on hold until a new leader was in place.
During that transitional time my vision developed beyond the one area of worship. It grew to include three more focal points, becoming an overarching vision for the future of our church. And again, I put these further thoughts into words in another conversation with Sue Ann. As we talked together, the vision took solid shape, the four focal points emerged, and the unifying word “journey” came out. This vision was all about journeying with Jesus. After all, He does invite people to go on a journey with Him: “Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Each of the four focal points conveyed that sense of a journey, identifying different aspects of our journey with Jesus:
- Worship Journey: our new approach to worship is an intentional journey through the gospel
- Outreach Journey: our new approach to outreach is how we will journey into our community with the good news of the gospel
- Caring Journey: journeying together with Jesus as His family, we will truly care for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ
- Equipping Journey: we will intentionally equip believers in Jesus with what they need to take the next step in their journey with Christ
Then a compelling idea came to the forefront. With the word “journey” being such a dominant theme in this vision, it would be powerfully meaningful to rename the Evangelical Free Church of Clinton to “Journey Church.” That name would clearly remind us of our vision, help us as a body pursue God’s mission, and communicate clearly to our community that this is a church that is on a “journey” to pursue God with passion and purpose.
This, all of this, was BIG! Big change! Why even consider going in this direction? Because we want to do better what God has clearly called us to do, to more intentionally fulfill the mission He has given us.
And so, on April 29, 2016, I shared the entire vision with the Elder Board at our spring retreat … the whole enchilada. Borrowing a phrase from the business world, I told them I was going to share a “big, hairy audacious goal” for our church. They listened intently as I shared Journey Vision with them, diagramming out the four areas on the flip chart. How did they respond? With unanimous and unhesitating support! Even for the name change! God was in this. It was again confirmed to me that this vision was indeed from God.
Indeed, the kind of support I saw in the Elder Board has been repeated with staff, with the Creative Worship Team and music/AV teams (as I shared with them the worship component), with all with whom I shared Journey Vision in part or in whole. Were there questions? Of course! However, supportive receptivity characterized the responses.
The most compelling affirmation came on April 6, 2018 at another elders retreat. To this retreat the Elder Board invited men who had previously served as elders but who were not presently on the board. Besides myself, there were ten men gathered on that Friday afternoon. To a man, each one affirmed that Journey Vision is God’s will for our church. Our time together culminated in a time of fervent, heartfelt prayer. Besides being tremendously encouraged by these men, I also felt charged by them to lead our church into Journey Vision.
And so it is our plan to launch Journey Vision on September 9, 2018. May the Lord be glorified.