Last night, I preached the first part of a vision message / meeting combination to our church. Our church is an awesome church. I couldn't be more proud to be the pastor of it. I couldn't be happier living in my hometown where my family is flourishing. The last two years have been amazing years for the church, my family, and my ministry. But you can't continue living off of yesterday's victories and accomplishments if you want to move forward into the rest of what God has in store.
When I came two years ago, I implored the people to not vote for me to come if they liked the church the way that it was. I promised to change every stitch of it if I came and if that's not what they wanted, then they should ask for someone else. Receiving 100% of the vote gave me my marching orders, and upon arriving, we set out to make the changes necessary for the vision to come to life.
I'm a major proponent of vision. The Bible says without one people die. I believe vision has three phases typically. There is the foundational phase by which the vision is spelled out, readied, and worked on. Resources are gathered. Identity is changing. Atmosphere changes. Perspective changes. The pieces are gathered together to really make a run at something big.
Secondly, there is the transitional phase. Once the foundation is poured and set, it's time to build. No one pours a foundation for the purpose of staring at it and bragging about it for years. The foundation of a house gives guidance to the building of the house. And when the foundation is finished, the vision transitions into the hammer and nails and structuring and restructuring. That's where we are as a church presently.
The third phase is the operational phase. It's in this phase that people operate in the completed vision while earnestly praying and waiting for the next vision to unfold. It's in the operating phase that the fulfillment of the original vision begins unfolding in full along with more surprises and blessings by the Lord.
But to get to the operational phase, the transitional phase is a must, and it's a painful one. As hard as the foundational phase is to endure, the transitional phase may be harder. When a blank foundation is poured, people can still dream about what they think the house will look like. When the transitional building begins, the dreams end because things start taking shape. Change is an even bigger part of the transitional phase. It's learning to be thankful for the foundational blessings and experiences while refusing to get comfortable and satisfied with them.
When I speak of our foundational phase being complete, that in no way implies that our church is perfect or finished with our changes or who we are. It doesn't suggest that we've accomplished what we've set out to accomplish. It literally means that for us right now, God has paved a way for us to rebrand our church, remake our ministries, remodel our buildings, and reveal new things.
Once the foundational phase is complete, refusing to move into transition results in confusion, laziness, frustration, and wandering. The excitement wanes and the passion leaves. There's only so many hours you can stare at an empty foundation before getting bored with it. For me, I felt the church had began to reach the end of the foundational phase towards the end of 2015. For me the 21 Day Fast to start 2016 would be a time for me to get some clarification on when to start the next phase. After the 21 Day Fast and times of prayer, our state overseer came and preached the most timely message he could have preached to our congregation. His message was, "Taking Ownership of the Vision." He preached about the church mobilizing, dreaming about bigger things, being willing to do whatever it took to continue going forward, and being willing to stand together to make things happen.
Change is always risky. Most people despise change, not for change's sake, but simply because we fear the unknown. We fear having our routines shaken. So moving into a transitional phase of vision typically incites some fear and anxiety. I expect it. It's not easy, but it's necessary.
There are several things that we are continuing to work on and improve as we continue to grow the church, and last night I talked in depth about the processes of vision (foundational, transitional, operational) and three main aspects that we had to begin transitioning in immediately. This Sunday night, I will reveal the processes by which we will transition the church in the following three areas:
(1) Ministry to Youth / Middle School
(2) Assimilation / Culture / Scheduling
(3) Discipleship / Small Groups / Relationships
I'm excited to talk about the direction we're going in these areas, and again it will be major transitioning. Last night, I was very blunt, possibly too blunt. My greatest desire however is that through the message, the critiques, and the honesty, that my heart came through. I wouldn't hurt anyone in this great church on purpose for anything in the world, nevertheless, as pastor, my job isn't to make everyone happy. It's to take the church deeper into the mission and presence of Christ. My hope is that I've proven myself over the last two years. I believe the changes have made have more than validated themselves.
I'm excited about some of the new ventures and transitions that are upcoming. I know it won't make everyone happy, but I've learned that's impossible irregardless. Someone mentioned that making transitions may cause the church to lose people. My response is simply that doing nothing has already caused the church to lose some people and will no doubt cause us to lose more in the future. Being a 100 person church is great and I believe we're not too far off from 200 and more, but just like a bicycle is great for a ride around the block, a car is needed for a ride to another city.
Transition is exciting and scary at the same time, but again it's necessary. I believe the best is yet to come for us at the church. We're headed somewhere and I believe it's going to be great. I personally invite you to come be a part of what's taking place at the church. We're not trying to be like someone else. We're not a copycat church. We strive to be original. There are more than 3,000 people in our town that are not affiliated with a church and very likely going to miss heaven. God doesn't need us to be like every other church in our town. There are more than 10,000 people in a 15 mile radius of our church that are not affiliated with a church. We've got great churches in this town and all of them excel at many great things and ministries. Our prayer is that God makes us a great church among other great churches reaching individuals, couples, and families that may not be able to be reached otherwise. We do desire to be a community of believers and to love, accept, and grow together as a community. If you're looking for that kind of place, look no further.
Stay tuned for the completion of this week's transitional announcement!