April 2007


Vision is an essential leadership quality in any realm. Corporate, community, congregational and personal leadership demands that there is a compelling vision. How do we distinguish between vision from a secular perspective and a Biblical perspective? The difference is that a Christian’s vision is powered by Prophetic Imagination.

Vision is usually spoken about as “the next level” in an organization’s development or what the organization will look like or accomplish in 5, 10 or 15 years. Over the last 20 years I have led numerous visioning sessions with growing business and major corporations. We always have industry trends, market analysis, sales performance reviews, skill set analysis of rising stars and succession plans for those who are on the way to retirement. The facts and trends drive the vision in these environments.

My visioning and strategic mapping sessions with congregations initially began with the same process. I started to realize after about the third session that the same criteria did not work for the church. I researched what other church consultants were doing and realized that their processes were either so overwhelming that the document was collecting dust in a file or so light that there was no difference between having a secular strategic session. I soon realized the missing ingredients. God’s work in the congregational visioning process had been eliminated with the corporate model. In order to have a vision that was truly appropriate for a congregation the process must be centered on the Great Visionary rather than the facts, figures, spreadsheets and trends.

Here are the bullet point differences and the solution.

Corporate Visions can be developed through group process because the focus and time necessary to engage the process is also a part of their job. Congregations are powered by volunteers that can not engage the process in the same manner.

Solution

  • The pastor must have significant time alone with God to discern God’s vision for the congregation and communicate the vision in terms of what was received through prayer, studying the scriptures, meditation and reflection. This model is also Biblical. Nehemiah was inspired by God not a committee. God spoke to Moses through the burning bush not the church council. Elijah, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Daniel and Samuel spoke on God’s behalf after time alone with God. Jesus modeled sharing a vision in how He unfolded, demonstrated and modeled the vision for three years.
  • A congregational vision must be compelling. If it does not create passion for the members it will not be sustained.
  • A congregational vision must push the boundaries of their own natural limitations to the point of trusting in God alone for the fulfillment of the vision. Spiritual disciplines should be a regular part of the community achieving God’s vision.
  • The entire vision should be presented in one setting. The individual phases should be rolled out over a period of time. I am convinced that marketing strategies and new product implementation courses should be contextualized for seminary and required.
  • The vision must be written so that others can pick up the vision even if the pastor is itinerant.
  • The vision must be communicated often and in many different formats.
  • Your leaders must have a reason to buy into the vision and communicate it to the community of faith and the community at large.
  • The vision must be communicated for the various styles of learning.

When introducing change, vision, it is necessary to slowly introduce that change over a series of series – not over a month but over months.
Steve Sjogren Read More

This is so true yet so difficult. Change is a crock pot process but we live in a microwave world. Finding multiple streams of introducing change is also effective. Steve also emphasises the importance of the message in casting vision and introducing change. For many mainline denominations this will require redesigning worship to be message centered instead of liturgy centered.

 Saturday, April 17, 1736

Not finding as yet any door open for the pursuing our main design, we considered in what manner we might be most useful to the little flock at Savannah. And we agreed 1) to advise the more serious among them to form themselves into a sort of little society, and to meet once or twice a week, in order to reprove, instruct and exhort one another; 2) to select out of these a smaller number for a more intimate union with each other, which might be forwarded, partly by our conversing singly with each and partly by inviting them all together to our house; and this, accordingly, we determined to do every Sunday in the afternoon.
John Wesley

The wisdom of John Wesley’s practical theology is still relevent in the 21st Century. Why are we trying so hard to develop “new systems”  when we already have the model of what works.

New Testament leadership, on the other hand, was clearly a servant role (didn’t Jesus say something about that?) that provided a support structure for the people-movement to take off, multiply, go crazy, and otherwise careen madly (by the Spirit) out of control.

New Testament leaders did not occupy positions on boards; they did not have control of buildings nor all-church finances; they did not have the limelight of admiration or attention (except by those who enjoyed physically beating them).

Their role was to facilitate, plant, nurture, release, build up, serve… not dominate, nor control, nor set the one-man-vision course, nor have all the answers. They were not set above, but rather, set below. The Holy Spirit, after all, works through and leads the entire Body of Christ.

This is extremely radical for those of us who are traditionalist.  The scriptural observations are accurate and actually defy the current “church structures” that are found in mainline churches today.  If the church is to become focused and effective at making disciples, rather than recruiting church people, then we must begin the journey in the Biblical text.  This may also mean that we become counter church cultural.

What will be the role of a bishop?  Can the church function without committees?  Who administers the Lord’s Supper?  Will seminaries become extinct?  This type of discussion could start a revolution and I am sure that it will not be televised.

I am searching for ways to be a New Testament servant leader in a mainline church structure.  We also have to teach the people to share leadership.  I have served in Presbyterian, DOC, UMC, AME and Baptist churches and pastor’s who lead like kings burn out or burn up in ministry quickly.  Pastors who learn to serve the people and share leadership live much longer.

The error of church programming

Programming.

That is the contemporary Church’s answer to relevance. If we can just come up with relevant, interesting programming, the Church of today thinks, then we can bring people into the church.

This is a complex issue, but there are at least two problems with it:

1) An error of ends – The end that the addiction to church programming points toward is a larger, more “active” congregation. The hope is to bring in young singles and families, making the church look more like the megachurches that appear on TV. So the church adopts programming that is designed to do just that (and which is often published by the very churches that supposedly deserve emulation). This is an improper end, of course. The only end that any church should aim toward is the salvation of its members and those outside the church to whom it offers the gospel. Salvation is a holistic process and may involve certain kinds of programming. But the end must be salvation – through the church – and all ministry efforts should be geared toward that end.

2) An error of means – Programming may be a useful means, but the church has bought into it as the absolute key to “success.” In actuality, programming should be third or fourth down the line. Participation in the church should be understood as a way of life, the primary arena for human activity by those who call themselves church members. And that way of life must begin with a Eucharistically-oriented worship. Small-group prayer and bible study should be second. (Holy Communion, Scripture, and prayer, after all, are Wesley’s three primary means of grace.) After these, I would suggest that outward-oriented mission should be third. Only after these should programming be listed. Interesting or fun activities and studies are great as far as they go, but they should never take the place of a form of church life centered on worship, bible study, corporate prayer, and mission.

I write about this in my current column in the UM Reporter. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

 

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A story I’ve done on how the Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball and Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen are dealing with her cancer is scheduled to run in tomorrow’s Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, another prominent female Methodist pastor in the Dallas area – Sheron C. Patterson – is speaking out about her breast cancer. She’ll be part of the Body and Soul Women’s Health Event tomorrow at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, 3500 W. Wheatland Rd., Dallas. The event goes from 9 a.m. to noon, and she’s to speak at 11:15 a.m.

Dr. Patterson is senior pastor at Highland Hills UMC in Dallas, and she was the first black woman ordained through the North Texas Methodist Conference. She’s also well known from clinics, books and broadcast appearances in which she gives advice on relationships from a Christian perspective.

Dr. Patterson’s cancer was detected during a December mammogram. She expects to have surgery next month.

Click here for an interview she gave Fox 4 News about her cancer.

Mark J. DeHaven, PhD, Irby B. Hunter, MD, Laura Wilder, MLS, James W. Walton, DO and Jarett Berry, MD

Mark J. DeHaven, Irby B. Hunter, Laura Wilder, and Jarett Berry are with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. James W. Walton is with the Baylor Health Care System, Dallas.

Correspondence: Requests for reprints should be addressed to Mark J. DeHaven, PhD, Division of Community Medicine, Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 6263 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-9067 (e-mail: mark.dehaven@utsouthwestern.edu

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