How does your congregation decide what to do? If it’s a sizeable gathering, you probably don’t know the answer to that question. Somewhere along the way, someone (possibly the pastor) stood up front during worship and announced a new program. From that point on, you were clued in.
You didn’t have a part in the decision-making process, so you weren’t invested in the project. If the ensuing announcements, sermons, and promotions were appealing to you, you bought in—maybe. Even then, your big participation might have been to tell others, “Our church is doing this.” Quite often, that was the extent of your involvement.
I’m not accusing your or your church group of this kind of action (or inaction). But the sad state of affairs in today’s Body of Christ often leads to such a process. Consequently, many Christians become spectators rather than players. The larger the congregation, the more prevalent this route becomes. Eventually, it develops into ministerial paralysis for much of the laity.
Upon recognizing this downward slide, what often happens next is just as bad. When people realize they are being left behind in the mission of the church, they begin to search for things they can buy into. They see what another congregation down the street is doing and they want to do the same thing.
Borrowing the Vision
While that’s not all bad, it’s certainly not all good either. Just because the Christians across town are successful with a certain ministry, it doesn’t mean it’s your calling as well. Still, it’s pretty tempting to borrow someone else’s vision.
Borrowing the vision gets even worse when it becomes the standard operating procedure of the congregation. If we get lazy enough, we don’t even bother to explore the possibilities of ministry. We just look to another church’s program and say, “We can do that, too!”
The fact of the matter is every local expression of the Body of Christ should have its own vision. The Lord hasn’t run out of new things for us to do. The Apostle Paul once said, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared for us in advance for us to do.” Do you think he’s created some good works for his church to do in your neighborhood? My guess is, “Yes.”
The other side to that is we have been created in his image. Among other things, this undoubtedly means we have an element of creativity within us. Our God is creative–we are as well. We should attempt to discern his will for us in this area.
Grappling with the Vision
Sometimes we think visions are things that are quickly visited upon us. However, casting and living out a vision is the work of a congregation. The vision is something through which leadership and laity journey together. As we grapple with what the Lord has in mind for us, we learn to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. It’s not always easy, but it’s the way to go.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]