Generic Will of God?
A large portion of my associational missionary duties is to ask questions. Sometimes they are courteous gateways to casual conversations, sometimes they provoke or stimulate thought down unfamiliar paths, and sometimes they make the listener venture off the map entirely into uncharted territory. Lately my favorite one is: what is the purpose of this church? That is usually followed by, “I’m pretty sure it’s the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations; y’know, the last verses in Matthew.” Then I say, “I agree. That’s the generic will of God for every believer or church. But what is the specific purpose for this church located on this corner at this time in history? Each and every church is to fulfill the Great Commission, that is true; but what is the compelling reason for this church to continue as X church?” Bert Nanus, in his book Visionary Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1992, p.8), states that “ a vision is . . . a future for your organization. . .the right vision is an idea so energizing that it in effect jump starts the future by calling forth the [organization’s] skills, talents, and resources to make it happen.” In the second chapter of God Dreams (B&H, 2016) Will Mancini adds that God created us in His image, and part of that image is to be creators ourselves, co-creators with Him as we partner with Him to advance His Kingdom. What custom tailored, one of a kind vision propels your church to minister to its immediate surroundings?
Let’s not waste a good crisis. COVID-19 has shaken all of us, and forced us to reexamine why we do a lot of things as families, as businesses, and as churches. The default gut reaction for most after a disaster is to restore order, to put things back just the way they were, so I can feel some sense of “normalcy.” Brothers and sisters, the death knell of the church is when preservation becomes more important than transformation. That is not a rejection of the past or anything attached to it, including those wonderful pews where you grew up or the aisle on which you stood and spoke a prayer of salvation or vows of marital fidelity. This is an acknowledgement that life is not a portrait, it is a dynamic video that continues to unfold, and our churches must be in forward mode, ever onward, ever upward.
God has placed your church on that precise spot at this precise time with its unique set of resources and people for a specific purpose. The message remains the same, Jesus is Lord, and all men, women, and children need to hear His Good News for them; the methods of how we do that have been drastically changed in the last few weeks. Restrictions and cautions about resurgence of disease have caused us to rethink what is a priority, what is our purpose NOW, not THEN? How can we best reach God’s Kingdom corner He has chosen for us at this particular juncture of time and space? How does your church add value to your community? Would your church’s disappearance cause a measurable vacuum or fail to capture the notice of your neighbors?
Do I ask myself these same questions? All the time. Does our association add value to our churches? We had planned to introduce a capital campaign later this summer to replace our 40+ year old double wide trailer of an office. COVID-19 poked a hole in that plan (for now) for sure. I am not sure our churches would mount a financial effort for a new office in such a tumultuous season. A pattern we often see in scripture is birth of a vision, death of a vision, and rebirth of a vision, usually in a manner we did not foresee, and one that gives God the most glory. The days ahead are uncertain, yes---but they will be exciting as we walk ever forward, ever upward in His name (John 12.26).