Posts Tagged With: vision

Three Ways God Changes Our Hearts to His Vision

As you read through Nehemiah, you do not see much organizational or even spiritual drift. God planted a vision in him, and the intentionality by which he come, connected, and contributed to that vision kept him on course. A lack of intentionality and enthusiasm toward accomplishing God’s vision for His people will subtly shift the hearts of the people, and bring on the not-so-subtle drift of the organization.

ARBC, from the pastors to the leaders to the team members to the members of the church must be decidedly intention with Christ and His purpose. God raises up leaders with a special call, who bid others to come, connect, and contribute.  What ways and means does God use to change our hearts to His vision?

First, we must have our eyes open to reality of the situation.

Go to Nehemiah 1:1-2:

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem.

What happened with Nehemiah? God providentially brought Hanani his brother across his path. The key phrase is, “Now it happened.” Nehemiah could simply have been conveying an actual event. Yet, he could also be saying that this happened by chance. We shall see that nothing about this was by chance, and as Nehemiah went on, he recognized how God’s good hand was upon him.

Nehemiah had two issues of concern: the Jews who escaped, and Jerusalem itself. He has a passion for His people and he has a passion for the land God promised to His people centuries ago. It was no secret among that generation of Jews that they lived in Babylon/Persia because of God’s judgment. Deuteronomy 28 lays it out clearly. Obedience brings blessings in family and land. Disobedience brings curses to family and land.

He had his head firmly grounded in reality. He knew their predicament.  Are churches willing to examine theirs?  Is ARBC willing to examine ours?

Second, we must have our eyes open to the quandary of the congregation.

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).

The wall of Jerusalem, as it was with all other cities, protected the cities from enemies and allowed those on the inside to flourish in peace. All through their history, they had shown how Yahweh had protected His people—and they let all others know that God is the God and their God.

But where was their God now? Do you see how the walls being down was not simply a structural issue or a political issue? This presented to the world that this God was (1) not able to protect after all (wrong), or (2) this God brought this blight on them in judgment (rightly so).

Nehemiah’s vision blossomed in helping to see the beauty and strength of the living God.  And that must be the aim of our church.  Churches and Christ are connected, but the church has been so inept in moving forward in a Christ-centered, gospel-driven vision, that they begin to disconnect Christ from His church.  So churches begin to see this quandary, resolve to partner with Christ as His bride so she will be spotless to Him and to a watching world.

Thirdly, we must have our eyes open to the sovereignty of our God.

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).

The bigger our God, the bigger our prayers should be. Keep in mind, God’s greatness and majesty is never based on our views of Him. Our views of Him are deduced from His Word.

Ed Welch wrote a wonderful book entitled, “When People are Big and God is Small,” and set the course when he said:

Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God.).  The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more.[1]

Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:16).  He will build His church His way.  He will add whom He adds, He will remove those whom He will.

And He uses us.  Yes, He ordains the ends, but He also ordains the means in using His church and the gifts therein to accomplish His will.

May God change our hearts to His vision.


[1]Ed Welch, When People are Big and God is Small (Phillipsburg, PA: P & R Publishing, 1997), 19.

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Visioneering: A Sermon Series for October

So October is here!  In this month, I turn 41, celebrating my first birthday in Denver! 

But October will also be key for our church as we move forward.  Our leadership has determined to set aside October as a time to cast a vision for the direction we will be going as we move forward in the days ahead.  The idea is to share this direction for everyone to get on-board, not simply the leadership.  When everyone is on the same page, beautiful things happen for Christ.

So here at the blog, I’ll be using this as a way to think through this process.  I would appreciate your feedback.  Below is the sermon series, which will set the framework for the days ahead.

 

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Visioneering

Engineering a Vision for ARBC that Spreads the Grace and Glory of the gospel from Centennial to the Corners of Creation!

October 7: Magnify: Visioneering an Upward Vision of Exalting Christ in All Things

October 14: Mature: Visioneering a Forward Vision for Personal Growth in Christ

October 21: Minister: Visioneering an Inward Vision of Equipping and Encouraging the Saints in the Things of Christ

October 28: Mobilize: Visioneering an Outward Vision of Engaging and Evangelizing Centennial to the Corners of Creation

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ARBC Visioneering: A Great Commandment Education–A Fourfold Strategy

Having been at my church (ARBC) for almost six months, I am slowly starting to get the ebb and flow of this wonderful family of faith. 

One of my passions and, yes, spiritual giftings is that of discipleship and teaching.  This is evident in my preaching on Sunday mornings, in my writings, as well as how I aim to lead.  Romans 8:5-8 drives home this point in my thinking and I pray in yours as well:

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (ESV).

Education ministries in our churches (whether it’s Sunday School, small groups, or other discipleship groups—even preaching!) aim to gear the Christian’s minds on the things of the Spirit.  As our minds go, so go our emotions, and so go our lives! 

I have been thinking on a strategy for moving our education forward and God kept putting in my mind a fourfold strategy of biblical, spiritual, doctrinal, and missional!  Then He led me to Matthew 22:37-39—the Great Commandment:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart  and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

These two commandments given by Jesus are ones in which “depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 22:40).  While we must do love, we must also learn what love looks like.  All Christian education, be it at a local church level to a seminary level, must be such that cultivates and compels a love for Christ and culture. 

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A Great Commandment Education Strategy : Based around Matthew 22:37-39

  • Biblical (Heart): Studies based on an expositional look at a book of the Bible.  The Word of God saves (Romans 10:17) and sanctifies (John 17:17) the heart of man and transforms this center of who we are, affecting every other area.  
  • Spiritual (Soul): Studies geared around the spiritual disciplines (worship, Bible study, prayer, etc.).
  • Doctrinal (Mind): Studies dealing with theological topics such as the doctrine of Scripture, God, Christ, the Spirit, the church, and end times.
  • Missional (Strength to love neighbor as self): studies on missions, evangelism, and apologetics
    • Evangelism: personal incarnation: one-to-one conversation and presentation of the gospel
    • Missions: glocal (combination of global and local) incarnation: taking the gospel witness from Centennial to the corners of the earth.
    • Apologetics: ideological incarnation: defending the faith by knowing clearly what we believe and what others believe in order to interact with them on the gospel front.
  • I plan on fleshing this out over the next few days and weeks, as time permits.  But what better strategy than that from Scripture?  

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"Making Vision Stick" — a Short Book Review

At the close of each year through the first few weeks of the following year, I prayerfully seek God’s will and desire for our church. I find myself reading through the Scriptures with an intentionality of understanding what God has for the church in general as well as our church specifically in where we are located.

God brings along books to me as well that are priceless. The latest book is Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley.  Having only read one other book by Stanley (Visioneering) — and that was years ago — I approached this book without much bias or even expectation.

Yet I would highly recommend this short book.  He recommends three ways to help vision stick:

  • Cast vision strategically: defining your vision
  • Celebrate vision systematically: regularly rejoicing in the successes
  • Live your vision continuously: putting your vision into practice in your own life.

He goes on to note how the vision statement for the church must be simple and memorable.  He notes how it is better to have vision statement simple and incomplete rather than complete but too long to remember.  It is up to the leader to help those following him to see the vision the leader has embraced.

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Seven Signs of an Introverted Church

In preparation for my sermon this coming Sunday, I pulled out C. John Miller’s Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Zondervan, 1986).

Where do we find the repository of what Christ has commanded us? In the Scriptures. He tells us to go and make disciples. He told his disciples to make disciples. He told them to, under the power of the Spirit, reproduce Christians.

Maybe this is the reason why North American churches are dying—we are reproducing normal American citizens who strive for the normal American life who wish for normal jobs, normal marriages, normal kids, a normal retirement, etc, rather than Kingdom disciples.

In truth, every church reproduces what it holds to and cherishes most dearly. In order for churches to remain normal in the midst of the dying churches that perish all around them, they being looking inwardly in order to maintain. C. John Miller writes about how introverted churches operate:

Tunnel vision: when churches limit potential ministries of the church to those that can be accomplished by the visible, human resources at hand. Any vision that has God moving and working is not seen or ignored.

Shared sense of group superiority: We find one thing we do well or have done well and elevate it, then look at others who do not have this quality. It is done for fear of extinction. Churches who do this refer greatly to their storied history, their founders, former pastors, past times of glory.

Extreme sensitivity to negative human opinion: At the first sign of opposition, we shrivel up. And the more influence the opposition has, the stronger our sensitivity. This critical person with the loud voice and his influence begins to take on the role of Christ, wielding power to make or break programs.

Niceness: for fear of controversy, there is a desire to be nice and safe. No surprises, no problems, just comfort, safety, and security.

Confused leadership roles: Introverted churches do not want church officers or ministers to be pacesetters. It’s a fear of change, a fear of enthusiasm, a fear of breaking the routine. Keep the status quo. In unspoken words, they tell the pastor and ministers, “We will support you and love you, as long as you stay in bounds of our tradition.”

Misplaced vision: We don’t concern ourselves about growth but survival.

What does all this have to do with the Bible? The Bible shows God’s prophets, His apostles, and His Messiah going completely counter to this! The more we study and preach and apply the Scriptures, the less introverted we are personally and churchwide.

I fear we are more concerned about change that we are about Christ’s leadership. I fear too many of us get more fired up when our personal preferences aren’t met rather than we do over personal sin.

Another piece of the vision God has placed in me is that our members would love and study the Word of God and not simply love the Bible in theory but also in practice. Therefore, I must train my leaders by giving them tools to study the Word through observation, interpretation, and application. I must also model it through faithful expositional preaching which goes through the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:28) rather than simply giving life lesson principles to meet temporal needs. We must also offer special leadership training for our staff, deacons, Sunday School leaders, and other key areas of ministry at our church and have Boone’s Creek be a place for young ministers to intern so they may exercise their gifts.

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What Kind of Legacy Do I Wish To Leave At My Church?

I had the privilege of chatting with Terry Willett today. Terry serves as an IMB missionary in Germany (and I’m still amazed that I can have a real-time conversation with someone in another continent, but that’s another topic for another post). Terry and I served together for about six months at First Baptist Church in Clewiston, Florida where he served as Minister of Education and Family Life and I served as Minister of Music and Youth.

During the course of our conversation, he asked me how long I had served at Boone’s Creek (5 years), followed by, “What kind of legacy would you like to leave?” A thought-provoking question indeed! So, in short order, here is the passion that God has given me for this church.

  1. That our members would love and study the Word of God and not simply love the Bible in theory but also in practice. Therefore, I must train my leaders by giving them tools to study the Word through observation, interpretation, and application.  I must also model it through faithful expositional preaching which goes through the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:28) rather than simply giving life lesson principles to meet temporal needs.
  2. To provide a biblical model of personal and corporate discipleship as we seek to strengthen the people of God in their walk with Christ.
  3. To provide a paradigm to welcome everyone who walks into our church.  Our members have stepped up with a valet service; Welcome Table complete with welcome cards, newsletters, etc.; and ushers to hand out bulletins and seat people who come in.  Through some restructuring, I would like to see a time where we would have coffee and donuts for visitors who come so we can get to know them better.
  4. To continue establishing an Acts 1:8 paradigm through monthly local missions, yearly Samaria missions, and every 2-3 years an overseas missions trip. In this, there would be a continual witnessing training and opportunities given through our missions organizations and our soon-to-be established Team MVP (Missions, Vision, and Prayer).
  5. To offer special leadership training for our staff, deacons, Sunday School leaders, and other key areas of ministry at our church.
  6. To have Boone’s Creek be a place for young ministers to intern so they may exercise their gifts.

There will be more, I’m sure.  But I’m thankful that God grants this vision.  May He continue to mold and make me after His will — and may I be waiting, yielded and still.

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