Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Journey

By Rev. Mike Bealla, Director of Connectional Ministries

Greetings in the name of Christ!

One of my favorite opportunities is to resource a local church with the visioning process. In the life-cycle of a vital congregation it is its vision that drives its mission and ministry. Over time such a vision for outward focused ministry can be replaced with other driving forces that can sap its energy and its life. For instance, a church driven by meetings and structure spends most of its time and energy on committees with little time for faith formation or ministry beyond the very basics. A church focusing on its financial stress and despair, rather than ministry, can easily lose focus upon its mission and begin a journey of serious decline even unto death. A clear vision makes a church relevant. Most young adults (a missing segment in our churches) explain they do not attend church because they see the church as irrelevant to their needs and the needs of their communities.

A congregation with a shared vision provides the energy and focus necessary to carry out its God-given mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Vision is the picture of the future that the church strives to make a reality. Without vision, “wandering in the wilderness” becomes the norm.

Several years ago I believed that visioning was like dreaming. It seemed like a congregation could start its visioning process by picturing the reality it hoped for. For instance, “We want a vital youth ministry.” Sometimes just stating it made it work. Sometimes by the grace of God the dreams of a congregation, the demographics, and needs of their community happened to match, and real ministry happened. But “sometimes” isn’t enough to embark upon a journey, and can lead to frustration and ultimately shattered hope.

Over the last few years I have challenged those I have worked with to begin the visioning process from a new place. Using MissionInsite, our online resource for understanding our mission field, it is possible to discover a vision rooted in the needs of the community rather than our perceived notions. By going beyond simple demographics – numbers and statistics alone – MissionInsite can help any congregation better align its vision for the future with the actual needs of the community it serves.

While the MissionInsite tool alone can’t create a vital vision for your church, it can open the door for the Holy Spirit to speak to a congregation about the ministry needs of the community wherein God has placed that church. Ministering to what really matters with the folks who have yet to experience God’s love in Christ can make all the difference in the world between a church that simply survives and one whose people are Alive in Christ.

For help with visioning or using MissionInsite, please contact me at the conference office (1-800-874-8474 or mbealla@susumc.org)  for more information. I’d love to make the vision journey with you.
Grace & Peace!

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