Saturday, 20 July 2013

Kisses for the Kingdom — Vision and Vision Statements

Church vision statements are popular, and not without merit. A church without a vision is going nowhere, no matter how successful it may be at the present time. And a vision should be something that can be expressed succinctly — in a statement, for example.
But I detect two common problems with vision statements. The first is that they are cumbersome. Here are some quotes from some genuine examples:
... to become a Biblically rooted and culturally sensitive church which equips and enables men and women to communicate Christ through significant relationships ...
... to proclaim the Gospel in its fullness beyond the immediate sphere of activity of the local church ...
To see the members of the church be so passionate about God’s heart for the lost that they have become proficient in ministry skills and are pro-actively involved in strategic outreach ministries ...
These are fine thoughts and worthy goals. But imagine Mr Smith and Mrs Jones, if you will, reading them on the notice-sheet and then looking round at empty pews. Are they going to say to themselves, ‘What we need here is to be more pro-actively involved in strategic outreach’? I think not.
I hate to say it, but our own vision statement is a classic example of such verbal overkill — a single sentence of sixty-one words!
The truth about church vision statements, in any case, is that too often they are not the actual ‘vision’ held by the people in the church. What matters ultimately is not a statement on paper, but the ‘ethos’ in the group — the sense of ‘who we are, what we do and what we stand for’ that may be unspoken but is deeply felt. That is the actual ‘vision’.
The ethos can perhaps be measured by asking yourself what it is most easy to make happen in the congregation. Is it social events, is it coffee mornings, is it Bible studies? All these things and more can have their place, but which ones need to be pushed hardest to make them work, which ones do people naturally respond to and support? That will tell you a lot about the vision people actually have in their heads and their hearts.
So we need to do a reality check. Is the vision statement the vision? And if not, why not?
Of course we need the right vision, but again it seems to me this is where churches go wrong. Instead of vision statements, they write creeds, and we’ve already got a couple of them. One popular writer on leadership says this, “if you can’t communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest” you aren’t done with shaping your vision.
And then once the vision has been established, it needs constantly to be repeated and emphasized until everyone we expect to be involved in achieving it (which is surely almost everyone in the church) knows it, understands it and is working towards it.
So here is my sample vision and vision statement which I hope to be applying in the future. Remember the word ‘kisses’. The vision is the bit in bold, the rest is explanatory notes:
K — Knowing God. The knowledge of God is important negatively and positively. The world does not have the knowledge of God (Rom 1:28-32) and its present ills and future judgement are the result. We have the initial knowledge of God and should be constantly growing in that knowledge (Eph 4:13; Phil 1:9, etc).
S — Supporting one another. The congregation is the basis for keeping ourselves in the faith and reaching others. Therefore we need to be committed to it and to one another, strengthening and supporting one another spiritually and practically. (Gal 6:1-2; 1 Jn 3:16-18, etc).
S — Seeking the lost. This was why Jesus came into the world (Mk 10:45), this is the task with which we have been entrusted by God (2 Cor 5:18-20).
S — Serving our neighbours. We are called to love those around us as well as those in the church (Rom 12:17-21). By acts of service we live out the gospel and proclaim the kindness of God.
I reckon that is a good set of goals and I hope it is sufficiently memorable for people to be able to understand it and take it on board — 11 words. Over the next few months we’ll be seeing how we get on with making that not just our vision statement but our collective ethos.
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  1. Following Phil 3:10, wouldn't 'Knowing Christ' be a more distinctively Christian vision heading than 'Knowing God'?

  2. Jon, we must be very careful to avoid what Jens Christensen identifies as the "Jesus Cult": "Our Lord never
    was and never will be an end in Himself." (

    The knowledge of God is found in Christ, but not in Christ alone since he is the Second Person of the Trinity.

    1. I agree, John.

      I am deeply sceptical of the need to preach Christ & the Cross in every OT sermon. We want people to know God as Father through the Son and by the Spirit. If anyone, thinks that I am a terrible Judaizer, well the Lutherans thought the same about Calvin.

      Ro Mody, Bournemouth

    2. This seems to be throwing the baby out of the bathwater somewhat. Christensen may be describing a real group of people, but being Christocentric does not have to mean abandoning the Father (and Spirit) as Christensen describes. Your response to what appears to be a reasonable suggestion makes me struggle to understand how you would not accuse Jesus of being a member of the Jesus cult when he says in John 8:19: "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." He does not say, "If you knew my Father, you would know me also." Get Jesus, get the Father - so what's the problem with saying "Knowing Jesus"? Maybe we should rename ourselves "Godians" because "Christian" is too Jesus-focused? I really don't understand!

      Pete Bowman, Harlow.

  3. Thanks, John, very helpful. The only thing I'd add is that a visual image or metaphor often helps people grasp a vision (so for example the image of a bridge goes with the Galleywood vision, the church I was a curate at used the image of a beacon, etc).
    Andy Griffiths (now among other things Lead Minister for Vision, Southwest Chelmsford Churches - the statement of particulars from the diocesan HR department came through the letterbox 10 minutes ago)

  4. Can our Christian duty be summarized as Decalogue + New Commandment + Great Commission or is there something else?