Jesus didn’t call us to be unique, he called us to be faithful. And simple faithfulness from a loving pastor may be what churches need now more than ever.
There are thousands of conferences, books, podcasts, magazines and blogs dedicated to the study of church growth. What causes it? What hinders it? What can I do to make it happen in my church? I’m a big fan of studying this kind of phenomenon. If there are principles we can discover that will help us …
Does God’s vision for our life, church and ministry have to be big to be real?
I keep hearing that it does. Sayings like “if your vision isn’t big enough to scare you, it’s not from God” have been popular for quite some time now. Apparently we’re all supposed to have a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal – an acronym popularized by Jim Collins in his book Built to Last) if we’re walking in faith and greatness.
I’m just not sure that’s a necessary part of faith or obedience.
Sometimes our desire to chase one big vision after another is more about being addicted to the adrenaline rush of our own oversized passion than following the simple commands of God.
You can’t have a great church without a great vision. That’s what I’ve been told.
And you can’t have a great vision unless the pastor (always the pastor) casts a singular vision for the church, then sells that vision to the leadership and the congregation. I’ve been told that, too.
So I did – or tried to do – what I was told. For years, I prayed, worked, searched the scriptures and listened to God in every way I know. I begged him for a vision that would carry our church to vast, new expanses of glorious ministry.
But it never quite worked out that way.
God doesn’t work on our calendar.
He created days, weeks, months, seasons and years. Those are real things.
People designed minutes, hours, decades and New Year’s Day on January 1. Those are made up things.
That’s why I don’t trust New Year’s resolutions or decade-long church plans.
What are the odds that God’s plans for my life, my church or my denomination will match our artificial calendar?
Have we been doing vision-casting wrong?
I think so. For maybe a generation or more.
Some of my worst disasters in ministry have come from trying to implement a vision, only to find out that no one else was buying into it. They might have even agreed that it was a good idea. For me. But it wasn’t theirs.
So they didn’t get behind it.
And no, I do not believe the alternative is to do a better job at convincing the group of your vision. If the church doesn’t get behind the pastor’s vision, maybe the pastor’s vision for them isn’t God’s vision for them.
There’s a better way.
I wish there were more artists in the church.
No, not painters and sculptors. Actually, yes, those too.
Mostly I wish there were more church leaders who saw the art in their ministry.
Church leaders who put the same kind of passion and creativity into their calling that artists put into their craft.
A Prophetic Imagination
Instead of learning from artists, most of our church leadership teaching in the last forty years has taken its cue from managers, CEOs and salespeople.
Not that we can’t learn a lot from them. I know I have. Good management is certainly a big part of biblical leadership and stewardship.
We’ve been managing ourselves to death – or at least irrelevance – in much of the western church world.
But we’ve been managing ourselves to death – or at least irrelevance – in much of the western church world.
We need artists to bring in some vital elements that the church hasn’t had enough of for a long time.
Even a bit of holy fear.
The church needs to be filled and led by people with a prophetic imagination.
There’s a disease infecting many of our churches. I call it Cool Church Cancer.
Every Sunday morning, thousands of church-goers drive past our front door on their way to dozens of cool churches.
That used to bother me. A lot.
As I outline in the second chapter of The Grasshopper Myth, “How Trying to Build a Big Church Nearly Killed Me – and My Church”, I tried to copy the cool churches. Then I got jealous of them. Then I got mad. Then I burned out.
Finally, I grew tired of feeling jealous, got help, started redefining success and changed my attitudes and actions.
Today, I’m a Cool Church Cancer survivor.
Here are seven lessons I learned the hard way. I hope they can help you so you don’t make the same mistakes I made.
In this video from the Small Church Pastors’ Workshop, Karl Vaters talks about the essential first step in becoming a great Small Church – learning to listen to God and each other.
This 33-minute video is Karl’s second solo talk from the workshop. It’s technically a sequel to Part 1 of Thinking Like a Great Small Church, which you can watch by clicking here. But they can be listened to in any order. Each stands well on its own.
Principles that are covered include:
The Acts 2 method for hearing God’s heart together
How to find God’s will by listening to each other
Finding the sweet spot for a healthy church turnaround
When to write a mission statement
The people we now know as Pilgrims weren’t the only ones who were dissatisfied with the way things were in England. But they made a difference because they took action. Like a lot of their bible heroes, they left where they were without knowing where they’d end up. For many world-changers, action comes first. A plan comes later.