Do you have a vision you want to see come into reality this year? Has God put a new strategy or program or change on your heart that you want to enact this year? Desiring to have a healthy, Great Commission fulfilling church, you no doubt do!
However, I’ve learned that having a God-given vision and bringing that vision into reality are often two different things. There are often obstacles that get in the way of taking action. I’ve known many church leaders over the years who had great visions for greater ministry but couldn’t make those visions a reality. The challenge of starting something new when it means there will be change can be overwhelming. Change can mean loss, loss means pain, and if the potential pain is too scary, the vision never gets a chance.
My wife travels a lot for her job. In her travels, she must deal with challenges like delayed or cancelled flights. She learned from her boss in those times to just keep moving forward. Whatever obstacle comes up to prevent her reaching her destination she just keeps moving forward. Like, go to the gate anyway and talk (nicely) to the agent, or make the call to the airline, or get a seat on the next flight – any flight – that will work, or whatever the next step is, take it! Eventually, even though it’s a struggle, the destination is reached. Stopping forward movement seldom gets you where you’re going.
The same idea holds true when putting a vision into reality. Obstacles and opposition will come up. I can’t count the number of vestry meetings where a new vision was shared that someone didn’t immediately bring up “insurance liability” as a reason not to do it! Or bring up the cost, or say “it’s not the way we’ve always done it,” or “Mr. or Mrs. So and So won’t like it,” or any number of reasons why not to do it. Some of the reasons were legitimate problems. However, letting problems stop the forward movement of a God-given vision is not honoring to God and won’t lead to health and growth in the church.
My parents started feeding me John Maxwell books when I was in college so I picked up a lot of leadership principles from him in my early ministry. A quote I read from one of his books was, “Problems are just obstacles to be overcome.” As a new rector in the early stages of bringing revitalization to a congregation, I printed that quote and taped it to the wall by my desk. When the fear that the problems produced in me would start to overwhelm, I’d read the quote and remember this is just another obstacle to overcome and keep moving forward.
I remember well when I knew the Lord was directing me to add a new service on Sunday morning. It meant having to change an existing service to an earlier time. I was going to make the change in the new year. As the new year began and it was getting closer to enacting the vision, the Junior Warden came to me and said, “Some people are talking… and if you make this change half the congregation might leave because the service has always been at this time!” I was too new to know to ask him, “What people exactly?” I remained calm on the outside, but inside I was scared to death! I was called to help grow the church, not run half the people off. Yet I was convinced it was what God wanted to be done in this new year. So, I took the step forward on faith that even if half the people left, God would build it back up. We changed the service time, added the new service and I can’t think of even one person who left. And we grew! It would have been so easy to let fear prevent the vision from becoming a reality.
I read another article recently about this idea that referenced Ecclesiastes 11:4 which says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” (NLT) It’s so true. You’ll never have the perfect, problem free, environment to enact a new vision. The important thing is with faith, to take the next step, and then the next and so on. Keep moving forward and the vision, even if a struggle, will come to reality.
To keep moving forward takes courage. As you know, courage is not the absence of fear. It’s moving forward, in Christ, despite the fear.
So, what vision has God put on your heart for this new year? By faith, don’t let the obstacles and opposition prevent you from taking action. Take the next step, keep moving forward, and see that vision become a reality this year!
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council.