If we are serious about Trinity UMC becoming the dynamic church God desires it to be then as leaders with must have vision. Vision is a characteristic that is lacking in both pastors and congregations that are part of low functioning churches. There are some folks who argue that leaders are either born with vision or they are not. These folk argue that there is no way to learn to lead with vision. I do not buy that argument. The purpose of this blog will be to make the case for visionary leadership and to offer some steps for the leaders of Trinity UMC to improve the church’s vision.
I admit that the task of providing visionary leadership falls directly on me as Senior Pastor. But I am not alone in this task. According to the Scriptures the Holy Spirit works in our lives to give both young and old, clergy and laity, the ability to dream and vision:
“In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions your old men dream dreams.” Acts 2:17 MSG.
In my very first meeting with the Staff-Parish Committee at Trinity UMC I was asked what my vision was for the church and how I was going to move the church forward. This was a legitimate question as the vision for the church falls on the Senior Pastor. With this being said it is important to note that I must constantly seek God’s vision for the church. Yet after this process begins the dreams and visions for Trinity UMC must come from our laity, our ministry teams, and our staff.
What is vision? Vision is the ability to the ability to see possibilities, pitfalls, untapped potential, and a preferred picture of what is ahead. Vision is much like what was a common practice of the military to send out scouts to determine what was ahead for the troops to encounter. The scouts would return to the unit and then inform them of what lay ahead and help them avoid perils and find a way forward.
Using this example the pastor is the chief scout, with church leaders and key congregants and the church staff to serve as Trinity UMC’s scouting team. All these folks are to look at the church’s current position and determine its future. These leaders must be aware of future possibilities and plans in the community.
A visionary leader must ask the question, “What does this mean now for Trinity UMC and what do we need to do now to reap the best possible future for our congregation in the years to come?” This question is rewarding and also challenging. Many pastor’s look only to the next three to five years thinking that at that time they will move on to another appointment and someone else can worry about the present appointment. Some churches, like Trinity UMC, have experienced tremendous staff turn-over and as a result have not had the stability to move into the future. The opposite is also true that churches are sometime resistant to long-term plans because they know that in the United Methodist system that the current pastor will be long-gone before any of the plans occur.
So how do we develop visions for Trinity UMC? What is the process? What can each of us do to assure that we become dynamic? Fortunately there is a process that can be defined and I believe this process to be one that will assure we move with God’s vision for Trinity UMC.
First we must pray, pray, and pray again, and then submit ourselves to Jesus Christ. Please know that Trinity never needs to simply follow John Vaughan’s vision! Neither are we simply to submit to the vision of The United Methodist Church. We must determine to follow God’s vision – God’s preferred future – for Trinity UMC. If we really believe that the church belongs to Christ, and that Christ has a plan for Trinity UMC, then all vision must begin with prayer seeking to accomplish God’s Will.
Second we must have a bold faith and trust completely in God’s power. Within mainline denominations the primary struggle over recent years has not been with sociological phenomenon, lack of funding, or even the quality of our clergy. The problem has been that we have been content to practice a “safe” faith in an God we deemed to be impotent who no longer works in our world. Far too often we simply become content to dream tiny dreams because our faith in “Greater things are yet to be done,” as Bishop Bill McAlilly‘s blog title suggest, is for the most part weak. Far too often nothing great happens in our church because we have visions that are too small and that does not take into account the power of the God we proclaim.
Join me next time as we look further at the process of becoming visionary leaders…..