Recovering Vision: Getting to why?


By Rev. Steve Ross

Vision is the word I use to describe why a congregation exists. The big huge purpose of the church is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But that mission statement is a purpose bigger than any congregation can fulfill on its own. Vision is the particularization of the mission in a specific community of Christians at a specific time. It deals with two questions that have real, but constantly evolving answers.

  • Who are the specific people we called to engage in the life of discipleship?
  • What is the specific transformation we are called to bring now?

“Everyone and everything” are the answers about the mission of Jesus Christ, but your congregation has a particular role in that eternal mission of God to the world in Jesus Christ. It matters tremendously that your congregation know the answers to those two questions, because vision arises out of them, and vision is the motive energy of a vital congregation. Without a clear and articulate vision, we will be acting like church, but we will not be church.

“Why” matters. It is the difference between what Wesley called “the form of religion” and the life-giving world changing thing itself.

Watch this good illustration –

“When you know your why, your what has more impact, because you’re walking in or toward your purpose.”

Yeah. And what amazes me about that little illustration is that Michael didn’t even ask the singer about his why, he just gave him a random why! Imagine if that singer had been helped to discover his own real why? Why do you sing, brother? Why do you think others would want to learn to sing? What happens to people when they sing?

There is no program or technique that will give a congregation the real thing unless it discovers its why. Why are you there now? Why has God put you there and what is God calling you to accomplish for the kindom?

You should be talking about that together.

Upcoming blogs will explore some of the ways you might deepen that conversation.

Rev. Steve Ross is the Director of the Vital Church Project in the Oregon-Idaho Conference and author of Leadership and Organization for Fruitful Congregations.

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  1. So very true. So many times I see congregations caught in the what with polarizing debate, blaming, and a sense of being lost. We all need to remember how to find and live the why. Thank you for the article and link.

    Nancy Tam Davis, PNWAC Conference Lay Leader

    • One way I teach my students about mission, vision and strategies is with nautical terms:
      Vision: The destination, what/where you seek to reach
      Mission: What it get you there:
      Strategies: The tools necessary to accomplish: oars, sails, motor, etc.

      There are others of course, but this seems to stick with them.

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