When a church reaches the point that it can rethink its vision, it is able to literally start over. This step toward revitalization offers the opportunity for the church to reconnect with its biblical purpose and then begin to apply that vision to the church, the community, and the present culture. George Barna offers this definition of vision: “Vision for ministry is a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.”1 Andrew Davis has cautioned church leaders to make sure that, in revitalization, they depend on the Word of God and not techniques. He has rightly said:
The powerful Word of God has been building Christ’s kingdom since the beginning of redemptive history. It has never been defeated, and it never will be. Satan has been opposing God’s Word since he slithered up to Eve in the Garden of Eden and questioned God’s authority, recruiting humanity through Adam to join his rebellion. . . . And the Word of God alone will revitalize a church if it is to be revitalized. The more the revitalizing leaders trust the Word of God alone, the more powerful their efforts will be.2
While the Bible is replete with principles, and one can glean incredible wisdom from watching other churches, do not miss the point of depending on God’s Word. Everything that is done in revitalization must be biblically based. Though we speak of it in principle and in example, everything that the church now does must find its root in Scripture.
This fact is especially true as the church moves to develop a new vision. Regardless of how the church was birthed, how the church moved through its Life Stages, or how the church reached a position of decline, it now has the chance to start over. Its history is not forgotten, and its founders are not disparaged, but the church has a bright future as it rethinks vision.
Again, Davis has spoken well of this perspective:
Visionary leadership is vital in all churches in order for them to bear maximum fruit for the glory of God. But it is especially essential in church revitalization situations. Such a church is overwhelmed. It has a track record of increasing weakness, a downward spiral of dwindling fruitfulness. Many of the godly members may feel powerless, aimless, and hopeless. They have lost their sense of mission and, what is far worse, their sense of God’s greatness. Perhaps some unregenerate members have won the day in defining what the church is and does, leading to that downward spiral. Though visionary leadership would be essential even if that church were flourishing, never has there been so great a need for leaders to step forward and cast a biblical vision for what God is calling them to become and how he is commanding them to obey.3
Scores of books exist that can help better define what vision is and how it differs from a mission statement, so I am not going to revisit those definitions at length here. Depending on the author, numerous explanations and descriptions of vision surface, so much so, that vision can be confusing.4 For some, it is a general statement of the future that the church desires to embrace. For others, vision encompasses specificity, even including numerical goals within the vision. Many will include the idea of a mission statement with the vision statement. Tony Morgan makes this distinction between mission and vision:
Mission…defines the primary purpose for the church. Typically, in twelve words or less …the church develop[s] a mantra that answers the why question. Why do we exist?…The vision…paints a picture of where the church is going in the future…develop[ing] that vision for three to five years out…it includes actual numerical targets. Other times it names a specific initiative that the church hopes to complete.5
Whatever process the church chooses for its revitalization, it is critical that the church has designated time to rethink vision. Do not shorten the time it takes to create a new vision for the church. Everything else develops out of this understanding of God’s plan for the church. As strategic as a church plant is in going through this process, so should the ReClaimed Church be as it takes the proper steps toward revitalization. Now is the time for a restart. Do not take this action lightly.
- George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1992), 28.
- Andrew M. Davis, Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017), 78.
- Ibid., 105–106.
- There is some distinction between definitions and application of the idea of vision between several authors. Compare George Barna, The Power of Vision: How You Can Capture and Apply God’s Vision for Your Ministry (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1992); Tony Morgan, The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017); Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon E. Penfold, Re:Vision, The Key to Transforming Your Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014); Andrew M. Davis, Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017); and Will Mancini, God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2016).
- Tony Morgan, The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017), 52.
Excerpted with permission from ReClaimed Churchby Bill Henard. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.