Vision: a clear mental picture of what the future could be like
What do you hope happens through Riverside in Warrington? If you could describe the ministry and influence of Riverside twenty years from now, how would you describe it? Questions like these keep your pastors awake and prayerful at all hours of the night. We long to see God establish His church, change lives and transform our "Jerusalem." Vision is a necessary first step in planning our work and ministry. We have a compelling vision that includes planting multiple churches throughout this area and penetrating a lost and dying world with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Meditate on this excerpt from the "First Steps" manual and then pray through the questions below.
Parable of the Harvest (First Steps, p. 5-6)
"Every farmer wants a harvest. His eyes see an empty field that is overgrown with weeds and covered with rocks. But his mind sees his field or hillside covered with strong, healthy crops. And the promise in his mind, not the problems before his eyes, takes him into the field to work. First, he breaks up the hard dirt, so the seeds can grow easily. Then he plants the seeds. As they grow, he pulls out the weeds that try to choke the new plants. He makes sure they have enough water, and he protects them from birds and bugs. He does his part, knowing that only God has the power to make the seeds grow. When the time is right, the farmer goes into the field, gathers the fruit of his harvest and takes it to his storehouse. There, he collects new seeds for the next planting season – more seeds than he started with. So his harvest grows greater every year. That is what Jesus was talking about in Mark 4:3-9:
â€•Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.â€– Then Jesus said, â€•He who has ears to hear, let him hear.â€– (Mark 4:3-9)
Church planting is similar to the sowing and harvesting cycle. Imagine that your community is a field. How does it look to you? Is it empty, choked with the weeds of worldly wisdom and clogged with stony obstacles to the gospel? Does it look like it could never bear fruit? Or has God put a different picture in your mind? Can you see your neighbors filled with joy and worshiping God? Can you see them free of the world‘s hold on them? Can you see them overcoming every obstacle? What we see in our minds is called vision. Vision is a clear mental picture of what the future could be like. It must come from God‘s heart to us through His Word and His Spirit. Vision results in a growing desire to see with our eyes the same picture that we see in our mind. That causes us to PRAY, which, like a sharp plow, breaks up hard ground in the spiritual world. The gospel is our seed, which we plant as we EVANGELIZE. The Bible promises that the more seeds we plant, the bigger the harvest will be. When the harvest is ready, we need to GATHER TOGETHER the new believers into groups called CHURCHES. Churches are people, not buildings – people who know and love God and who MAKE DISCIPLES and help them become more like Jesus. Those who are more mature DEVELOP LEADERS in the churches and continue the cycle. And as a result, churches MULTIPLY! One becomes two. Ten become twenty. Five hundred become a thousand!" ("First Steps" is a church planting and ministry model available from E3 Partners as a free download - www.e3partners.org)
A Compelling Vision
Several years ago I was praying through the city of St. John's, Newfoundland. Two things fueled my vision and passion to reach that city with the gospel. We spoke with a man that told us of the widespread sexual abuse that had taken place throughout the island. This reality broke our hearts and gave us a deep compassion for Newfoundlanders. We deeply desired to see God bring genuine healing and forgiveness. A second event has further fueled my vision for St. John's. Me and four other guys on the trip went into one of the 50 bars on George Street. We spread out in the club and begin silently praying for God to move. As I was praying and watching hundreds of people drinking and enjoying themselves, I saw a vision in my mind of these same people leading in ministry years later. As I prayed, I saw future pastors, missionaries, evangelists, worship leaders, deacons, and elders. It was a vision of transformation. As a result of these clear mental pictures of what could be, I have continued to visit Newfoundland on mission trips. I have personally prayed, sacrificed and supported missionaries there. Vision has driven me to action!
What can a clear, God given vision for Riverside do to spur you to action?
Do you have a vision for what God wants to do here?
Pray and ask God to show you what could be. Then use His vision to fuel your actions today. Schedule a time to meet with our pastor Aaron, and ask him to share with you his vision for Riverside. I encourage you to pray and seek God - ask Him to help you see with His eyes!