Driving to Edmonton today to visit and help with family I listened again to one of my favourite messages by Bill Hybels on Turning Vision into Reality. Few people that I know do a better job of describing what pastoral ministry is really all about in terms of accomplishing Jesus’ clear mandate to go and make disciples.
As Hybels alludes, most pastors do a great job of casting vision through preaching, but the problem is that for the most part, that often is as far as it goes. We pastors are very good at stirring up passion about spiritual truth. But what we aren’t as good at is the matter of following up our words with leadership that really ensures that the work we talk about is accomplished.
Hybels talks about being practical about setting goals that flesh out the vision that we communicate. In the case of the Willow Creek Church, they spent a great deal of time on revisiting their vision which has been to turn irreligious people into devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Hybels says they haven’t changed that vision-mission statement, but they have taken a lot of time to think about how they are actually doing it. They have set goals for their Sunday morning service attendance, their mid-week attendance, the number of people in small groups, the number of people ministering to the poor, and the number of people becoming members of the church. And in response to those who would be critical of that kind of number goal-setting, his simple response is that those goals represent real people for whom Christ died and are known to people as their dearest friends and relatives. The goals aren’t an end in themselves — they are the means of measuring whether the vision is being accomplished.
A couple of other things worthy of note in his message: one is that they had to be ruthless in the end about seeing that every leader in the church was committed to the common purpose of the church instead of the church simply being a federation of independent ministries all using money from the church budget to accomplish their own ends. If the church was going to move forward as they had envisioned (the vision being based on the Word of God and the leading of God’s Spirit through its leaders) everyone would need to be moving toward the accomplishment of the same goals.
Secondly, to those who think that such an approach doesn’t allow for the freedom of the Spirit — to those who would advocate a more laissez-faire approach in dependence on the Spirit to accomplish what He desires, Hybels would say that such an attitude is really passing the buck. In his inimitable way, Hybels is passionate about church leaders being diligent about accountability to Jesus about the most important business in the whole world — making disciples. If businesses are ruthless in seeing that every ounce of energy and every bit of money is directed to profit, how much more should the church be devoted to seeing that every resource is being well-invested for the greatest enterprise in the world!
I couldn’t agree more. Too often we pastors get all excited about delivering a great message from God’s Word but aren’t really diligent about ensuring that what we’re talking about is actually getting done in the lives of people in the church and beyond. And in the process we end up kidding ourselves — at the least! We should work hard at casting a great vision based on God’s beautiful revelation. But we have to do more than inspire and make people feel good. That’s kind of like simply “tickling people’s ears.” We have to get down to the harder work of truly building Christ’s church and making ourselves accountable for that as well.
If you’re a pastor, what do you think about this?