Vision and Goal Settings
One of the most exciting aspects of leadership is participating in the process of developing vision and setting goals for what God may want to do in the life of the church for which we have responsibility. In my own experience, vision development and goal setting has often been the very antidote God has used to dispel discouragement and group inertia.
Addressing questions such as “What may God want to accomplish through us?” and “How can we become more useful in his hands?” can cause us to search the Scriptures for fresh insight into God's will and stretch our faith to believe God for the impossible. It is this process – which drives us into greater dependence upon God in prayer and greater desire for personal holiness – that makes us more useful to him. And it is this process that God often chooses to use as his vehicle to display his mighty deeds among us.
What are some of the components of vision development and goal setting? What are the nuts and bolts of this aspect of leadership in the Lord's work? Before we can ever expect to develop God-centered vision or God-glorifying goals, it's essential that several items be in place as prerequisites in our ministry.
Pursuing God's Purposes
Our hearts need to beat after God's purposes. From the teaching of God's word we need to understand God's redemptive plan for human beings and human history in Christ. Several key passages can help us see the broad strokes of God's cosmic purposes in sending Christ into this world: Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 12; Luke 15; John 17:20-23; Romans 10:9-15; Ephesians 3:2-13; and Revelation 5:6-14.
As we ask God to give us a deeper appreciation for what he wants to do through his church and as we obey his plain instructions, he gives us a love for the coming of his Kingdom into the hearts of people, no matter through whom or where it's happening (Philippians 1:12-18). We begin to really want what God wants and desire to have our church glorify him in bringing many sinners to Christ.
Willing to be Self-Critical
It's essential that we be willing to be self-critical in the face of scriptural standards. No matter how much we love our church or the way we've always done things, no matter how much we've been blessed by a particular method or approach, we need to ask how we measure up to God's purposes for us. It was because of Paul's willingness to be self-critical that he could flex, adjust and change according to the need of his ministry situation. His desire was that by all possible means people might be saved (1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 10:23-11:1).
We need to continually guard ourselves against the unwillingness to face self-examination, particularly epitomized by the Pharisees who “rejected God's purpose for themselves” (Luke 7:30). They preferred to spend their time justifying their tradition. Our willingness to be self-critical prepares us for the new things God may want to do among us.
Seeking Relational Harmony
God makes it clear in Scripture that relational harmony among godly leaders is a prerequisite if we are to expect him to enlarge our vision and move us into a greater arena of ministry. Jesus' instructions to his apostles to love and serve each other was followed with consistency in the early chapters of Acts. When division arose as in Acts 6:1-6, the rapid restoration of unity was followed by a great outpouring of God's redemptive blessings (v. 7). The Holy Spirit's plan to spread the gospel by way of missionary journeys became part of the vision of the Antioch church as the leadership was engaged in the oneness activity of worship, prayer and fasting together (Acts 13:1-3).
It is only as we are living and serving together as children of the light, rid of bitterness and rage toward each other, that we are free to expose the darkness with Christ's light. Then we are ready to make the most of every opportunity and to seek to know ever more fully what the will of the Lord is. Our relational commitment to build each other up in the bonds of peace lets God know that we are serious about wanting to be used to draw people to the Savior (John 13:34,35; 17:23).
Praying and Working with Faith
Essential to godly vision development and goal setting is the readiness to ask great things from God and attempt great things for God. As we develop fresh vision for things we believe God can do through us, the fulfillment will be dependent on expectant, faith-filled praying as well as a renewed outpouring of our love-filled service in accomplishing ministry goals.
God channels his redemptive, kingdom-coming grace through prayer (Matthew 9:37-38) and ministry (1 Peter 4:10). Vision and goals without faith and work are just pipedreams and hope-so's.
When these prerequisites are operative, vision development and goal setting come easily. Put two or more leaders together who share a burden for God's revealed purposes and want to be part of his plan, who are willing to be self-critical, who are in relational harmony and who are willing to pray and work – and the ideas will come.
At New Hope Church our vision development/goal setting sessions are planned ahead. Our elders know what areas of our congregation's life we'll be discussing and why. We prepare ourselves through the study of specific Scripture passages and come to the meeting ready to listen to God speaking through his word. After extended prayer, we use a flipchart and brainstorm ideas reflecting God's desire for our church in the particular area of ministry. Because the prerequisites are in order through months and years of working together in the Scriptures, relationship building, prayer and ministry, we do not have to waste time in needless arguing or disagreement.
It's been our practice to come up with a concise, scriptural statement of our vision for a particular ministry followed by specific goal statements indicating how we can know our vision is being fulfilled. We've done this for all ministries as well as our philosophy of ministry and purpose statement.
We've seen God fulfill much of our vision and many of our goals. We've also seen him reveal our shortsightedness and lack of realism. We trust and thank him when he corrects our vision and goals. However, the overall impact of vision development and goal setting on New Hope Church has been encouragement, blessing, results and a strong sense of God's leadership in our church. For this we greatly praise him.