In previous posts I’ve described why I don’t believe in mission strategy and looked at mission planning in the book of Acts. Here is the second of three implications I want to highlight of my conclusion that God – and not us – is the great mission strategist. The first was a humble confidence in God’s sovereignty.
2. A clear vision for mission
God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for bad mission!
It is true that God uses the most extraordinary and surprising means to convert people. I remember being told the story of a man who was given a tract, tore it up in disgust and threw the pieces over a wall. On the other side of the wall someone caught one of those fragments and it was used by God to bring him to Christ. That is the God we serve! And that, I think, gives us great hope in mission. But it doesn’t mean we should go around tearing up tracts!
We need to be clear about what we are trying to do. How we do it, where we do it, among whom we do it – all of that can shift about. But we need to be clear what we are trying to do.
The Holy Spirit could send Paul off in new and surprising directions. But Paul also seemed to have a vision for starting new churches – especially where there were no churches and especially in cities (probably so the gospel could spread out from the city church to the surrounding region).
So we need a biblical vision for starting new churches that are:
— passionate about Jesus
— committed to his word
— shaped by his grace
— loving one another
— caring for the needy
— spreading the gospel
None of those things are the product of circumstances. Whatever opportunities open up, that’s what we’re going to try to do.
We want to litter the world with communities of light – communities that show that it is good to live under the reign of God.
So you need a clear vision of the church. You want the people in your congregation or team to have a clear, shared vision of what you want to create. In which neighbourhood you start a church or among which group of people or how fast the work develops – all of that will be decided as you go along and be led by opportunities. But you need to know your end goal. In other words: ‘Don’t have a plan, have a vision’. You don’t need to keep changing a vision. It’ll work in changing circumstances.
In The Crowded House we have tried to capture our vision in our ten core values and more fully in our book Total Church. Soma Communities in Washington State, USA, have four identities and six rhythms. You don’t need to write it down in a document. But here’s the test. If I go to three people in your congregation and ask them, ‘What’s the vision of your church?’ will I get the one answer?