Vision for Spiritual Growth
See the Vision, Live the Vision
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength
They will soar on wings like eagles. The will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not grow faint. – Isaiah 40:31
Vision Committee Report
In January 2016, Reverend Allen Thompson met with First Presbyterian Church officers and recommended that we perform a vision study to guide the church for the next three to five years. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish”. It had been 24 years since the last vision statement had been prepared. Reverend Thompson recommended that we use a book entitled Church Unique by Will Mancini to guide us in the visioning process. Allen had some previous training in using this program.
The book has a missional theme. “Only missional churches will survive and thrive in the Twenty-first Century. Churches that exist to keep their declining membership happy and maintain their aging building will die. The more mission-minded, mission-engaged a church is in the community and beyond, the greater its life and energy.” The author guides churches away from an inward focus to emphasize participation in service to the community. It asks, “What are our strengths? How is First Presbyterian Church unique? What can we do better than all the other churches to glorify God and make disciples?”
Allen asked eight members from the congregation to serve on a Vision Committee. The committee has worked for the last eight months to prepare this report.
Clarifying Vision —- The Vision Statement
How do we ascertain what God wants us to do? Where is God taking us? The author, Will Mancini said, “I wrote this book for one purpose- to challenge you to find your church unique- that is, to live a vision that creates a stunningly unique, movement oriented church”.
Every church has several defining strengths. Our vision should come from using our strengths that make First Presbyterian Church unique. Here are some of those strengths:
- A committed congregation that loves the Lord
- Great fellowship with one another, and a church family that cares for and nurtures one another
- An excellent and flexible staff
- A great Day School
- An active youth program
- An active music program
- A membership that is diverse in gender, age, cultural background, and socio-economics
- Leadership that is diverse
- A generous and giving congregation
- A missional outreach and attitude
- Financial resources
- Many members who are educators and community leaders
- Special services: Holy Week, Christmas Eve, community services
What can our church do better than other churches? These things are unique to First Presbyterian:
- We are located on Main Street in a transitional area between restoration and low-income neighborhoods
- We own an apartment house that serves as a ministry
- We have an established lunch ministry that connects us to people that need assistance
The author uses the term “the Kingdom Concept” to describe the simple, clear, “big idea” that defines how our church will glorify God and make disciples. It is the overlap of three circles and completes the sentence “Our church exists to glorify God and Make disciples by ___________.”
Circle One: Local predicament
Defining our local predicament answers the question “What are the unique needs and opportunities where God has placed us?” The following questions helped the committee explore our local predicament:
- What are the unique needs where God has placed us in our city? Low income, lack of education, racism both ways, lack of hope/despair
- How are these needs reflected socially, economically, religiously? Violence, crime, poverty, depression, drug problems, desperation
- What special opportunities are found within our immediate sphere of influence?
We are at the center of both despair and revitalization, paradox of Saturday lunch ministry and confederate flag wavers, two elementary schools, two high schools, one college.
Circle Two: Collective potential
The second circle looks at our church and answers the question “What are the unique resources and capabilities that God brings together in us?” Questions that helped the committee discover our collective potential were:
- What would a multi-time visitor say they liked the most about our church? The many opportunities we have to give of ourselves for the benefit of others; biblical teaching and preaching; traditional worship; lay leadership; people glad to see us; beautiful sanctuary
- If First Presbyterian Church was immediately uprooted from the community, what would people in the community feel was missing? Saturday lunch ministry, AA meeting location, Holy week lunch services, day school
- What is the biggest impact our church has made in the community? Saturday lunch ministry; donations to charities; planting of churches
Circle Three: Apostolic Esprit
What particular focus most energizes and animates our church? Apostolic means this source of liveliness and animation is anchored in a missional mind-set; the self-understanding of “being sent.” Esprit is a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of First Presbyterian Church. It captures the empowering and direction of the Holy Spirit. Here are some questions that were asked and answered:
- What do others say we are good at? Lunch ministry and local missions; day school; global mission support; a welcoming church family
- If you knew you could not fail, what one thing would you pursue for God? Evangelism; bolder in reaching out to the community; end generational poverty by giving hope
- What gives you energy? Giving to those less fortunate, not just money but of ourselves; music, worship fellowship, being together; seeing God at work
From this exercise, the committee wrote a vision statement that describes what our church uniquely brings to the Kingdom.
First Presbyterian Church exists to glorify God and make disciples. We are purposely placed for nourishing people in body, mind, and spirit to live lives of restoration and reconciliation in a community finding the Way.
The Vision Statement closely relates to our church motto “To Know Christ and Make Him Known”.
Look at the Vision Statement words —
Purposely placed— Our church is on Main Street, Danville, Virginia. We are at the center of transition from an abandoned downtown to a vibrant River District, between millionaires’ row and extreme poverty, beside the Sutherlin Mansion and racial tension.
Nourishing people— During our discussions, we kept hearing the word nourish- a) Provide with food and other substance, b) a healing ministry for body and soul.
Lives of reconciliation— The restoration of friendly relations; causing two people or groups to be friends again; bringing people together again and restoring trust between races. The underlying message of the gospel is the message of reconciliation, where through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, God has reconciled Himself back to him.
Restoration—mending relationships; rebuilding lives.
Finding the Way— People are lost and searching for what is missing in their lives. The disciples were called Christians, and the Christian movement was originally referred to as “The Way” based on Jesus saying, “I am the Way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
See the Vision, Live the Vision
A Mission Mandate is defined as a clear and concise statement that states what the church is ultimately supposed to be doing. It answers this question before all other questions. Why do we exist?
What is our reason to be? The mandate is the church’s compass and guiding North Star. As such, it provides direction and points everyone in that direction. The Mission Mandate is like the heartbeat of the organization. It should touch members on an emotional level and act like a cohesive force and binding agent.
From a Biblical perspective, the church’s mandate is anchored in Jesus Christ, reflected in the Great Commission as the church is sent into the world. Our mission lives within the boundaries of making disciples, teaching personal obedience to Jesus as Lord, and taking the message of the gospel to the Nations (Matt. 28:19-20).
Jesus modeled an amazing redemptive passion in his earthly ministry. In Luke 9:51-55, we witness a pivotal moment. Luke, the physician records that Jesus “sets his face to go toward Jerusalem.” This idiom, repeated twice, conveys the unwavering focus of a man on a mission, in this case, a Savior with a destination. The emphasis is on Jesus’ redemptive resolve to reach the cross. The Mission Mandate is the church’s focus.
In discussing barriers to growth, most churches lose sight of the issue: the redemptive passion of the people’s hearts. When it comes to church growth challenges, leaders jump too quickly to issues such as parking lots, seating capacity, finances, staff, etc. But when God’s people are deeply stirred with redemptive passion, the church becomes an unstoppable force, hurdling other barriers with ease. The question then becomes, “What is keeping the church people from strengthening their redemptive heartbeat?” The Mission Mandate is designed to stoke redemptive passion.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the church is only the church when it exists for others. What keeps the church focused externally? It should be clear that the most important people are those outside the church. The Mission Mandate should keep the church mind-set bowed in the redemptive, outward direction.
Think of the Mission Mandate as the golden thread of redemption that weaves its way through every activity in the church.
“To Know Christ and Make Him Known” is dear to all of us and we want to retain it, but we also realize that it needs to be clarified and made more specific. The statement below is our Mission Mandate proposal:
Knowing Christ (in the imperfect, signifying the on-going nature of our discipleship),
We make Him known – how?
- Grace-filled worship
Proposed Mission Mandate: Knowing Christ, we make Him known through grace filled worship, community and missions.
VALUES AS MISSIONAL MOTIVES
“You won’t do ministry that really matters until you define what matters.” –Audrey Malphur
Values, our motives, on the deepest level are those we are not willing to sacrifice in the accomplishment of our mission.
We define these missional motives as the shared convictions that guide the actions and reveal the strengths of the church. They are the reminders of what is most important to the church.
We can think of motives/values not as what we do but rather as what characterizes everything that we do. Values when clearly defined and adequately aligned produce benefits.
In the past, value statements have lost relevance because:
- Too many listed
- Values are reactionary
- Values are redundant because repeat doctrinal beliefs or general-purpose ideas
- They fail to be doable
- They do not represent reality or lose credibility
Motives are the most fluid component of the vision frame reflected in the Kingdom concept. The church members deserve to know why their church is special, what God is doing uniquely through their leadership, and why they should sacrificially contribute. Values define what distinguishes the church.
The actionability rule is critical in communicating motives. It stimulates new thoughts, priorities, attitudes and behaviors in people. The motive/value must be an actionable idea. These questions are helpful: What does the value mean? How does the value make a difference?
Some values are “realized”; that is they are held deeply and widely in the church culture. Others are “aspirational”; they define the reality we hope to create.
Our team liked these values derived from our identity as a confessional church:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The reality of our sin and our need of a Savior
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins
We believe in the grace of God. We are “made right”
The Lordship of Jesus Christ
Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father
Mission and Service
Obeying the Great Commission, we believe in making disciples of all nations
We should seek to reach those who don’t know Christ and those who are not connected to a church family in our community
Participation in the work and worship of the church
Stewardship of our time, talents, and treasure
We need the nurture of our church family
Practicing the spiritual disciplines (prayer, study, contemplation, fellowship) to further our formation in Jesus Christ
Working to protect the unity that Christ sought for His followers
Diversity in gender, age, cultural background, and world view enrich our worship of God and the strength of our community
Where is God taking us?
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
And your young men shall see visions.
In Deuteronomy chapter 12, the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Before they crossed the Jordan River, Moses gave them a vision of the country God had promised them—a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The following is the vision we see for First Presbyterian Church – the future that God has promised us.
Vision 1: We see a church that is missional and outwardly focused in serving our community. The church is healthy and vibrant. Only missional churches will survive and thrive in the Twenty-first Century. At a recent Thanksgiving Saturday lunch ministry, 30 church members brought food and served over 100 guests. Service projects such as these create energy and a sense of service. In a 2016 survey, 76% of our members reported that they regularly engage in acts of charity and service for persons in need. We have a long history of local and foreign mission support through our lunch ministry, semi-annual clothes donations, Angel Tree program, Crop Walk, gifts to local non-profit organizations, support for missionaries, etc. This vision of being a missional church is not new to us.
- sponsor more scholarships for underprivileged children in the community to attend our day school
- give more than 10% of our church budget to mission and outreach
- have more interaction with the Saturday lunch ministry guest; get to know one another
- participate in community relations events
- participate with downtown non-denominational churches in mission events
- establish stronger relationships with Holbrook, Williamson, and Unity Presbyterian Churches
- assist in local disaster relief
Vision 2: We see a church that does not live in the past but is joyfully looking to the future. First Presbyterian Church has a rich history that should be honored. We have over 200 members. Just imagine what God can do with a congregation of 200 people following His will! God has a plan for this church—a future with hope and that will prosper. In prayer, we will be open to receiving that plan.
- invite a Christian music group to come and do a concert in our sanctuary
- evaluate our facility – community outreach
- offer worship, music and preaching during Saturday lunch
Vision 3: We see a vibrant, energetic, healthy church where everyone has a Christ-like attitude and behavior, where we are truly brothers and sisters in Christ. Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Church, “The issue is church health, not church growth. If your church is healthy, growth will occur naturally.”
- consciously live out our faith – living outside what is on the inside
- change our attitude and behavior in a positive way, seeking to be a missional church and making faithful disciples
- have a Wednesday night supper speaker conduct a series on Christ’s character attitudes
- have ushers greet members and guest in worship enthusiastically, calling members by name
- make the effort to be more involved in one another’s lives
- reach out to the Day School unchurched parents
Vision 4: We see a church that is open to change where change is needed. The Word of God does not change, but the world we live in does change. Some changes can be good and bring new life to our church.
- look for more opportunities to use our building to benefit others
- create a task force to discuss how we can get our existing young members
- involved, and engage new members in local mission work
- ask the congregation to come forward to sit together on one Sunday to experience close fellowship in worship
- be receptive to difference types of dress and music
- not have so many “churchy” rule
- re-evaluate how we are doing things
Vision 5: We see a church that is responding to the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20) After Jesus talked to the Samarian woman at Jacobs’ well about His living water, the woman went back into town and told her family and friends. Then others came to Jesus to hear more. We need to tell our story to others about what Jesus has done in our lives, and invite them to our church to hear more.
- use the Patton Lecture funds for training in evangelism
- reach out to the families of children in our day school
- invite the unchurched to worship with us or attend programs
- offer training in evangelism
Vision 6: We see a church where every member participates, not only in worship, but also in the life of the church. Each member would personally know the people that sit around them in worship and truly feel that he/she is part of the First Presbyterian family. This is accomplished by inviting every member to be a part of a small group in some form, a Sunday school class, a women’s circle, a Bible study group, the hand bells choir, etc.
Imagine what would happen if…
- instead of 20% of the members doing 100% of the work, 80% of the members did 100% of the work for the glory of God
- the men’s breakfast group had an annual project
- communication and awareness were improved for all members
Vision 7: We see FPC calling a new pastor who will share our renewed energy and spiritual vitality, and where the church officers reaffirm their ordination vows to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. The church officers will lead in our revitalization by example.
- call a new pastor who preaches sermons that inspire us to know God
- support our pastor with prayer, words of encouragement and realistic expectations
- pray that our hearts are set on fire – approach Sunday worship prayerfully and joyfully
- host small group meals with our pastor
- have the session ask the pastor how the can pray for or support him or her
- have members of the session and diaconate accompany the pastor on home visits
- expect God to speak to us on Sunday mornings, and listen so that He does
- encourage elders and deacons to go with the Pastor for visitations
- have the Pastor over for meals in homes
A Challenge to Obey
In the vision narrative we stated, “Just imagine what God can do with a congregation of 200 people following his will. God has a plan for this church – a future with hope and that will prosper. In prayer, we will be open to receiving that plan.”
God has a plan: First Presbyterian Church belongs not to its 200+ members, but to God. Often what concerns us is not God’s plan but our own survival. FPC will survive and thrive as it aligns itself with God’s will. The good news is that there is no better or safer place to be than in the center of God’s will. While particular decisions about the life of our community require discernment, there two things that are very clearly God’s will.
- Spiritual Transformation – Discipleship is a lifelong process of growth. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Evangelism – The Great Commission is clear. Our mission is to make disciples. This is a natural outcome of a lively faith. As we know our Savior Jesus better, we will want to introduce him to others.
Prayer: Prayer is our opportunity to partner with God in His work — both in our midst and in the world. Prayer should be our first ministry strategy. Only as we commune with God in prayer can we discern His good and perfect will. In prayer our hearts are aligned with God’s heart. In prayer, God creates an openness in us to receive what He has in mind for our faith community and for our mission.
Openness to Receive: God’s plan will almost certainly take us out of our comfort zone. His vision of FPC’s future is greater than we can imagine. Change for the sake of change will not advance our community or its mission. However, we must be willing to change as the Holy Spirit leads. As we do, the Lord will certainly enlarge our territory.
To whom much is given, much will be required. We have been entrusted with a rich history and heritage. Those who came before us set an example of faith and ministry that we must honor. Our building makes many ministries and outreaches possible. The officers of First Presbyterian have a responsibility to lead with courage. The members of First Church are responsible to show up, to grow, to move forward, and to encourage one another. Ultimately, the One to whom we will owe an accounting is God. Trusting in His grace, mercy, and guidance, First Presbyterian can move into the future with hope.
This is a critical time in the life of Danville First Presbyterian Church— A time of transition. Churches with a renewed sense of identity and mission have a new lease on life, a new focus, and a new energy. The work has just begun. Whatever role you have in our church, do it joyfully in the name of Jesus.
See the Vision, Live the Vision