When I was ministering in Scotland I had the privilege of going into the schools on a monthly basis and sharing with them. I also had the boldness to speak openly about Jesus and the scriptures without being taken to task about maybe upsetting children of other faiths which was an exciting time.
On one of the school trips we were at the coast overlooking the sea, I asked the children how many of them had seen the Atlantic Ocean, not one hand went up? But you are looking at it I said!
They were in the right environment but couldn’t see the Atlantic, they could see the sea but not the Atlantic.
It was a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
It made me realise that whatever our present vision is, it is limited and needs extension Let us look at todays scripture reading.
Where there is no vision, the people perish;
but happy are they who keep the word.
That old proverb is as true this morning, as it was when it was written many years ago for the covenant community of Israel.
- Our visions shape us.
- Our visions control us.
- Our visions are determining factors in who and what we become.
- Our vision of how we want to look determines the clothing we buy,
- the hairdresser we go to and
- the accessories that we wear.
Our vision of what it means to be a parent or a mate or a friend largely determines the relationship that we will have with other people.
Our vision of what a family should be is a determining factor of what our families become.
Our vision of what is marriage is a determining factor in what our marriages become.
Likewise, visions shape the nations, movements, institutions and the church of Jesus Christ.
- Our visions or lack of “vision” determines
- our interests,
- our directions,
- our finances, and
affects the totality of the human experience.
No part is left untouched by its influence. Unless a church has a shared VISION, in due time, it will be forced to close it doors and cease to exist.
A sad thought indeed.
Those first Christians were always moved by and with a VISION from God.
Christianity emerged because a few devout people were converted from “dead living” to a God-centred and empowered VISION to claim territory for the King of Kings.
Let us put it this way…
One person with CONVICTION is worth more than one hundred with only an interest.”
As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, once declared, “Give me a hundred people who love nothing but God and hate nothing but sin, and I will shake the whole world for Jesus.”
We need to employ the process of being”visionaries,” or our church will die.
The church that I was ministering in Scotland was quite strong for a rural church about 80/100 attendees, a thriving Sunday school, a song group plus many other activities.
I am led to believe that they are down to about 15 people attending and no song group and few activities.
They’ve lost their vision. They have become one of the many declining churches in Scotland today.
We cannot live in the past or live off its memories.
We cannot blame our problems on others whom God has called to address those problems.
We must focus on God’s power and purpose for the church.
We must now FOCUS on the vision God is calling us to claim, rather than complaining about the lack of one.
Charles Dickens, in his classic book A TALE OF TWO CITIES, perhaps describes best the paradox that the Church is facing when he wrote, “It was the BEST of times, it was the WORST of times.”
I deeply encourage us to CLAIM THE VISION, in order that we keep our perspectives balanced and focused.
Let me share the spirit of the lesson from the prophet Habakkuk as it pertains to us.
- If there is no VISION for mission there will be no missionaries in the field.
- If there is no VISION for ethnic people, our ministry will be limited to a minority
- If there is no VISION for the hungry, homeless, and hopeless, our church and ministry will be limited to those who are filled, and we become a worship club, not the body of Christ at work in the world.
- If there is no VISION for the single person, our ministry will only help the traditional family If there is no VISION for divorced persons, our ministry will only serve the married population.
- If there is no VISION for justice, there will only be cries of anguish and powerlessness to transform injustice in our area.
- If there is no VISION for faith development and dynamic discipleship, then the JOY of growing and moving forward in the faith will never be experienced.
- If there is no VISION for world evangelism, then the church becomes a museum rather than a launching pad to reach the lost and unsaved for Christ.
There was a time when the centre of Christian evangelism and missions was Jerusalem.
There was a time when the centre of Christian evangelism and missions was in Syria and Turkey and in such cities as Ephesus and Antioch….USA….Europe.
But it is all changing…
We now look at other places such as Korea, Africa and the Third World.
The message is clear. If we don’t use it, we will lose it.
God is going to find someone who will use it.
You may have a strong right arm, but for some reason unexplainable to anyone you tie that arm to your side for five years. What will happen when you untie the arm after five years?
You won’t be lifting anything for a while!
The same is true with the Church. If we don’t use our VISION, we as a church will have a weakened capacity for love, warmth,
compassion, kindness, goodness and encouragement towards others.
When it comes to Evangelism perhaps the Nike motto is most relevant. Just do it! Use it or lose it!
I am thankful that our church has sought to be a headlight and thermostat in some of the major social issues of our time rather than a tail-light and thermometer.
Evangelism and social action are the two sides of a whole Gospel. Without vision ” we will lose both.
A CHURCH THAT HAS A VISION OR SEEKS TO BE CLAIMED BY A VISION, WILL NOT ASK GOD FOR TASKS EQUAL TO ITS POWER, BUT FOR POWER
EQUAL TO ITS TASKS.
What a difference in attitude and position these two ideas represent!
In World War I a French General was asked, “Which side will win?” His reply is worth remembering: “The side that advances.”
George Lyon of Scotland was 68 when he finally proposed to Catherine MacDonald, age 60.
They had been dating 44 years. When asked why George waited so long, Catherine replied, “He is a bit shy, you know.”
Herb Miller, in his book, shares that the average church member has
- listened to 1,000 sermons,
- heard 3,000 prayers,
- sung 4,000 hymns over and over,
- and yet asked no one to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
We still build our sanctuaries, set up our standards, make our arrangements, and say to the sinning ones, `If you come to us, we will help you!’
But Jesus went out and sat where they were sitting, walked in their shoes, We may run great risks if we will dare to do it,
because someone will say that we are consorting with sinning people and that we are in moral and spiritual peril.
Doctors take personal risks when tending to infected patients. But they need his help.
We have what the world needs ” the good news of sin forgiven.
But it’s good news to those outside the church only if they hear and accept it.
It’s the cure only if they know they are terminally ill.
House calls may be a thing of the past for family doctors.
But in God’s program they are never out of date.
Make one, and you’ll find out why!
Consider what your life would be like if Jesus had not come and you didn’t know Him.
Then ask God to give you boldness and opportunity to seek out those who do not know Him.
Thank God in advance that He will give you the courage to face criticism that might come your way.
The limitations of the Christian Church are not a lack of talent or brain-power.
In spite of the financial recession we are currently in, it is not the lack of money.
It is not lack of ability ”but the lack of our availability.
We are not putting ourselves at God’s disposal.
Just like those children who couldn’t see the Atlantic, we also often miss the opportunities that are often right in front of our eyes if we would only take the time to really look.
We not only need sight, but insight which only the Holy Spirit can impart to us to claim the “Vision” God wants us to claim.
One of the wonderful Abraham Lincoln stories concerns an incident that took place in his White House years during the Civil War. He didn’t go to church regularly on Sunday because his presence was rather disruptive, but he often went to the Wednesday night service at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.
He usually sat in the pastor’s study with the door open so that he could hear the service in relative seclusion.
On one such night, he brought a White House aide with him.
Walking back home, the aide asked the president how he liked the sermon.
“I thought it was well-thought through, powerfully delivered and very eloquent,” was Lincoln’s reply.
“Oh,” continued the aide, “you thought it was a great sermon.”
“No,” the president said, “it was a failure.
It failed because the preacher did not ask us to go and do something great.”
As someone once said MY GOD, WHAT A FANTASTIC TIME TO BE ALIVE. What a fantastic time it is to be used by God for something GREAT.