Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Michael A. Milton's book, Finding a Vision for Your Church: Assembly Required (P&R Publishing, 2012).
When you begin leading a church, it’s vital to cast a new vision for it. Developing a fresh vision for your church can bring your congregation together during this new season, helping you all pursue the work God wants you to do together in His kingdom.
Here’s how you can find a vision for your church:
Start with spiritual hunger. Begin by respecting the powerful forces for good that are already in place at your church and confessing your dissatisfaction with what’s not working well there. Ask God to give you and everyone else in the congregation a deep hunger to glorify Him in deeper ways.
Be passionate about the Bible. It’s vital for your church to have a passion for God’s Word and its power to transform people’s lives. Make sure that every sermon is rooted in biblical truth. Offer Bible studies and resources to those in your congregation. Encourage people to make a daily habit of reading the Bible and inviting the Holy Spirit to use its words to renew their minds.
Value the Great Commission. Emphasize the importance of evangelism. Help people in your congregation learn how to share their faith effectively with unsaved friends, family members, coworkers, and others they know who need relationships with Jesus. Urge people to take advantage of the opportunities God gives them to share the Gospel message with others.
Be committed to God’s grace. Since grace is at the core of the Gospel, make sure it’s your church’s top core value. When preaching, emphasize how God has done for people what they couldn’t do for themselves. Help those in your congregation avoid the unhealthy extremes of either legalism or licentiousness and instead choose to live faithfully as a way of expressing their gratitude to God for the grace He has freely given them.
Have a burning desire to see people go to heaven. Make it a top priority to help the people in your church learn more about heaven, and to motivate them to evangelize so the people they love here on Earth will end up there with them.
Don’t become desensitized to sinners. When sinful people seem like lost causes to you, pray that God would give you His perspective on them so you can see the spiritual potential they have. Expect God to do great work in the lives of all people – even those who may appear hopeless to you – if you trust God enough to pray for them and reach out to them.
Be optimistic and confident. Don’t be discouraged when you make mistakes and fail in ministry work. Instead, remember that God’s strength is more than enough to help you in your weaknesses. Ask God to empower you whenever you need His help, look forward to what He will do, and celebrate the victories that He gives you.
Work to baptize, teach, and make disciples. Keep reaching out to more people in your community, doing all you can as a congregation to introduce people to relationships with Jesus and equipping them to begin their new lives as Christians well.
Help people grow in their faith. Help people in your church grow to become strong disciples of Jesus who are growing with how they incorporate the Bible, fellowship, worship, prayer, and witnessing into their lives. Encourage people to develop the character traits that Jesus modeled during his life on Earth, and to discover and fulfill His unique purposes for their lives.
Send people out of your church to teach the Gospel to others. Keep in mind that a true Christian disciple is called to be taught and taught to be sent. So once you’ve developed strong disciples in your church, send them out into the world to teach others about the Gospel.
Value biblical preaching. Make sure that the preaching at your church is marked by: God’s divine appointment, a sense of mission and enthusiasm, an appeal to the Bible, the centrality of Jesus as God’s Son, the message of humankind’s sinful condition, the forgiveness that Jesus offers, and urging about the ultimate importance and eternal consequences of making a decision to trust Jesus.
Help people connect with God through living worship. Design your worship services with these principles in mind: living worship is not about a prop, but about a person (Jesus Himself); living worship takes place in the context of real-life events, which happen under God’s direction; living worship requires a living faith (when people aren’t just going through the motions, but instead are yielding their lives to Jesus and seeking His will rather than their own), living worship must be grounded in the living Word of God (the Bible), and living worship leads to a living Lord by helping people connect with Jesus.
Make your church a place of loving fellowship. Welcome people to your church and give them a place to belong. Make your church a haven of hospitality. Meet people where they are and help them grow from there. Help people receive courage and strength from God at your church, and then encourage them to celebrate that through thanksgiving and praise.
Help meet the world’s needs through compassionate outreach. Encourage and equip the people in your church to become the hands and hearts of God for a world in need by showing others the love and grace of Jesus in tangible ways. Look for the specific opportunities that God is presenting to your church to show people in need that you care. Pray for the discernment you need to sense which opportunities God is calling your church to take action on, and how He is leading you all to proceed.
Have a strong prayer ministry. Make prayer a top priority at your church. Talk about its importance during sermons. Schedule regular times for your church’s leaders to pray together, and encourage the people in your congregation to pray with and for each other whenever they can. Develop a church prayer ministry that: recognizes that people need Jesus to be a mediator and intercessor for them, directs people to a Jesus to receive the gift of salvation, is taken seriously, leads people to expect the best from God, ushers God’s power into the lives of people in need, and transforms the lives of those who are praying.
Adapted from Finding a Vision for Your Church: Assembly Required, copyright 2012 by Michael A. Milton. Published by P&R Publishing, Philipsburg, NJ, www.prpbooks.com.
Michael A. Milton and his family live in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the host of the national Bible-teaching television program Faith for Living, a songwriter and recording artist, and the author of numerous books and articles. Previously, he was the senior minister of the historic First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee and is currently Chancellor and CEO elect of Reformed Theological Seminary and the James M. Baird Jr. Professor of Pastoral Theology there. Visit his website at: michaelmilton.org.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: January 16, 2013