Monday, November 14, 2011

God's Vision: Seeing What He Is Doing in Our Midst

I often return to the first shift concerning vision and expectation that Stan Ott talks about in the Acts 16:5 Initiative and in his book, Twelve Dynamic Shifts for Transforming Your Church.  The reason I keep going back is because I need to be reminded to “see” what God is doing in our midst.  In my personal experience, and in the experience of many I interact with across the denomination, what we imagine in our mind’s eye is sometimes not a very encouraging picture.  The first time Dr. Ott talked about having this kind of vision, I am embarrassed to say that it was like a light bulb that lit up in my mind.  Why hadn’t I thought of asking God for a vision?  Why hadn’t I thought of praying for a vision?  And, much worse, why didn’t I have much of a vision at all?

“How you picture that future has a great deal to do with what will happen by God’s grace.  Imagine your church as a vibrant, transformational fellowship that pulses with life and energy.  How would it look?  How would it feel?” (Ott 25).

How would your church look?  Where does God take your imagination as you dream, pray, and envision the liveliness of your community of faith? 

Personally, as I began to dream about the church where I serve, I started seeing people interacting with energy and with smiles on their faces.  I began to see people who were studying the word of God and were moved by their love of Christ to share it with people in their lives.  The picture kept coming to my mind of people being the hands and feet of Christ as they left our doors, spreading joy out into the community.  A while back, a mother and daughter I had known in a previous church came to visit.  After the service they commented on how lively our congregation is.  Could it be that God was fulfilling the vision, and it took someone from outside to help me see it?

The Dr. Ott’s second question above is equally important.  How would your church feel in a transformational situation?  Answering this question well might take real imagination.  How do the hands we clasp during the passing of the peace feel?  How hard or soft is the chair or pew?  Is the fabric covering it smooth?  Who is sitting next to you?  What does the music “feel” like?  Does it wash over the congregation with notes of warmth and harmony? Is the music lively and energy generating?  Is it like listening to angels singing?  Do you find yourself thanking God when the music elevates like a prayer?    What words of inspiration and faith does the preacher say that lifts your hope to a higher plane?  How do those words “feel”?  What does holding the elements in communion feel like?  Is the bread soft or like a cracker?  Is it wine or grape juice?  How do they taste?    One could walk through every element in the life of the congregation and imagine what it feels like.  If you do this exercise and what you find is not very uplifting, perhaps that is the very place your prayer life and God’s vision need to focus.  Can you imagine it even if it is not happening right now?

I invite you to form a prayer team or ask another person to join you in this work of imagination.  Working through you, God has the ability to do powerful things.  “Remember, ministry begins as an act of faith in God”  (Ott 27).  And may it be so!

In Christ,

Anne Clifton Hebert

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


"Nobody cares about me." It's not uncommon that when disgruntled members in a church leave it's because they claim no one cared." 
It's a sad truth.  
However, it is also true that Small Groups can be the best antidote to overcome this complaint. Small Groups are the place where true friendships are established; people nurture those friendships; and members experience listening to one another and even caring for one another. 
If a church is serious about caring for one another, there is no substitute for involving people in a Small Group.
Now, it's also true, someone may want to be cared for, but not want to establish relationships or get involved in a Small Group. But that brings up the old proverb: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Our job is to make sure there is water to drink. 

The caring waters of your Small Group help people connect with the water of life.