Spiritual Vitality: Keeping a Positive Vision — Rob Buckingham
Developing and maintaining a progressive vision is one of the keys to spiritual vitality in a local church. Since pioneering Bayside Church 20 years ago, we have followed six key principles that have led to ongoing health and growth in our church. They may seem simple and obvious but, after all, growing a church is all about doing the basics and doing them well.
1. Get your vision from God
This may sound like stating the obvious but over the years there’s been a fad mentality in many contemporary churches – that is, copying what is working well in other churches out of desperation to grow. In the 1980s churches copied Cho’s home cells; in the 1990s it was revival meetings; from 2000 it’s been G12 and so on. It’s vital to understand that principles translate but not necessarily programs! You need to hear from God for your local situation and then be obedient. Every city, suburb or town is different and will take different strategies to reach people with the gospel. Of course initially it’s easier to copy someone else. Getting God’s vision for your church takes time and discipline, but in the long run you will experience amazing spiritual vitality from the positive vision God gives you.
2. Write it down so others can run with it
The prophet Habakkuk teaches us to “Write the vision and make it plain … that he may run who reads it” (NKJV). This has been our practice right from the start of Bayside Church. Writing the vision allows others to read, understand and run with it. It also holds us accountable to the vision and to be honest with what is and is not accomplished as a result. Remember too that a vision is a guideline. You are not its servant, it is yours. Allow your church to meander with purpose. There will be lots of divine surprises along the way so learn to enjoy the journey!
3. Don’t be a lone ranger
Getting your own vision doesn’t mean that you do it on your own. Our autonomy as churches is a great strength, but our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. We all need people we can relate to (our peers) as well as people we can learn from (our mentors). I have greatly appreciated the younger pastors who have sought Christie and me out over the years to ask questions and learn from our experience. We have watched them fast track as a result. We have done the same thing with our C3 leaders as well as those in the wider body of Christ. And so ask yourself the question: “To whom do I relate?”
4. Wait patiently for God’s timing
Habakkuk goes on to say, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (NKJV). Don’t try and make the vision come to pass before, or faster than, it’s meant to. Sometimes we get a Word from God and don’t exercise the wisdom that should accompany the Word. When God speaks to you about something also enquire of Him what the timing should be.
In 1988 God spoke to me about pioneering a church in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne. At the time I was an assistant pastor in another church. I shared the vision with my Senior Pastor and he and I agreed to commit this vision to the Lord until the right time. The time arrived in early 1992 when my Senior Pastor and I agreed that I would be released to pioneer Bayside Church. Timing is everything so wait patiently for God’s timing.
5. Step out in faith
When God gives you the green light, step out in faith. This is the scary bit. It’s so easy to dream about a vision but so much harder when God says – “NOW!” Surely it was that way for Peter when he thought it would be a good idea to walk on water. “Come,” says Jesus and Peter leapt over the side of the boat. It wasn’t until he was half way to Jesus that he looks around and goes “oh heck, what have I done!” I had a moment like that after God gave us the vision to purchase a building in the late 90s. With a church of just over 300 people we bought an old printing factory for $1.2 million. To do this we borrowed almost $1 million. I had the closest thing I’ve ever had to a panic attack one day shortly thereafter, as I realized I’d borrowed this amount of money with a comparatively small church. Stepping out in faith is risky and uncomfortable, but if God has spoken and the time is right He won’t let you down.
6. Pastor the process
The unfolding of a vision will always lead to change and most people (about 95%) view change as loss. Due to this perception it is vital that leaders pastor their people through change – helping them to see the benefits of change, the positive aspects not just the things that are lost. So many leaders fail at this point and lose people and spiritual vitality from their church. In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership John Maxwell includes a chapter on The Law of Process. Do yourself a favour and read this chapter. It will save you a lot of time, heartache and people. Start the process with your key leaders, other leaders, influential people in your church and then the rest of the church community. And, at the same time, focus on the things that will never change – your core values and core beliefs.
Following these six principles will keep positive vision flowing in your church along with a spiritual vitality that will cause natural church growth and health to flourish.
Ps Rob Buckingham
Senior Pastor of Bayside Church in Melbourne
C3 Victoria State Director