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Driven by a consuming vision
By Steve R. Mills
Although statistics are few, the best estimates state that 80 percent of the churches in America are on a plateau or are declining (Robert Dale, Keeping the Dream Alive, 97). Assemblies of God Sunday school statistics support that estimate.
Why do many churches and Sunday schools maintain status quo? The answer is simple. They have no clearly defined vision, and a church or a Sunday school without vision is characterized by the following.
1. They repeat the past. Since there is no plan or strategy for the future, tradition is perpetuated. A Sunday school without a vision is probably doing the same things it did 2, 5, 10, or 20 years ago. While we do not change for the sake of change, we must change to remain relevant in ministering to people's needs.
2. They follow fads. If you don't know where you are going, then any road will do. Unfortunately many churches have experienced ineffectiveness and even disaster by following fads. David couldn't fight the battle in Saul's armor, and we can't accomplish God's plan in our church by following someone else's vision. Without a vision from the Lord, we find ourselves looking for a new idea, another gimmick, or a "quick fix." A leader who has heard from God will have lasting results.
3. They fight brushfires. Without a consuming vision, your church and Sunday school will live from crisis to crisis. You will react to one problem after another. With vision, you can look beyond the problem to the objective.
4. They are hyperactive. Like a child who is a bundle of energy, darting here and there, the church without a specific vision or goal is active, but ineffective. It bustles with activity but is ineffective in eternal results. Many churches are trying to do too many things because they don't have specific visions and plans. Most churches and Sunday schools would be more effective if they would select two or three ministries to do the best possible way.
W.G. Garvin wrote, "Churches grow when they 'articulate a distinct and winsome identity.' They develop a 'unifying vision.' Developing this vision is the primary task for leadership of these growing congregations, The task falls primarily on the shoulders of the minister who is head of staff and secondarily on the leadership core of the congregation" (Shooting the Rapids, 116,117).
Church and Sunday school leaders must have a vision. This comes only as we find a secret place in the presence of God where we seek His mind and heart. Sunday school and church cannot be "business as usual." We cannot live in a cocoon of comfort while people are crying out for meaning, purpose, and peace in life.
You are a leader----a key player in God's plan for your church and Sunday school. The Lord wants to fill your heart and mind with His dream and vision until you are consumed and driven by its force. The Word says, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9,10).
It makes no difference if you are in a community of 100 or 1 million. God has a vision and a plan for your church. Churches that are effective know what business they are in and are sticking to it.
Here are three steps of action. First, find a place in the presence of God and ask Him for His vision for your church and Sunday school for this next year. Let His vision fill your heart and consume you. Second, in 10 words or less write out specifically what you feel God's purpose is for your church and Sunday school. List two or three ministry goals for your Sunday school to accomplish this year. Third, get to work, and stick to your purpose.
The leader who is filled with God's vision and consumed with passion will see his Sunday school impact the world for eternity.