HopePres Strategic Plan. “Nurtured for Growth”

The church I’m serving recently had our first “Vision Renewal Gathering.” This is a practice we hope to continue on an annual basis in order to see and celebrate what God has done in our midst, discern how the Holy Spirit is currently working, and hear about and pray for how we think God is calling our church to move forward in the coming year. Below is an introduction I wrote to our little sprouting church along with a link at the bottom to our actual Strategic Plan. May this be an encouragement to all of my fellow church planters, and to any others who are inspired to mission for Christ through this glimpse into one of Jesus’ churches.

Hello friends,

I wanted to write a response to our Vision Renewal Gathering from last month. As I described that Sunday night, our theme for the vision for 2015 is “Nurtured for Growth.

Growth cannot be our primary focus because without being deeply rooted in the real substance of the gospel, our attempts at growth will be coming out of our own strength and not the Lord’s. We’ll wither. So, serving Christ’s mission requires us to seek Nurture in Christ’s grace.

Nurture alone cannot be our primary focus because we must understand that God grows his church in maturity and in numbers in order to be a blessing to the world. We bear fruit, not for ourselves, but for others. We’re Nurtured by God’s grace for our own maturity, for the sake of others growing to or in Christ, all for God’s glory.

This is the point of Psalm 1— the one who delights in the Law of the Lord…

“He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”

The tree does not bear fruit for itself. It does not produce shade for itself. The tree’s goal is not to be a consumer, but through its nurture from the stream of God’s grace in the gospel, it becomes a fruit bearer for all that come into proximity with it. This is the church. This is the goal of OUR church.

And, our challenge in all of this is to:

Consume from the right source: the grace of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ applied through the Holy Spirit.
Bear fruit in season for the right goal: bringing the blessing of grace and the renewal of Christ into the lives of others in God’s timing and his ways.

Nurtured for Growth.”

Also, it was wonderful to see so many of you there. Looking for ways to help, interested to hear the path ahead, so quick to celebrate the legacy that the Lord is creating in our midst.

Beth’s own story and the story of her family’s service in church planting for the past 200 years in this area, was so beautiful to hear, and inspiring to think what God does through the lives of humble, non-spectacular, ordinary people who entrust themselves to Jesus and his mission.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see our children and grandchildren (physical and spiritual) sharing similar stories when they’re adults?

Further, the message from Scott Dean and his points on “Risk or Rust” and “Nurture or Wither” were also timely and will hopefully be used by the Lord to continue to galvanize our community in relationship, worship, and mission.

Also, one of my goals from the evening was for you all to see the areas of ministry of Hope, things that have already been built, and areas where we would like to see development. The intention is for all of this to guide your prayers, your understanding of our church plan, and to provide access points for you to consider in your own desires to serve and grow, for the sake of the gospel of grace growing in and through our congregation.

We have 6 major areas of ministry in our model as a church (see membership packet for more description of each of these): Cultivation, Community, Renewal, Nurture, Service, and Partnerships. And, the plan I passed out last month shows what our plans are in each of these areas for the next 1-2 years.

There are going to be some things in this plan that we never get around to trying, some things that we begin to emphasize more than others in response to needs, God’s leading, and provision of financial/leadership/and serving resources, and some things that we adapt according to changing conditions.

In all of these plans, our desire is to remain rooted in our Identity and Purpose as a church, and see our primary values guide all that we plan. If you’re unfamiliar with all of this please review the “Identity” page of our website.

My next leadership step is to take the big overview I presented, pull out the primary areas as more specific emphases for the coming year, without letting go of the areas we’ve already built, and, provide you all with specific access points to contribute your gifts. This will be an ongoing process as we move to initiate and continue our ministry.

In general these emphases will be our growth in:

  1. Nurture: developing and shepherding leaders, praying together
  2. Community: starting and strengthening Local Communities
  3. Nurture: discipleship of men, women, marriages, & strengthening of HopeKids
  4. Cultivation: training & encouragement in relational evangelism and encouraging us to initiate friendships, host unbelieving or spiritually curious friends for small dinners with friends from Hope, invite friends to Hope events and Sunday worship
  5. Service: Working to see Safe Families for Children established for our community, and developing periodic opportunities to serve our community in mercy

In order to be the church we’re called to be, and see God accomplish our 2015 vision of “Nurtured for Growth,” this handful of primary emphases is what I’d like you all to focus your prayer and consideration on.

Please also review our Strategic Plan document (accessible through our website) in order to see the specific things that have been built in the past 2 years, the areas we would like to initiate, and specific places where you could engage with your gifts and talents.

And, please review our giving needs for the coming year. We are praying that the Lord will provide $55,000 through congregational giving in order to meet all non-personnel giving goals for the 2015 budget. If this budget is something you’d like to review line-by-line, please let me know and I’ll provide you a copy and set aside some time to discuss it with you.

Grace and Peace to you all through our Lord Jesus Christ—

Dan

Leadership, Authority, and Church Governance

note: This is a response to David Fitch’s blog that a friend of mine passed on to me the other day. I could have written so much more— getting into the details, etc. but I had to cut myself off. Will likely come back to this topic of leadership and authority at a later time.
The leadership thing is big. We need it, a group needs it, the church needs it, but how does leadership function in “real time”? Leadership necessarily involves authority, to deny this fact or reject the truth that the church and her leaders have authority is naïve and neglects the Bible itself. Yet, how is this authority to function?
I love the case study Fitch gives of a leader presenting his/her process to the group for input and interaction. This could work well in a small group setting like a Local Community, the Local Community leader forum, or a Session (the group of elders in a Presb church). It’s in groups like these where all the members are equally engaged in seeking the Lord in prayer and the Scriptures and receiving grace from Him through these means. The trouble is when we try and apply dynamics that are intended to function in a small group of equally committed leaders, into a group of people where some may be committed, some may be on the outskirts, some may be suspicious, some may even be malicious (even unintentionally so), or some may be committed and sincerely devoted to the Lord and the community yet lacking any solid theological/scriptural/Christian-life foundation for guiding a voice of wisdom. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, so if one has no fear or knowledge of God and His Redemptive-historical self-revelation in the Scriptures, and thus no notion of the gospel of grace applied to his own heart, how could a Christian community look to this person for guidance and input into the missional direction they ought to take, and submit to them— even if their voice is one of several?
This is not to deny that the Holy Spirit can speak through anyone, even an ass (Numbers 22:28). And, a godly leader will seek to hear God’s wisdom in anyone’s input, even if that input is delivered abrasively or without grace or significant biblical/theological knowledge. Yet, because of a lack of one or more of the following: godliness, maturity, whole-life wisdom flowing from the gospel of grace, or commitment to the community—this person’s input (even as a beloved member of the community), ought not have as much gravitas as the insights of others. This is why Paul is so thoughtful as to the type of people who ought to be set aside for the calling of elder. On one hand Paul writes that the one who aspires to the office of overseer desires a noble task (1 Tim 3:1), thus affirming the desire to influence and speak into church direction, vision, and leadership. Yet, at the same time Paul also cautions against ordaining those who are a “recent convert, lest he be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil,” (1 Tim 3:6). Spiritual authority to lead is a real thing, its a heavy thing, and for those who lack wisdom and maturity to rely on and apply the gospel of grace received by faith alone to their heart idols and tempermental tendencies, being recognized by others as having spiritual authority is not only a destructive path for the church, but a self-destructive path for that ill-equipped or immature individual, see Paul’s warnings to his young delegate Timothy in 2 Tim 3 and 4: “…they will have the appearance of godliness but deny its power…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will acumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” While we affirm the reformation (and biblical!) principle of a priesthood of all believers (cf. 1 Peter 2), we also must affirm that not every priest is called to lead.
I’m not so much concerned about the inevitable conflict of leadership (this ought to come with any human relationship, and is a part of God’s toolbox for refining his people by grace), but I am concerned about people being given more authority to speak in to leading Christ’s church than they ought to have. Seeking input from everyone, consensus from everyone, leadership from everyone can actually be a very troubling thing, not just for a church but for any organization. Organizationally— for someone to use influence responsibly and well for the sake of the organization, they need to understand and completely own that organization’s guiding purpose, values, foundational principles, and practices— this goes for Caterpillar, Google, and even the church, just from a practical standpoint. Thus, while all members of a church ought to have a voice into the life and leadership of the church, these voices will have varying degrees of amplification based on the life of godliness, wisdom, and personal knowledge of Christ through prayer and Scripture that the speaker’s life displays— this is what we call maturity. Additionally, personal commitment to the particular community is vital for one to have a voice in helping to shape and guide it.
In the American system of representative democracy, we are meant to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people— people are not meant to serve government, but government is meant to serve the people and be developed from that same populace. The qualifications to govern well cannot include every human living within the borders of our nation. There are certain people (perhaps a majority of people), who simply do not have the knowledge, skills, wisdom, social thoughtfulness, disposition, etc. that could make them competent to work with others in the detailed governing of our nation. Further, the sheer number of people and the difficulties resulting from this should every one person have a voice into every governing decision that needs to be made on a daily basis, could lead to either chaos or an eventual tyrrany of a vocal few. As a result, we function through the process of representative democracy— where people choose to elect who they deem the most qualified representatives on their behalf. And, these elected officials are not meant to have achieved a higher level of value, significance, and power from a hiarchical sense. Instead, their position affords them the opportunity to serve others at a greater capacity, under social contract with the people who recognized their qualifications and elected them to office in the first place. All of this is laid out in the authoritative document for the United States’ system of governance— the Constitution.
This system is not meant to be a model for the church, instead our system of American government finds it’s bearings through the biblical model of the church, actually finding significant roots in Scottish Presbyterianism. Yet, in the system of church governance or authority, how are congregations supposed to recognize the most qualified among them?— we look to our spiritual authority, the Scriptures for this. Who trains potential leaders and presents them to a congregation for consideration?– we look to our authoritative document for life and doctrine, the Scriptures. How are these leaders to govern and lead Christ’s church?– we look to the Scriptures.
This could get so much longer… so I’ll conclude.