The first time I got glasses, we were at the first church we served. A woman in the congregation was a tech who actually MADE the glasses at one of those “glasses in about an hour” places. She said, “Come in, get an eye exam. We’ll fix you up.” OK. So, I went in, had an eye exam. (They photographed my retina- the ONLY time I’ve EVER had that done. Imagine allowing 4 million suns to explode IN your eye, waiting until you could see again…and THEN letting them do it to the other eye!) When the exam was over, they sent me to the waiting room. A few minutes later, my parishioner came out from her “lab”- prescription in hand. She looked it over, looked at me and said, “I just have ONE question before I start.” “OK.” “How do you even see to drive here?!” Vision is an interesting thing!
What IS leadership? And perhaps more importantly, who does it apply to? Today, we continue our current sermon series- Are You Leading or Taking a Walk? It’s based on the concept that, if you think you’re leading but look behind you to find that no one is following- you’re just out taking a walk! This series is NOT simply for “church leaders” but for…everyone. We are ALL called to be leaders- in our homes, our church, our community and the world. We are called to help lead by connecting people to Jesus Christ. This series will focus on the qualities of a good leader as seen through the lens of some of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Today, we look at John, one of the “Big Three” along with Peter and James, and we consider another important aspect of good leadership- vision.
Luke 5:9-11 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So, they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
John- a son of Zebedee and Salome, the brother of James. He is often referred to as the Beloved Disciple. He was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He was a member of Jesus’ Inner Circle- as I said earlier, The Big Three. He wrote the New Testament Gospel of John, I, II and III John which we will be looking at in the NEXT sermon series, and the Book of Revelation. He preached among the churches of Asia Minor. Later in life, he was banished to the isle of Patmos where he received the visions that would become that Book of Revelation. He was later freed from Patmos and died and died of natural causes- one of the few disciples to do so. John is mentioned many times in the New Testament. He was a man of action- very ambitious, with a potentially explosive temper and a sometimes-intolerant heart. His second name, his last name if you will, was Bo-a-ner’-ges, which means son of Thunder. Notice- John and the boys made an astonishing haul of fish; so astonishing that they became believers, right there on the spot. How do I know? They dropped everything, walked away and followed Jesus. You don’t do that unless you’re pretty doggone sure.
Throughout his ministry, throughout the whole of the New Testament, John showed vision. When others couldn’t see what was what about you know what, John Could. He was the disciple Jesus entrusted His mother Mary to at the cross. He was the disciple who was there when they took the body down. He was the disciple who outraced Peter to the tomb that first Easter morning. Not mention he was the disciple who wrote 5 books of the New Testament- 2nd only to Paul. John had…and received…GREAT vision.
Outstanding leaders see the whole picture and don’t get too focused on specific tasks. They have deep knowledge of related organizations and ministries and are seen as strategic thinkers. They often have strong networks and consistently identify important trends early in the life cycle of that trend. They are very good at communicating a vision of the future and getting buy-in from those around them. They are excellent at establishing clear goals and objectives for the organization. They are also able to provide clear and convincing rationale that supports their vision of the future.
So, what is my vision for the future of this church? Well, first off, let’s be honest- I can’t promise you how long I’LL be a part of the long-term vision of this church. But honestly, none of us can. So, I proceed as if I’ll be here for a long time! My vision, which I feel strongly is God’s vision, is that we continue to push forward. We continue to seek to connect people to Jesus Christ. There IS no “stop and rest”. There IS no “we’re going to coast for a year”. There is only “keep the pedal to the floor and make sure we are staying on the course God calls us to be on”.
I see us becoming more and more of a regional church. I used to think our future was in developing “satellite churches” in other communities. Given our reality as a geographical oddity- 45 minutes from everywhere- that is not a logical approach. But we DO continue to draw from a broader and broader base. And there are 8,000 folks in Mercer County who don’t claim a church home. We could bring in 100 new members/year and not make a dent in that number for a while!
My vision includes that miracles continue to happen and that we use the amazing gift of the money for the property next door as a springboard for others to step forward and bridge the gap between what’s we’ve raised and what we need to demo the house on that property. To bridge the gap between where we are and where we need to be to finish the last two construction phases of the capital Campaign. To bridge the gap between our current budget and what we actually receive in giving, week to week.
God is doing miraculous things here. I’m talking burning bushes and parted seas miraculous. I’ve seen it before and I’m beside myself to be a part of it again. If you don’t believe me, look at where we were attendance-wise 6 years ago. Look at how many new ministries have been added to what we are accomplishing. Look at what God continues to do here. And look at the Spirit, moving so powerfully on Sundays as we gather in worship. People who visit us can’t stop talking about it.
What’s YOUR vision? For yourself? Your family? Your church? Your community? The world? What is the “big picture” that God has placed before you? Strong leaders see the big picture. They don’t get too focused on specific tasks. And they continue to push ahead, helping guide others along the way.