Thursday, January 28, 2016

When WE is a brick wall keeping out THEE. . .

At the heart of our vision. . . so begins a PR piece sent to us by a Lutheran group thinking we might have some funds we might want to send their way.  The mission is probably laudable and doing credible work but the mission statement, core values statement, and vision statement were all written from the perspective of the people and offered little room for the Lord to squeeze in.  It was not intentional and I am sure that these folks listened to all the right voices, read all the right books, and attended all the right workshops on how to craft and use these devices to identify, explain, and inspire people to rally around your cause.  But it was language that could have been used by any secular organization and it did not give the Lord much room to direct or speak to what was being done in His name.

As any pastor who opens his mail will attest, there is no small cottage industry out there trying to help congregation's sharpen their focus, communicate their mission, and rally people to their cause.  Once I thought it was a tool that could be faithfully used but when we set up a group to actually write a mission statement, look at our core values, and cast a vision before the people, the end result was more navel gazing than it was useful work.  Perhaps it was my own ignorance and inexperience or just maybe this is inherently one of the weaknesses of the whole thing.

I am beginning to wonder if we need or even should have a vision.  It would seem to me that visions inevitably narrow a focus which in Scripture and Confession is rather broad (at least when it comes to such things as the means of grace).  Our vision tends to become preoccupied with small things, with attitudes, with feelings, and with outcomes that are generally pretty hard to evaluate.  God's vision is expansive and inclusive but narrowly focused upon and through the efficacious Word and the Sacraments that deliver what they sign.  In the many PR pieces I have read, the mission, vision, and values defined seldom have much more than lip service to do with the means of grace.

Contrary to what many people think, I don't have a vision for what the Lord wants us to do or to be.  But I have listened to the voice of His Word, I do pay attention to what we have confessed in our Concordia, and I am mindful of the catholic doctrine and practice that underlies everything we are and everything we seek to do as the people of God in a particular place.  I do have personal preferences (don't we all) but it is a fool's errand to impose a pastor's personal preferences upon a congregation (any more than it is to pick any other one person or even group and impose their personal preferences upon the whole).  It would seem to me that what we ought to be talking about is being captive to the Word of God, shaped by the faithful confessions that witness to this Word, and gathered around the Word preached and visible (in the Sacraments).  It is through these God has chosen to work in us, for us, and through us.  Maybe things would be better if we spent more time on His vision and less time on our own.

Or, maybe I am just plain wrong again.... either way, it behooves us to reconsider what we are saying and doing in all the time spent vision casting, mission defining, and values considering...

3 comments:

Janis Williams said...

If a church has to write a vision statement, they've lost their focus (pun intended). The vision is not the Church's to fast, pray, and flagellate themselves to receive. The vision is God's in Christ, and our task is to baptize, teach and make disciples.

Kristine Bruss said...

You've provided a compelling vision statement right here, one that would work for any confessional Lutheran congregation: "being captive to the Word of God, shaped by the faithful confessions that witness to this Word, and gathered around the Word preached and visible (in the Sacraments)." Imagine if all confessional churches had a line like that on the homepage of their website.

ErnestO said...

Wonderful distillation & vision statement Kristine and Pastor Peters. I pray faithfully to be "captive to the Word of God"