30 Sep Mowing, Vision, and a Focused Eye
I’ve been a little tardy in posting to the blog. No excuse really, just busy. But we all could say that, couldn’t we? Well, I was thinking about writing this post this morning while I was mowing my lawn–or more precisely, while I was on my lawn tractor. Yes, I have a riding lawn mower. I really don’t need it with my present lawn, but I purchased it while I was in Ohio and had a bigger lawn to mow, and I kept it. You see, I was raised on a farm and somehow riding that lawn tractor around my lawn takes me back to many enjoyable hours riding the old Allis Chalmers W-D across our fields plowing, discing ground, planting, etc.
Anyway, this morning as I mowed I realized that I was using a skill taught to me long ago. It was how to drive a tractor across a field in a straight line. Today’s tractors have GPS, but back then, to drive in a straight line you would pick out a distant object in line with where you wanted to go–a tree, telephone post, building, etc.–and then drive while keeping your eye fixed on that object. It was amazing how well it worked. When you got to the end of the field and looked back, you would see that you had driven in a pretty straight line.
I do that with my lawn tractor as well, without even really thinking about it. Today, taking my first run down the long side yard, I noticed I had lined up with a lamppost on the house across the street. If that first run is not pretty straight, by the time you get to the last pass over the lawn…well, let’s just say that sometimes it just isn’t pretty.
As I thought of that principle–just keeping your eye focused on something off in the distance and moving toward it–my mind then began to think about a local church. So many applications. “Keep your eye focused on Jesus” is obviously one. But there is another one that is also important. That is the vision that one has for the ministry of their local church.
One of a pastor’s many responsibilities is to be clear about that vision and to persistently, without taking one’s eye off the mark, lead toward that vision. Proverbs tells us that when there is no vision, people perish; the NIV says that when there is no vision, people “cast off restraint.” In other words, there develops a spiritual anarchy where everyone does that which is right in his or her own eyes. Without a common vision a church can become fragmented, with every ministry group heading in a different direction. Not only that, but then each group begins to feel that their way is the best way, the only way. And so, a sense of competition (at best) or a sense of spiritual superiority (at worst) begins to develop.
I say this to our pastors: it is one of your primary responsibilities to help your congregation discover its vision and then doggedly lead toward that vision. Keep your eye focused on that faraway vision and lead straight, not deviating from the right or left.
Jesus, the owner of the Church, has really given us His vision for our church. He said it several ways, but none better than, “Go make disciples….” That is His vision for we who call ourselves Christians. Every local church needs to struggle with what that means for them. But whatever they decide it means, it must result in them seeing people place their trust in Jesus and grow in their faith to become like Him.
Really, if a local church has any vision that does not include the Great Commission, then you have to question whether that vision is warranted or valid. The owner of the Church has given us a command–make disciples. If that is not our vision, then what defense will you give to the Lord of the Church for your disobedience in not following His command?
I have been at this job just a little over a year now. I’ve spent this first year traveling, visiting churches, and talking to pastors and lay leaders, and I have come to realize that too many UB churches have lost their focus on The Vision. You know what happens when a church loses its focus on fulfilling the Great Commission in its community? When a church stops fishing for lost people, they begin fighting with each other, they run away, and they simply forget what they were saved and called to do.
Let me ask you–yes, you, right over there: have you lost your focus on The Command? Let’s recommit ourselves to drive straight ahead, focused on that vision!