Pastoral Vision



I was asked recently to share what my vision was for pastoral ministry in the 21st century world we live in.  Pastors have many responsibilities and casting a vision is one of those responsibilities.  We can cast the vision, we can even sell it, but there has to be a community of believers willing to follow that vision.  This is a rather interesting task, to put down on paper one’s vision for their pastoral ministry and if done right, it should get you to think about where you have come from and where you are going.  One thing I learned in this process that I have a much different vision now than I did when I started 10 years ago, and we cannot be afraid to adjust our vision to the world around us changes.

There are two books that I would highly recommend all pastors, and others in church leadership for we do not do this alone, read, study, and discuss.  They are both written by Pastor Mike Slaughter, who is the Senior Pastor of the Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church.  Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus and Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus.  I am not sure that he presents any new ideas, but more of a calling back to what it supposed to be all about and that is following Jesus.


In January of 1992 I was sitting in a class at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy learning about missions and evangelism.  We were focusing on a small group of students from the college who had traveled to Romania to work in an orphanage there.  During the course of this month long class, I came across a song that in some ways transformed my life and how I would practice ministry in the future.

The chorus of the song was “I want to spend my life mending broken people.”  This became the anthem of my life and the music of my soul and all these years later is the guiding principal of what I feel pastoral ministry and the ministry of the Church is all about.

The Church of the 21st century faces some unique challenges.  For the first time in American history, there are more people unaffiliated with organized religion than affiliated.  How do we motivate people and what does the church need to do to attempt to reverse this trend.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to read the book, “Everything Must Change” by Brian McClaren.  McClaren charged his readers with thinking about church in a new and different way for a new and different society.  The old ways might still work but in order to stay fresh and relevant we have to find new ways to reach people with the transformative message of the Gospel.  So this got me thinking about church and how we “do” church, and this is what needs to change.  We need to stop “doing” church, and we need to “be” the church.

By and large I think we do church very well but I am not so sure we can be the church.  We are called, all of us, to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in this world.  Jesus was a renegade who flipped the tables over in the temple.  He showed people a new way to live, not just a new way to “do” church but a way to “be” the church.  Reaching out in the places that make us uncomfortable, it has been said that the role of the church is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  The role of the church, any church, is not to make us feel good about ourselves but to convict us and motivate us to love God truly and love our neighbor.

When I heard the song I quoted above, my first thought was that I needed to go into the world and find the broken people and fix them.  Then I realized I am one of the broken people, and I need fixing myself.  In order for us to be an effective witness to the world and hope to mend others, we have to first mend ourselves.  We have to strive to be a healthy, welcoming community for all people.  We need to be relevant in the ever changing world while at the same time honoring the past and the rich heritage we come from.

My pastoral vision is simple, we seek to be instruments of God’s peace, bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ for all people, at home, in our local communities, and beyond to the wider world.

Church has become a noun, a stationary place that we visit once a week, rather than a living, functioning working community of Jesus-following believers. We need to make the church real and alive in a world that so desperately needs the transformative message of the Gospel.  This will require a revolutionary lifestyle and a connection to a radical community of Jesus followers where we live a life centered on Christ and not on the world.  Our communities need to become radical, risk-taking communities that once again reflect the directives of its renegade leader and passes the movement on to the next generation.  If we are truly going to be followers of Jesus, then we must die to self and rise to new life, not just on Sunday, but each day and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

To quote Pastor Mike Slaughter from his book Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus, “To Jesus, the church was an active verb and not a passive noun. His followers practiced mission evangelism. The understood that the mission was not to get the world into the church but to get the church into the world.”

To accomplish this we must preach to convict and to change, there must be an intentional willingness to have our lives transformed by the message of the Gospel.  We need to move past the conventional meaning of church and be transformed into a living and breathing entity that becomes the hands and feet of Christ.

May pastoral vision is that we recapture the missionary zeal of those who first came to this new world where Christ and His Church would be the center of their lives.  Where we will put Christ first in all, we do and make Him and His desire first in our lives.  My vision is for a rededication and sanctification of every part of our lives and through that we will be able to transform the world.

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