Archive for July, 2013

What Exactly Do You Do With a Church?

I know it seems like a strange question, but it is one that many of us as Pastors or Elders face. It’s “the vision thing” by another name. We want to do more than just keep the doors open or the wheels well oiled and spinning. We want our churches “to go somewhere”–but where?

Rather than suggest all sorts of spiritual exercises for vision seeking, I want to offer a more direct and Bible-based answer.

Many years ago I had the privilege of hearing Bob Roxborough (then Pastor of the Millmead Centre in Guilford) speak about spiritual renewal in the church. He suggested that leaders needed to ask certain key  questions of their church in order to get a sense of mission and vision for the future. In offering these he was summarizing the Five Essential Questions put forward by Pastor Lloyd J Ogilvie (who went on to become Chaplain of the US Senate.)  I find them helpful and I reproduce them here:

Q1. What Kind of People Does God Want Us to Produce in this Church? (The Discipleship Question)

Can you describe what a healthy, Christ-like disciple should look and sound like in your community?

Interestingly, many of the “successful” mega-churches in the U.S. have a very clear description of the sort of disciples they are seeking to produce. Perhaps this is a lesson we could all usefully learn?

Q2. What Kind of ‘Experiences’ Do People Need to Have In order to Become Those Kinds of People? (The Process Question).

The key word to me in the above question is “experiences”. Note that Ogilvie did not say ‘sermons’ or ‘teaching’.  To be sure, teaching is vitally important, but by itself it is not enough. Experiences is a broad word that covers…well…more or less anything and everything–small groups, mentoring, mission trips, practical hands-on training, seminars, retreats, worship times, friendships…

Q3.  What Kind of Leaders are Needed to Provide Those Kinds of Experiences? (The Leadership Development Question)

It amazes me the number of churches who do not have a leadership development process. At its most basic, such a process should have as its aims to

  • Discern (or Identify)
  • Develop (or Train)
  • Deploy

leaders at every level and in every area of the church. It is as much an attitude and a culture as it is a program.

However, since my own church that I Pastor has no such program, perhaps I ought to eat humble pie, bow my head in shame, and move on to the next question.  (Which, ironically, follows on nicely…)

Q4 What Kind of Pastor is Needed to Train Those Kinds of Leaders? (The Pastor Question)

Obviously a better one than me! But perhaps that is not quite true. Perhaps what is nearer the mark is, a Pastor like me with

  • different priorities (such as training others to do, rather doing ministry myself)
  • a different model of ministry (where my ministry is preparing others for ministry)
  • different skills (in training and mentoring)

This in turn leads to…

Q5. What Kind of ‘Experiences’ Does the Pastor Need to Be(come) That Kind of Pastor? (The Theological Education Question)

For me, this means asking what kinds of training do I need to develop these new priorities, models and skills. What courses are available? What books and tapes? Do I need to design my own study/growth program? What churches or pastors can I visit to learn from? Who could mentor me?

However, one cannot fully answer this question until the church or leadership has developed clear  answers to the first four questions.


The process that Pastor Ogilvie outlines may seem less spiritual than holing away in a monastery for a week and seeking a vision from on-high. And yet, if a Church and its leadership were to seriously, prayerfully and with due attention to the Bible, were to work through these questions, the results could be truly transformational.

Question: Do you have any experience of trying to work through questions like these? If so, what were your results? And what difference did it make to your church or your ministry?


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