Anyone experienced in construction knows a building can stand no stronger than the support on which it is erected. Although the support is not finished with fine veneers or stained in high gloss enamel, it is far more critical to the building's stability than all the finishing products that catch the eyes of spectators when construction is completed.
Building a strong ministry is not much different. Although many of us spend more time working on the trimmings of ministry than the structure, we must understand that structure is everything. If we are going to build an effective ministry, we must realize it's not always those whose glistening talents adorn our programs, sing on our stages or teach in our classes who are critical to developing a strong church. To the contrary, it is often those who are less notable and seldom acknowledged who provide the strength needed for the pastor's vision to be fulfilled.
So how do we get those silent forces in our churches to rise from the mundane routine of being benchwarmers to becoming soul-seekers and kingdom builders? The question haunts many leaders and frustrates many more. No pastor wants to fail to accomplish his goals or dreams. We do not intentionally hide our visions. But it seems there is sometimes a language barrier between the pulpit and the pews.
Many pastors feel as if they are stuck in the construction of the tower of Babel instead of the construction of a contemporary vision. They feel like a foreigner who is trying to communicate in a country where his language is not being understood. Those pastors who feel compelled to make a difference in their generation are often discouraged to find that after years of teaching, their message is largely uninterpreted by those in the pews.
Other pastors, their visions overdue, feel like a woman who is pregnant with a child who should have gestated in nine months but has been carried for nine years. Pregnancy can become uncomfortable, especially when you have passed your due date.
We as pastors seldom lack vision. The challenge is to find a way to birth the vision and cause the skeptic, the cynical and the unbeliever to bear witness to what God has laid on our hearts. Often, when the testing time comes, we are amazed to find that even those who gave verbal assent to the vision often didn't fully understand or embrace it.
Most of us realize we only have a certain amount of time to be productive before we have moved from a harvest time to a time where we preserve what we have harvested. Our vision is time-sensitive. God has given us a permit to build, but we have to build what we have been called to build during our productive years.
So how can we hasten the process, refocus our goals and get on with building our vision while we can?
Building people. When God commanded Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain (see Hab. 2:2), He did so because writing the vision helps those who follow us see clearly where we are trying to go. It also gives them some point of reference to which they can refer as the vision develops.
Many pastors remain frustrated for lack of support, never realizing that those who follow do not fully understand the vision of the church. They are attracted to the leader, his gifting or his faithfulness. If ministry is to go beyond the personality who drives it to the God who ordained it, our people must have an intimate experience with the vision.
A man who at one time taught our leaders once made a statement in the middle of his class that I originally found quite disturbing. I later realized it was actually quite wise: Our people must love the vision more than the visionary.
I was disturbed when I first heard this statement because as a leader, I hungered to win and maintain the love of people in the church. I later realized that people who love you personally more than they love the work you have come to do often wear you out. They want to be around you more than to be sent to serve in other capacities. When all roads lead to you, very little distance is actually traveled.
No matter how great a builder you are, you will need both the architect and the subcontractors. God is without question your architect, but your pews are holding your subcontractors. You will never build a great house by yourself. In fact, many of you already may be wearing yourselves down by always trying to be the glue that holds things together.
Supporting the vision. Here are a few questions that will help you determine whether your vision is getting the support it needs or not:
**Does it seem that any program or event you don't attend flounders?
**Have you felt that any meeting you are not directing remains docile?
**Are you expending all of your energy trying to keep the peace with the members whose damaged emotions are so sensitive that you are always mediating misunderstandings and healing offenses?
All of the above can be indicators that those who are with you have not matured enough to give you the support you need. If your vision is small, you can generally maintain that hands-on style of leadership. But as it grows to deeper levels, a micromanaging style will be as ill suited as a tricycle given to a college student.
Garnering the support a greater vision demands starts with being sure that you have taught, explained and written down the vision. When you have written the vision, make sure it is plain to all who will have to implement it. Ask them to teach it, speak it, share it and embrace it. Check the music selections and the classes taught to make sure that they also reinforce the message God has given you to convey.
Every effort expended must be weighed against the purpose God has given you. If it doesn't facilitate the vision you have been given, then it is wasting time and demolishing the potential for building more for God.
Often we assume that when we have spoken on the vision, all those who heard it understood it. In reality, repetition brings results. Don't be afraid to teach it over and over again. And do not allow people to serve who do not understand, do not agree or are not excited about the vision God has given you for the church.
Vision in motion. When you get your vision, run with it! What is important to see in your church is your vision in motion. Some steps:
1. Write and speak the vision. The only way others can see the vision is if you write it or speak it often enough so it develops in their faith realm. A person from the outside of your church should be able to see the vision by the way things are being run.
2. Test people's perception of the vision. When the vision is plain to the leadership, it must be demonstrated in how they run their areas of authority.
Ask someone from the outside what he or she thinks the vision of your church is, based on how things are being run. If they cannot see the direction you are headed by the order and attitude of your service, something or someone is missing the point, and more work needs to be done.
3. Develop men and women who will run with it, not against it. People who are independent enough not to require constant attention, yet interdependent enough not to develop their own agendas, are critical.
Do not limit yourself to preachers, singers and others who may not be the strong steel that will develop your vision without splitting your church. You may be overlooking people who could really assist you without distracting from your vision or undermining your teaching. You need people who are not on their way somewhere and using your platform for a launching pad.
Many times the final-finish gifts that come in and work when all the foundational work is done are not the construction materials you need for real development. Nor can you build a vision with that person who avoids work and seeks light. In short, finding people who can run with the vision and not run from the vision is an essential prerequisite.
4. Don't lose faith. Do not lose faith in your vision. Though it tarries, wait for it. In the end, it will speak and not lie.
Some lack the patience to carry the vision full term. But prayer and faith will help develop you so that you can develop the vision. Believe that what God has given you is predestined to prevail. Build to where you are going, not to where you are now.
If you hold fast to what God has given you and maintain your momentum--even when you are under fire--you will win. More important, God will be glorified as you add structure and development to what may have started out as the impossible dream. You may be closer now than you have ever been.
God's plan for you will require some structural changes and some strong inner reinforcement. But in the end, what He has promised you will speak for itself.