Perhaps you, like me remember a time at the beach on an inflatable raft where, thanks to the warmth of the sun and gentle rocking of the waves, you found yourself in a pleasant state of relaxation. Through the early years of slow but steady decline churches will drift farther from their sense of vision and purpose. It is not an intentional drift. It is much like a vacationer on an inflatable raft floating at the ocean’s beach who allows the warmth of the sun and the gentle rocking of the waves to lull him to a state somewhere between awareness and sleep. It doesn’t take long until the ocean’s current has pulled the vacationer several hundred yards from his starting point. He awakens to unfamiliar surroundings. In some cases the vacationer has been pulled out to sea without knowing and must be rescued.
In the church it is not an intentional drift, but somewhere along the way we have let the warmth of ministry and the gentle rocking of weekly gatherings with friends lull us into that state of being somewhere between spiritual awareness and sleep. For some, perhaps we have been lulled to a deep sleep.
An observation in several churches has been that in following the achievement of the initial vision or after several years of prosperous ministry in an established, a church a couple of things happen. One of the greatest detriments is the leadership not recasting the vision. Leaders should keep the vision in front of the people of their ministry or organization. Find a variety of ways to keep the vision in front of everyone who is part of the organization, including those you may not see very frequently. Not only keeping the vision in front of everyone, but keeping it fresh, finding new ways to share the vision, ways that always compel people to get out of their seats and join in the vision achievement. Keep the vision in front of the people at all times and continue to recast the vision with excitement and in ways that create excitement in the constituents of your organization (church).
Another factor is celebrating the victories. We should celebrate all the victories, large and small. Let the people know what God has accomplished through their efforts and giving. Celebrate from the pulpit and in the smallest of group settings. Celebrate through verbal communication and in print. Celebrate on your website, and through social media. Celebrate every small victory in as many venues as you can.
Don’t get drifting, lulled into a state of satisfaction and relaxation brought on by the warmth of friendships in the church and the gentle rocking of the waves of ministry. Chapter ten of Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church has been said to be one of the best pieces written on vision & the church. Why not pick up a copy and read it. See what God will do in your church or your ministry organization.
“That (pastor’s personal vision retreat) was the best thing I have done in all my years of ministry.” Don Mulkey, Pastor, Colonial Woods Baptist Church, GA
Portions of this article are from Reaching the Summit:Avoiding & Reversing Decline in the Church, chapter One, Loss of Vision.