by Tom Campbell
If you are doing research on how to effectively grow an organization, all of the books from secular and religious sources will tell you that having an easily discernable vision for the employees or church members is a must. Obviously vision provides direction and it is the basis for how goals should be developed and how critical decisions are made. Everything we do should be in support of reaching our vision. However, a good vision should always stay out in front of us. It should always keep us striving for the next level, whatever that may be.
In the church setting, we are fortunate in that God, through His inspired Word, provided us the ultimate vision. We are told by Jesus Christ to love all of those with whom we come in contact, even our enemies. Love is not just a simple word; it requires kindness, patience, forgiveness, and showing concern and compassion for others. We are also told by Christ to take the Word of God and the plan of salvation to the corners of the earth. We are simply told to “Go” and help make new disciples. The vision that God gives us continues to stretch us. In Rom. 12:2, we are told to continually transform our way of thinking by renewing our mind in the ways that the Lord would have us live. We are told not to conform to the way the world would have us live. Colossians 3 also challenges us that everything we do, whether it is by what we say or by our actions, should be to the glory of Jesus Christ and the father. In short, God has provided us the most perfect vision to continue to grow His church.
As Shepherds, our job is to help each member of the body understand this vision and its importance for them personally and collectively as a congregation. We must keep the Word of God and this heavenly vision always before the body: motivating, loving, feeding, and protecting. We are, however, not without our issues and problems in trying to accomplish this important task.
One of the first problems we encounter is that Shepherds are expected to carry out God’s vision for their local congregation, and many of them have received little to no training on how to accomplish these important objectives. Quite frankly, most congregations have done a poor job in preparing men to be leaders in the church. Therefore, one of the key roles that shepherds must perform is having the local vision to develop a training program for future leaders of the congregation. Classes should be developed for men to participate in that show the leadership model of Christ with His disciples. Practical information on dealing with delicate and difficult decisions needs to be conveyed to those that are coming up in the leadership ranks so that they grow with a broader view of issues that they will likely face at a later date. If we are successful with this local vision of training better leaders, then we will be successful in meeting God’s bigger vision for us as a church.
Another issue that I want to touch on is the balance that is required on how we shepherd the congregation. Many times shepherds will adopt a more congregational approach. They set key objectives for the congregation and quasi-empower deacons to then lead that particular area of work. This is an okay approach, but the likely pitfall is that the deacon will eventually run into trouble finding people to carry out his particular area of work. Why? We have simply not encouraged and motivated the individuals within the congregation to grow spiritually through their participation in various areas of work. Ultimately, this type of approach will fail. The other approach is that we work more closely with each individual within the congregation. We seek out each member and do our own mini “SWOT” analysis where we discuss their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to their spiritual life. This is a fabulous model! However, if this is not tied to more corporate vision, goals, and objectives, then we will have a lot of people out doing “their own thing.” Ultimately, this will burn people out, as they won’t see the big levels of success that they are striving for. Again, we have to be balanced and incorporate both of these approaches into how we shepherd the congregation. We must empower our deacons to carry forth areas of work that support God’s prescribed mission and at the same time encourage and guide each member to grow spiritually as they involve themselves in the work of the church.
In summary, as congregations striving to adhere to the vision provided by our Lord, we must do a better job of training our next generation of leaders so that they are equipped for the tasks they will be presented with as shepherds, deacons, or ministry leaders. We must also balance our shepherding so that the congregation is unified in our approaches, but also that each member is living to their utmost potential in serving God.
Tom Campbell is an elder of the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He and his wife have three sons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.