Casting a God-sized vision for your congregation.

As the leader of the church you are appointed to, you are responsible for casting a God-sized vision for your local congregation. Listed below are several practices to help you cast a God-sized vision.

 

  • Remember, it is not your vision it is God’s vision.

God’s vision and dream for your church is much bigger than any dream you can have for your church. If left to our dreams, we inevitably choose to remain in the boat where it is safe. God and Jesus Christ are calling us out of the boat, into the deep, to radically transform the community and the world around. Therefore, the vision you cast for your church must be prayed about, and prayed about some more. Have faith that God will be with you, helping you to achieve the vision ha has for your church.

 

  • Identify what issues in your community need to be transformed.

If you have no idea what needs to be transformed in your community, then how will you ever recognize the God-sized vision he places in front of you? Do you have children who are going home from school without food to eat? Is there a drug problem in your community? Are their racial tensions that are creating a culture of divisiveness within your community? While tools like MissionInsite can help identify these areas, the only real way to identify them is to get out of your office and into your community (we’ll spend some more time with this in a later post). God’s vision is ultimately for “every knee to bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11), but he is going to achieve that through you realizing his vision and affecting real change in your community.

 

  • Be intentional about casting God’s vision for your congregation.

Unlike the CEO’s of major corporations, you have 20-30 minutes each and every week with your shareholders to cast God’s vision for the church you pastor. Use this time well. Cast God’s vision for your church each week in your sermon. You don’t have to come out and explicitly say it every week, but put clues and hints about the vision in your sermons. People are listening; this is an excellent time each week to cast God’s vision for the church.

 

  • Equip lay leadership to work towards achieving God’s vision.

You, by yourself, cannot achieve God’s vision for your church. Even Jesus’ said to the disciples, “you will do greater things than even me” (John 14:12). You cannot do this alone. Help you laity discern their spiritual gifts. Empower them to use those gifts to achieve God’s vision for your church. Many of the people sitting in your pews want to do something; unfortunately, they either haven’t been asked or they don’t feel empowered to do it. You have the power to eliminate both of those issues. Give them a chance to work on God’s vision, because many of them will still be there after you have gone to another church, and the vision cannot die when you leave.

 

You discern God’s vision for your church. You are responsible for casting that vision. It’s more than a poster on a wall; it is a culture and attitude that your entire congregation must adopt. Next time, we will discuss how to create a culture of accountability to worship attendance. Until then, may the grace of God sustain you.

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Prepare a Quality Sermon That is Relevant to the Culture and Community

In our previous post, we discussed 7 Essential Practices for Effective Pastoral Ministry. We will now begin to break each one of them down individually. In our first installment, we are going to discuss the most important job we have as pastor – preaching the sermon on Sunday morning. Mark 13:10 says, “First the gospel must be preached to all nations”. Our number one job as pastors is to preach the gospel. For many, the only time they hear anything about the works of Christ are on Sunday mornings. This twenty minutes on Sunday morning is our opportunity to proclaim Christ, encourage our congregations to be the “hands and feet of Jesus”, and cast a grand vision for the church. We’ve all been there: our schedules get packed full, we rush around trying to be everywhere at once, not taking the time to really do the work that needs to be done to ensure that what we are going to say on Sunday has the level of excellence that God deserves. These seven tips will help us prepare and deliver a powerful sermon that bears fruit for the kingdom.

  1. Grounded in Scripture.

First and foremost, the sermon must be grounded in Scripture, otherwise we are not   sharing the gospel as we should. Begin with the Scriptures. Unfortunately, we get busy and often turn to the commentaries first. Give proper time to interpret the Scripture to ensure that your congregation hears the Scriptures.

  1. Spend appropriate time of prayer and meditation.

Our sermons should be bathed in prayer. If we don’t meditate and pray during this process then we are not opening ourselves up to the movements of the Holy Spirit. Pray, also, for the people who will hear your sermon. Pray they hear God speaking to them and are motivated to go out and do something about it.

  1. Speak to your community and the challenges it faces.

Our communities need to hear how the scripture can help them face the challenges that they are facing. You need to meet you communities where they are. Spend time in your community. Know what its challenges are and how the Scriptures speak to those challenges. Write your sermon at the local coffee shop or library. Just as Paul spoke to the churches he was responsible for, we must address the issues our communities are facing.

  1. Be prophetic and speak to the culture.

We should always speak Gods truth and show how God is working in our society and culture. Luke Timothy Johnson claims the church today has lost its prophetic witness to society. Our people see our culture on the news and social media, but that is often presented with a bias. How do the Scriptures speak to the challenges that people face in our culture?

  1. Embody the sermon.

Be convicted about what you preach. Your audience can tell when you don’t truly believe the words you are saying. Work on your delivery style. Video or record yourself before the sermon to see where your delivery fails to come across clearly. Embody the sermon outside of church. Don’t preach on service then let someone see you refuse to serve someone in the community.

  1. Expect a response from your congregation.

You don’t have to do an alter call to get a response (truth is you may not get a response from that). Instead, make the alter available for prayer time after the sermon. Conclude your sermon with a call for them to take on some action or mission within the community (and ask them to report back).

  1. Ask for critical criticism.

Have someone you trust be willing to tell you where you could have done better. We need that criticism so we can identify our shortcomings and work to improve. This works best if you can have a couple of people but only have one turn it in so it can be anonymous. Ask for details, not just superficial comments. Accept the criticisms in love; then get to work to be a better preacher.

These are just a few good habits that we can use to improve our sermons. We believe that, if we take these steps, we will greatly improve our ability to write and deliver a sermon that speaks to our congregations and shares the Gospel in a way that honors God and our positions as pastors. Remember to reach out and find a colleague to meet with, either in person or online, to hold each other accountable to being a more effective pastor.

Shalom!

7 Essential Practices for Effective Pastoral Ministry

Often, as pastors we become passengers in our week, driven by our schedules. Over the past week, the three of us have had a break from that weekly schedule, and it has allowed us to reflect on how it dictates our work in ministry. Through our discussions we have put together a list of healthy habits. Though these are not the “end all, be all” we believe that these are 7 weekly essentials to having an effective ministry. In later posts, we will describe each of these in more detail.

  1. Prepare a quality sermon that is relevant to our community and culture.
  • A pastor’s number one job in ministry is to prepare, and deliver, a quality sermon. If we don’t take the time needed to properly prepare our sermons, then we cannot expect those in worship to understand the message that is being brought, nor the vision we have for the church.
  1. Be intentional about our vision-casting.
  • As the leader of the church, we must work with our lay leadership teams to cast the vision of the church.
  1. Create a culture of accountability to worship attendance.
  • Make worship attendance important and a part of the culture of the church.
  1. Be accountable to our own spiritual formation.
  • Sermon preparation is NOT personal bible study! Carey Nieuwhof said at a recent conference that some church members are more faithful to studying Scripture than pastors are.
  1. Be intentional about sabbath time.
  • Not taking our time of personal rest can affect our ability to be effective in our ministry.
  1. Engage in one community outreach.
  • Be intentional about spending time outside of your office to better understand the needs of your community and how your church can meet those needs.
  1. Be intentional about time with you support network.
  • Pastor’s must be connected to a group that will support, and challenge us to become more effective in our ministries.

Over the next week, we will be discussing each of these topics in more detail. Our hope is that you will join us in making the decision to change our habits to become more effective, in our ministries, and in our personal walk with Christ. The three of us have covenanted to hold each other accountable with weekly conference calls to make ourselves better pastors too.

Shalom.

You are welcomed with grace

Julia Michaels’ song Issues has an important lesson for those of us who follow Christ. She sings, “I’ve got issues, but you got’em too, so give them all to me, and I’ll give mine to you. Bask in the glory, of all our problems, ’cause we got the kind of love it takes to solve them.” While this song is popular, we don’t have the kind of love to look past each other’s issues, but God does. We all have issues. Without the free grace of God through Jesus Christ, our issues would consume who we are and cause us to behave in ways that are contrary to God’s will. We are three pastors; imperfect yet striving for perfection. Relying on the grace of God to make us more perfect in love every day. Cory Pfeifer is currently the pastor of Brookland and Union Grove United Methodist Churches in Northeast Arkansas. Ed Seay is currently the pastor of Shiloh and Pruett’s Chapel United Methodist Churches in Northeast Arkansas. Nick Talbott is currently the pastor of Stockton and Woodston United Methodist Churches in Western Kansas. In this blog, we will discuss issues of grace and how it is given in the world. As pastors who are concerned about the direction of the church, we will also write about tips to revitalize and renew churches. Our hope is that through our words you will be challenged and encouraged to seek grace and share grace. Shalom!