“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
As we begin a new calendar year, we’re getting ready to do some planning. Most of you will remember and be familiar with our 2012 Strategic Plan. On January 21st we’ll vote to ask a small group of our members to revisit that plan on our behalf. Our hope is that they will be able to recommend that we reclaim and reactivate those portions of the plan that make the most sense for us going forward. Of course, as Woody Allen reminds us, our job isn’t to develop our own plans, but to seek to align our vision with God’s plan for our church and our community.
So along with a large dose of humility, here are 5 things I hope we’ll accomplish in 2015.
1. Clarify Our Identity
We know who we are. Many of you have spent 20 years enjoying the freedom to collectively cultivate our identity as a congregation, and it’s an identity we ought to be proud of. But I wonder how succinctly we’re able to articulate that identity. I wonder how clearly we’re able to communicate that identity to those that don’t know us well. And I wonder how bold we’re willing to be in staking out unique ground for the identity of our church. I hope that by the end of this year every member will be able to clearly and proudly articulate who are, what we do, and why we do it.
2. Hone Our Purpose
We’re a great commission/great commandment church (Matt 28:16-20, Matt 22:36-40). We want to go and tell and baptize and teach and love. But what does that look like in Canton in 2015? What will that look like in Canton in 2020, and how can we be ready for it? What does evangelism look like in our community? How can we most effectively love our neighbors? What does it mean to teach Christianity in the 21st century? Are there things that God has uniquely gifted us to do really well? How do we apply maximum focus to the things we’re best at? These are big questions for a big year at Heritage, and questions that I pray will help us hone our purpose.
3. Measure Our Effectiveness
This goes directly back to purpose. What avenues do we use to tell people about Jesus and how effective are they? How many people are we sharing the gospel with? How many people are we baptizing? Who are we teaching Christianity to and how is it changing their lives? How many people are we loving through service and mission engagement? And how clearly are we communicating that our love is a direct outgrowth of God’s love for us and those we serve? This year I hope we’ll figure out how to better answer those questions through more effective measurements of our ministries.
4. Celebrate Our Successes
Heritage accomplishes remarkable things every week. But we’re not a church that always does a very good job of celebrating those successes. We need to do a better job of systematically accounting for all that goes into our excellent and ongoing missions projects so we can celebrate that work. If we can’t accurately communicate what we’re doing, we can’t fully celebrate what we’ve accomplished. So this year we need to look at how we can be more effective in tracking and communicating and celebrating all that goes on at Heritage beyond what most of us see on Sunday morning.
5. Refine Our Processes
We’re a church that operates well—and incredibly efficiently—for the size church we are. Our accounting and financial systems; committee and church governance structures; and missions and ministry teams all serve our church very well. But every church has room for improvement. Changing times and changing circumstances require all organizations to constantly monitor the processes and systems that under gird their work. Churches are no exception. In 2015 we want to make sure that our systems position us to maximize our ministry effectiveness and protect the good work that we’re doing for years to come.
I’ve been praying for 2015 at Heritage. I know some of you have been, too. My prayers lead me to believe that if we do these 5 “nuts and bolts” kinds of things well, we can trust God to do the big stuff of life change and community transformation even better—in 2015 and into the future.
Bill Gates says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” I think that’s true. As Christians, I also think we tend to overestimate what we can do and underestimate what God can do. Part of our visioning process has to be understanding that God can do amazing things—and use us to do amazing things –if we can ever figure out how to just get out of God’s way and let God lead us.
One of my favorite definitions of vision is that vision is simultaneously realizing that we’ve overestimated the obstacles we face and underestimated the power of God to help us overcome them. My prayer has been, and continues to be, that this will be a year of GREAT vision for you and for Heritage Baptist Fellowship.
See you Sunday.