Note: This blog entry is excerpted and adapted from my upcoming book, tentatively titled The Church Planting Journey. We’ll be posting excerpts about once a month here and we’d love to hear feedback from you. We hope you are getting as excited about it as we are! And as we get closer to publication, we’ll give you the countdown!
I’ve worked with enough church planters to know that—by and large—most of them are big-vision kind of people. I ask them about their vision and they jump in to begin describing it in great detail… which is wonderful. Yet I wonder if by starting with the vision, we are missing something critical that needs to be addressed first: values.
The vision is necessarily rooted in the values. Planters need to look more deeply at the sometimes unprocessed or unconscious values from which the church planting vision springs. Your values are not just what you say you want, but what you actually live. The can be a big gap between a planter’s desired values and actual values. If you claim a certain value, then consider what evidence you have in your time, money and behavior that indicates the value is lived out. And then ask if what you are doing will yield the vision you desire. For instance, if you spend all your time with believers, that’s your actual value. You’re not going to accomplish a vision of reaching the harvest fields with that behavior.
I’ve worked with hundreds of planters. Those that have powerful visions that are eventually accomplished are those that have a high degree of congruence and connectedness with their actual lived values. Honestly look at what you want to aspire to become. Then consider what kinds of behavioral changes you need to make in order to get there. When push comes to shove, we live in accordance with what we really value.
Here is an image that may be helpful: Picture the whole church as a tree. The values are the roots. You can’t see them, but they are responsible for virtually everything that happens above the ground. The roots are ultimately what produces the fruit. They fuel the mission (the trunk), which results in the fruit. The vision, then, is the picture of the whole tree in the preferred future—complete with fruit and a whole surrounding orchard.
This vision tree, which I developed together with Steve Ogne, helps us visualize the relationship among principles, values, our mission statement, the ministry areas designed for the accomplishment of our purpose, specific goals and objectives, and the results of our ministries (the accomplishment of those goals and objectives). It is a holistic perception of the role each of these things play in contribution to the overall vision.
The vision tree is still helpful, especially in how it focuses attention on the roots. What kind of roots do you need in place? How do your roots express the Kingdom of God? What kind of church will reflect that DNA? How will your roots shape your thinking going forward?