Sunday after Epiphany
January 25, 2015
"State of the Church Address: Re-Casting Our Vision"
friends, greetings this morning in the name of our Lord
For any business or organization to be successful, it has
to have a vision. A vision gives direction, sets priorities,
helps to establish goals. With a vision, organizations move
forward, businesses stay on track. Without one, they fumble
and they falter and given enough time they eventually fail.
Now, as we all know, (and we've said many times before),
the church is not a business. It's a body. It's not an organization,
but a living organism through which God has chosen to work.
But as it is with any business or organization that hopes
to grow and succeed, so it is in the church. Congregations
need a vision. They need to have something against which
they can measure their progress and toward which they can
plan and direct their work.
Now, thankfully, in the Church, we're not on our own in
trying to figure out what we're to do. In the Bible, it's
clear. We are to love God, love one another, follow Jesus,
and work together to make disciples. That's our mission.
Those are the things we're to be doing. And they'll never
change. Until the day Jesus returns, that's what we're to
But a vision is not the same as a mission. A congregation's
vision is based not upon the calling and commands of Jesus,
but rather upon the context and opportunities and challenges
that are specific to its particular time and history and
Back in 2007, we adopted a vision that we have been using
ever since. We've called it our "2020 Vision."
It's the clearest vision we have (20/20) of where we believe
God is leading us as we move toward the year 2020. We've
used it as a guide for setting priorities, making decisions,
and figuring out what to do next.
But unlike our mission, which never changes, our vision
is something that needs to change. It's contextual. It's
based on what's happening, what's possible, and where it
is, at the time, God is leading.
If you turn back the clock on our history, there have been
a number of times when this congregation had a vision. There
was a vision in 1962 when it first began. It was a mission
start. This was a new and developing area. Almaden didn't
even exist; but there was projection for growth. And so
the vision set a direction, established priorities and goals,
toward which those first members began to work.
And then as you follow the course of our more than 50 years
of history, there have been a number of times when this
congregation was at a crossroads and needed to make decisions
and set new directions.
Did you know there have been ten different building programs
over the years? Every one of those was tied to a vision.
We've had a School here for thirty-five years. It wouldn't
have happened if there wasn't a vision behind it. Twenty
years ago, this congregation was in decline. It was a vision
that helped turn it around. And what about the property
purchase at Carter and the new Youth House? It's the same
thing. Those things would not have happened without a vision.
Now, I'm not ready to throw out our 2020 Vision and write
a new one. I don't believe that needs to happen. What I
do believe needs to happen is that we re-cast our vision;
throw it out there again in light of what is happening and
where we believe God is leading.
Turn back the clock to the year 2009 and it's the time when
what we were doing and where we were headed began to change.
I still remember some of the conversations with our Church
Council. It was a relaxed setting. There wasn't (in any
way) a sense of panic. We were committed, we were confident,
we were optimistic about where things were at. We were also
open and honest and (not afraid of addressing) whatever
questions or concerns we had.
I remember starting the conversation by simply sharing that
the things that had worked so well in the past were no longer
working in the same way. We were still a strong congregation.
We were still receiving new members. We had a good school.
We were financially in a good place. In spite of the nationwide
trend among Protestant churches, for the most part, we had
avoided the denominational decline. Nonetheless, it was
time to take a step back and ask ourselves what, if anything,
needed to change.
That was the beginning of what has now been a nearly six-year
journey to get us to where we are today. The very next year,
(after those initial conversations), four of us (from our
staff) attended the first of four discipleship training
sessions. We weren't exactly sure where that would lead
us, only that we had become convinced it was where God was
Two years later, in 2012, we began our first leadership
huddle. In 2013, we launched a second generation of huddles.
Last year we added some much-needed discipleship staffing.
And now, as we move into 2015, our third generation of huddles
are being formed, we just (two weeks ago) began our first
missional community, and we're bringing a proposal to our
congregational meeting (later today) to change our leadership
structure to better meet some of the challenges and opportunities
we now face.
Add to those things, the changes we've made in our programming,
the things we're putting in front of our kids (in Sunday
school), and what's now going on among our young people,
as our Junior and Senior-high youth are challenging themselves
to intentionally become more active and better-equipped
followers of Jesus, and it's not hard to conclude that what
happened six years ago in those early conversations is now
beginning to bear fruit in some significant and substantive
ways, and we're only on the front end.
What I want to do this morning (on this weekend of our Annual
Meeting) is to touch on a few of things we have going on,
some of the challenges we face, and what it might look like
if we were to re-cast our vision based upon where (we believe)
God is leading.
Let's start with the new leadership structure. Without getting
into the detail, (you'll hear more of the specifics this
afternoon), it's a proposal that not only streamlines the
work were doing, but also makes a more efficient and effective
use of our leader's time and energies and gifts.
What it does (among other things) is it puts into place
a more intentional and direct approach to what we are actually
intending to accomplish. The emphasis in the new structure
is along the lines of "base" and "front."
(We've used that language before.) The base is what's happening
on-site, the things we do here at church. The front is what's
happening off-site, away from the church, in other places.
Now, the lines aren't always that neat and clean. There's
almost always some overlap between the two. But the intention
(in the new structure) is clear. Why we're here is not just
for those (of us) who are here. We're here (in large part)
for those who are not here. That's why we exist.
There's a base, where we gather. We worship, we pray, we
challenge each other to grow. There's also a front, a world
out there that needs Jesus as much as we do.
In our new structure, there's a much more deliberate and
intentional focusing (of our energies) on the front. We're
not setting aside the base. We'll keep doing what we're
doing. But we're going after the front with a new and, what
we hope will become, a more fruitful approach.
We're also putting in place (in this leadership proposal)
a very concrete spiritual component that (prior to this)
has never been in place. Now, that's not to say that our
prior leaders weren't spiritual, or that they didn't care
about our spiritual well-being. (Of course they did, and
they were.) But there was never a direct responsibility
spelled out for what that meant. In this proposal, it's
spelled out. It's placing on our leadership (and not just
on our pastors) a concern and a responsibility for the overall
spiritual health of this congregation.
Now, I'm not exactly sure what that will mean, how it will
play out. (We'll be trying different things.) But as we
make this transition from being program-driven to becoming
disciple-producing, it's an element in our shared life that
we can no longer assume or neglect. Our vision needs to
take-on this spiritual element in new ways. The first way
is to place that responsibility for spiritual care on our
leaders. I'm (very much) supportive of the new proposed
I'm also excited about what's being considered in our campus
master plan. Our Strategic Planning Team is leading that
effort. (We're targeting 2017.) For now, it's just some
ideas. Nothing is final. Before anything is final, it'll
need support not only from our leaders, but from the congregational,
as well. There'll be plenty of opportunity (as it moves
forward) for all of us to weigh-in on whatever ends up being
What's being considered (at this time), and not yet proposed,
is a number of things. We're looking at the possibility
of partnering with one of the local ministries to see if
there's something we could do here on-site to support what
they're doing. Most likely, something with City Team, since
their emphasis is Christ-centered and disciple-producing,
just like ours. We're not sure, at this point, if there's
anything there. If there is, then we'll look at what it
might mean and go from there.
We're also looking at a more long-term approach to supporting
another church, much like we're now doing with the Korean
ministry. Their target audience is different than ours.
They're reaching people we never will. We're talking about
what that might mean (for our facilities) if we were to
take a more long-term approach to that same commitment,
whether it's with them or someone else. At this point, we're
We're also considering some of our own needs: classrooms,
offices, nursery care, more meeting space. (It's all on
the table.) In the same way, so is our school, both short-term
and long-term. In fact, we're looking at the possibility
of an expansion (of our school) in two directions.
One, in the direction of infant care, starting early in
life, since many of the families in this area, in order
to live in this area, need both parents to work. We're not
sure what that will look like, but we're looking at the
possibility and assessing the need.
The other is the possibility of expanding our school to
include a middle school. Now, I know we've talked about
this before. We've even done a bit of exploring to find
out what's possible. What we haven't done, and what we're
now doing, is to engage a company that does this very thing
to help us out.
Last month our leadership engaged a group called "Paideia",
a Christian organization that works with schools (like ours),
as well as new starts, to find out what's possible. Beginning
in the next few weeks, they'll be conducting a feasibility
study, trying to help us find out if the idea makes any
sense. They'll be doing interviews, looking at numbers,
analyzing the demographics and needs. By the end of March,
we hope to have some concrete information (from that study)
and, perhaps, even a recommendation as to what's feasible.
Now, before you start getting all excited (or worked up),
I want you to know that none of us, including Pastor Judy
and I, know where this will lead, let alone what we even
think about the possibility. There are many things to consider.
If it turns out (from the study) that it's feasible, then
we'll take a closer look. If it's not, then it's not and
we won't. As with everything else being considered, before
this goes anywhere, we'll all have a chance to take a look.
The last thing I'll mention in this master plan is the idea
of doing something we've never done before that will support
what we're now doing. One of the more creative ideas is
the possibility of building a coffee shop (out front) that
would give our church and campus (at least to the community)
a new identity and look. It would be a place for huddles
and missional communities to meet. It would be an easy entrance
for outsiders to find out more about who we are. And it
would most certainly push our outreach in ways it's never
been pushed before, giving even more emphasis to what we're
doing on the front.
Now, what's finally recommended will be presented, most
likely, sometime later this year. There will be no surprises
when the time comes. When it comes, it'll all be clear and
For now, (until it's clear) and laid out, I ask you to be
praying for our leaders as they look at these (and many
other) possibilities for our master plan. The things we're
considering (and why) are all related to where we believe
God is leading.
Three other things I want to mention, (before closing),
that tie in with what we're doing as we re-cast our vision.
The first is what's happening with our first missional community.
We started (two weeks ago), as I mentioned, what we're calling
a "Pilot effort." By design, it's intended to
be exactly what its title says. It's a pilot. It's our first
shot at this idea. We have about 20 of our already-huddled
leaders taking part. In the next six months, we'll be trying
different things, a bit of experimenting, in an attempt
to put together a template for future efforts.
Our hope is to have at least three, if not four or more
missional communities starting in the fall. (At that point,
it'll be open to anyone and to everyone.) A missional community,
just like a pilot, is what its name says. It's missional.
It reaches beyond itself. It has a specific target and (perhaps
even) need in mind. It serves others. It shares the faith.
It does it not only in words, but in deeds. (It's missional.)
It's also a community. It meets together on a regular basis.
It shares meals. It shares prayer. It's designed to support
and encourage and challenge those involved in their own
discipleship walk. I'm prayerfully optimistic about what
this missional community direction will mean for our shared
life. I'd ask for you to be in prayer as well.
The second is the possibility of starting a house church;
maybe even two. (We've mentioned this before.) Every study
I've seen says the same thing. This next generation coming
up is spiritual. It's asking the tough questions; trying
to figure it out. What's being left out is the church. What's
not figured in is a commitment to come to a place like this.
Now we could argue all day about who's right and who's wrong.
I'd argue that we all need the church, not as an institution,
but as a body. We need each other. Christ wants us together.
I'd argue that case.
What I won't argue, and that's what house churches are all
about, is that (whatever the case), we need to do something
to reach (not only) the next generation, but every generation.
There's not one of us (here today) who doesn't know someone
in our own age-group that's either not going or has been
turned off by the church. Again, right or wrong, it doesn't
matter. What matters is that we figure it out and we put
into place and we find a way for people to find their way.
Now, this isn't our first priority as of today, but it's
near the top. Before the year is over, I want us to take
a shot. Maybe two. Maybe three. We'll leave that to the
Spirit. What we won't leave to the Spirit is our response.
We know the need. (The Spirit is clear.) We're fully aware
of the challenge. We need to find a way to make it happen.
Let's make it happen.
The third is something I'm looking forward to; we're hoping
to start next month. We're calling it "Dinner for Six."
It's a way of inviting people into our homes with the goal
of simply getting to know our church family better than
we now do.
Now, I'm not going to go into all of the details. Some have
told me that this "Dinner for Six" idea sounds
like a dating service, a way of matching up anyone who wants
to be matched up. Let me assure you, that's not what we
have in mind. Don't even go there.
But if you want to go there, this "Dinner for Six",
and you like the idea, want to be one of the hosts, let
me know. We need about a dozen or so to step up, if we're
going to pull it off as we have it planned. Let me know
if you're interested and I'll share more.
In closing today, (as I said) I'm not ready to throw out
the vision we now have. What we have is a good one. It has
served (and continues to serve) us well. But we're re-casting
our vision. We're putting it in a new light, in light of
what God is doing that is new.
So let me throw this out; not as a new vision, but as a
re-casting of our vision. How about this? Instead of a 20/20
Vision, how about an Acts 20:20 vision?
From our second lesson today, Paul is talking about his
ministry. He talks about his suffering, about his calling,
about his desire to finish the race and complete the task.
Do you remember what he says in verse twenty? Do you remember
what he says about how it has all happened, how God has
worked to carry out his work?
Here's what he says, (from Acts 20, verse 20): He says,
"You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything
to you that would be helpful, (and now listen), but I have
taught you publicly and from house to house." I have
taught you publicly and from house to house.
How about that as a re-casting of our vision? Just think
about it. Base and front, Huddles and Missional Communities,
partnering ministries, an expansion of our school, house
churches, dinner for six? We're not going to stop what we're
doing, but we're not going to leave it where it is.
Call it what you want. Here at the church and out there
in the world. It doesn't matter where and how it happens.
What matters is that it happens. What matters is how we
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the vision
you've given us here in this place, and for the place we
have in your vision for the world. As we continue to seek
your guidance and as we consider the part we're to play,
help us play our part well, that what we do would glorify
Jesus, draw people to him, and expand your kingdom¡in
his name we pray. Amen.