Defining a vision is as complex as the vision itself. We all know that all visions come from God, who uses ideas to spark a vision. We all receive a vision (in some cases visions) for our ministries, some are easy and others may seem too "big" for us, but God always gives each of us a vision. Now, think about the greatest idea you've ever had. Got it? what framework did you put in place to ensure your idea flourished? This is the place where most visions die. Most of us tend to ask God for the vision, but we forget to ask Him HOW He wants the vision to be realized. Search for the process for without a how or process, vision is ineffective and dies.
There are no church size restrictions for a process. One does not have to be in a certain town or city with "x" number of people, nor does our ministry have to be great, numerically speaking. The number of people who join our ministries is intrinsically dependent on the effectiveness of the process. Without this how or process, vision is like a painting nailed to a wall with a single nail, and without a frame. It will wrinkle, the paint will dry and crack, and the canvas its painted on will eventually tear and ruin the painting. A good frame takes care of this, it keeps the painting protected, straight and in pristine condition. So the process provides the same benefits, it frames our vision, protects it, keeps it from fading and staves off destruction.
All ministries are given a vision, of some form, for God would not send us out to the field with out direction. It is, however, our job to help determine the what the best way to fulfill his mandate is. Today, we will not focus on our vision, but rather we will direct our attention to some helpful directions to aid us in determining HOW we are to bring our vision into fruition.
We all know that we must spend much time in prayer. It is where we receive the power of the Holy Spirit, where God speaks to us about His will and where He infuses us with strength to carry out His mission. We can do nothing without praying. Jesus prayed. We cannot make any excuses for NOT spending time praying, no matter how busy our calendars look. Without the power of prayer, we will never be sure whether the vision we have comes from God or from our own flawed desires for success.
Prayer is the litmus test to prove that our vision has divine origin. If we are in prayer and in continual communion with God then we can be sure that our vision is not our own, therefore, it comes from God, and if so it will have specific directions attached. How do we know this? If we search our Bibles we can find many instances where God gave men a vision and also provided instructions how He desired that vision to be carried out. None is more clear than the establishment of the Tabernacle. In Exodus chapters 25-31 we can read that God was extremely detailed on the building of His tabernacle, all the way to which artisan would build the Ark of the Covenant, what kind of thread to use on the tent of meeting and what kind of cloth the priest had to wear. When the vision comes from God, then instructions follow.
When we focus our prayers, we must go beyond just searching for a vision, but to also be willing to wait for the instructions on the process by which that vision will be completed. This may be immediate, other times these instructions will come after we wrestle with the idea for some time. How long it takes for us to receive our instructions is not important. What's important is that we are willing to go beyond just getting the vision and trying to figure out how to get it off the ground on our own.
So you've read all this and you want to focus your prayer? Here's how you do it:
a) Fast. couple your prayer with fasting. It seems simple, and it is almost a lost discipline, but fasting helps to hone our spiritual ears better than any book, blog or video series. How long should one fast for? that depends. How much do you want to know the process God wants you to build? How much are your students and your ministry worth? fast until it cost you something. It could be a meal, it could be a day, it could even be 40 days (if you do 40 please make sure you get a doctor's O.K first. you don't want to die in the process, that helps no one.)
b) Carry a Pad. This can be a pad of paper or an iPad or whatever method you choose to record quick notes. Sometimes in the middle of a prayer/fast time God will give you a thought on a beginning step or a person you should talk to, he may even give you the full set of instructions right of the bat, and since our brains (mine for sure) cannot remember every detail perfectly, its good to write down what we "hear." Some of it may not make sense, but write it down, God will give you clarity when the time comes.
c) Repeat constantly. As more of the process is revealed, We are going to need more of God's spirit in us, because quite frankly, some of the stuff He asks for will require an insane amount of faith. Some of it will seem impossible, and this is where you must trust God and where as a leader must keep coming back to God to ensure that you are following through to the letter. This ensures that God's will and your will are aligned for maximum effectiveness. Trust me, you don't want to drive things using your will alone. A vision can be easily warped, by our sinful nature, coming back to God in prayer and fasting keeps our pride in check and thus keeps the vision from warping.
Aid the Vision In ProgressMost youth pastors or pastors in general are dreamers. we dream about the things God wants to achieve in our ministries, we dream about the great many we will impact with our teaching, preaching and love. Most of us dream, and these dreams can bring about ideas that birth a vision. It is one of the ways God speaks. We are even better at asking God to give us vision, yet we are blind to a vision already in progress.
If you're asking yourself what the 'vision in progress' is, then chances are you've missed it, The vision in progress is the vision of the church you're serving at. In fact, if you're not a Senior or Lead pastor chances are you shouldn't be focusing on a new vision, but rather to ensure that your vision is brought into alignment of vision that the Lead Pastor has been given by God. It is our job as youth pastors to then ask God to help us align and help to enhance the effectiveness of that vision. God is not a god of discord or disunity. When He is the author of a vision for a congregation, then all members of the leadership will and should work in unity to facilitate the fruition of said vision.
If the Church you are serving at has a good, clear vision, than chances are that your Senior Pastor has already done step one, then you are lucky to be part of implementing the vision. You should still follow your prayer discipline, but instead ensure that the vision for your particular ministry is in line with the overarching vision of the church and its Lead Pastor. We are then blessed to skip ahead and begin searching God's instructions for the method or process by which we are to take our students through so that they may benefit from the fruits of the vision. This will be done in conjunction with the lead pastor and will bring greater glory to God. Your process will aid the vision of the church!
Remember, the Lead Pastor has been placed there by God. He is God's anointed servant and even if he rejects what you have to say, you are to serve with humbly. Remember the scriptures! David was anointed King over Israel, while Saul was alive, He was even given an opportunity to kill Saul in his sleep, but David refused to raise his hand against the Lords anointed. David refused to hasten his kingship with his own hand, he trusted that God would bring his plan to bloom by His own hand and in His own time. Now this example is extreme, and it does not mean that you should not disagree with your Lead Pastor. What it says is that sometimes, even though we may in the right, we are to honour those in leadership over us for this pleases God. If the desire to see the vision and process come to pass chafes at you, then it is best to leave peaceably. Its better to have the people and pastor you served to pray for you than against you.
to be continued in part 2: Launching the process