Reservoir Release

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring ​— ​what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” — James 4:13-15 (CSB)

Every time someone asks what my “vision for the church” is I feel a little bit like a kindergartner being asked what he wants to be when he grows up. I can only hope my answer might be taken with a bit more seriousness or belief!

It is a fair question and one we get asked a lot as a replant of a twenty-two-year-old church. We endeavored to fix organization issues with a new book of church order, we established a new elder council, we changed the name of the church to match our new identity as a body, and we have unrelentingly preached the gospel as the whole counsel of God from his word. So what’s next? What does a little church of eighty souls look forward to, or labor toward?

Good question.

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that…”

I think I do have an answer and some sense of the Lord’s will for us. Paired with the healthy marks of the church, when we grow up, my hope is that Reservoir Church is a seeding and sending church. Small, agile and able to raise up, equip, and launch missionaries and new churches and revitalize older churches.

I think of it as “Release.” The healthy and useful reservoir is filled with clean water and in order for it to function as designed, it has to release what it has stored up. Communities don’t thrive if their reservoirs never give out water. I hope we see the church in the same way.

Of course, I recognize the desire to grow a crowd. To need bigger facilities and refine a brand… my flesh would love that. Healthy churches are supposed to grow all the books say. But for us, if there is a healthy branch available, we want to plant it in new soil so that we reflect a kingdom priority and we see people believe in Jesus.

If this Reservoir is meant for “release,” how do we get there? I think we cling to Jesus and focus our discipleship in three categories:

  • Evangelism
  • Vocational empowerment
  • Equipping

This good news of Jesus met us on its way to someone else, and we have been commissioned by Christ to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sin in his name to all nations. We don’t want to take this lightly and we don’t want to miss the opportunities in our neighborhoods. So to that end, we will train, teach and implore each of us to share Jesus at every opportunity. We have nothing if we don’t share the hope of salvation. And rather than hope the church will grow by adding dissatisfied believers from other churches, we want the few chairs we have to be filled by those meeting the real Jesus for the first time.

Evangelism is then paired with each individuals’ purpose, the place and vocation the Lord has put them in. We desire to stir the body of believers to recognize their work as a sacred instrument meant to bring the peace of God to our city. This is the church as a creative minority in this age. A linked minority working together for the renewal of all things.

Then in both categories and in all of life, we desire to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Discipling each other with a bent outward. Recognizing everyone in the church has a kingdom role to play and making sure they have the arrows they will need in their packs.

There are many details and attempts to come down the road. I still don’t know each step. But together, we will lean into “release” for the glory of Christ.

This is key, we are stricken with pastoral insufficiency by the grace of God. I am not a super leader or a valiant entrepreneur. We may need systems and areas of support I can’t see. It will take all of us. From elders to volunteers in the special needs ministry. From deacons to small group leaders and everyone in-between.

So are you in? Are you willing to prepare the Reservoir for release? Maybe you will be the one we send, maybe you will be the one to take someone else’s place when they go… all for the glory of Jesus.

We exist to know Jesus and make him known. Those rescued by Jesus reshaped into family for the renewal of others and all things. Let’s go!

Mapping the Road Ahead

I am in the midst of a very slow process of drafting a vision document for Reservoir Church, something I have been hesitant to do but something that is increasingly needed for our congregation eager to engage in ministry and the purpose of the church.

As a replant of a twenty-year-old church, the elders and I have been slow to cast “a grand vision” for the future of our church frankly because our key vision was health, something we drastically needed.

Approaching now the four-year mark of replanting we are ready for the long view so that we can “drive in the right direction.” We have a new name, 80% of our members became so within the last four years, and our demographic has shifted slightly younger to new families looking for something to invest in long-term.

This process is much like plotting your course in google maps. You have to know where you are going in order to choose a route.

It can seem daunting in the near term and maybe premature. Certainly, anything we formulate is open to amendment along the way. But if we don’t have a shared destination in mind we will be all over the map and less than fruitful.

How does this truth play out in your life? Like me are you prone to coasting and trusting you will end up on the shore with the wave upon wave of grace in Christ?! This might be a good time to seek direction from the Spirit and go after the goal.

 

Cloudy Vision

I appreciate Ryan Huguley’s words on vision. It seems that we have a lot of conversations about “vision” but rarely have one or implement one. Warning against a vague vision Huguley asks three questions; Can I communicate it? Do I have a strategy? & Are my next steps clear?

Key takeaway for me from the post is this ” Inspiration without implementation is daydreaming.” I am doing far too much daydreaming…

We should be asking these questions well and then get to the work of pursuing our vision as God leads us. Check out his whole piece here and get busy with some vision.

How Vision is Helpful

The conversation was about outreach and one of the guys’ recent trip to Haiti to do some construction missions work. Somehow, among the three of us as the weekly men’s meeting, the idea of vision was brought up. It must have been in response to the question of “how can we minister here?” We all agreed that without a vision or a goal to achieve we are prone to wander and miss the mark. Our faith may be huge, but if we don’t have a corporate vision to move us in a certain direction, our influence will be diffused.

Then came the story of Portland. I perked up given my time in the Rose City. The story told of how decades ago Portland’s waterways were filthy. The rivers running through the town were neglected and forgotten. The story relayed how transportation in the city was constant gridlock and the streets were more equipped for the traffic of 1890 not 1980. And the story revealed how people were fleeing the inner core of the city, buying and building homes in suburbs to escape the traffic, pollution and crime. But the story took a turn. Someone, decades gone now, had a vision for the city. They worked to share that vision and spark residents into action to claim the vision and help it become a reality. They did this by running a campaign that was geared to showing a before and after look at the city. The before pictures were real, the right now. The dirty rivers, the congestion on the streets the vacant downtown. This was the awakening to the reality. This is where the people recognized how they were living. It was eye-opening. But that was only half of the campaign. The after pictures were of what could be. If they sweat together to make it a reality. The waterways were clean and enjoyed, the traffic was alleviated, people would be living in the core of the city in abundance. It was vision. It was what the leaders believed should happen.

The campaign worked. Today if you enjoy the riverside parks and new residential living, if you partake in the mass transit system and if you live in the inner core; you are a result of that campaign. Sure there are things that didn’t quite work out the way some had hoped but together a city was on mission to realize a vision.

Where is your church? What would the “before” pictures look like? Stagnation, grumbling, no planning, confused purpose. Is it time for some vision?

In the church context our primary vision is that of Christ. We must work to show our people what a Jesus-centered community can look like. How the gospel is not just for conversion but for all of life. Then from there how can we be influential for the kingdom. How can we train, send, go to bring Christ to others? Is it time for some new vision?