I wanted to give everyone connected to Westlake an update on what I believe will prove to be a very significant gathering in the history of our church. Over the past 10 months through our REVisioning process we have thought about and then clarified our purpose as a church, which I hope you know is
TO ENABLE PEOPLE TO BECOME LIFELONG FOLLOWERS OF JESUS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF THE WORLD
On Saturday about 21 people including our elders, members of the EB and committed volunteers met to think about VISION 20/20 to seek God’s guidance as to what he was calling us to do over the next 10 years. We chose 10 years for several reasons but mainly because we realised that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period of time and underestimate what we can achieve over a longer period of time. We wanted the Lord to give us a vision for our future big enough to stretch our faith and so drive us back to him in dependence for its accomplishment.
To help us think about our role as leaders, we looked at two parables, one was about a life saving club that eventually became just a social club and the other Jesus parable of the talents from Matthews Gospel. The life saving club parable, among other things, reminded us that organisations tended to drift from their original purpose. We realised that as leaders of the church part of our role is to ensure that at Westlake, the “main thing,” enabling people to become lifelong followers of Jesus, always stays the “main thing.” Jesus in his parable seems to be teaching us that He will hold us accountable for the potential He gives us to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. We also thought about how we are definitely a “five talent” church, the Lord has given us incredible potential because of the people that He has brought to Westlake and where he has placed us. So, Jesus through His parable forcefully reminded us that we need to take risks in investing our God given potential for the Kingdom of God. The status quo for Jesus disciples is not an option we are to invest what He entrusts to us to see multiplication of impact for the Kingdom. Too many churches, just bury their talents, Westlake won’t be one of them.
We also looked at the vision that the Lord gave to Paul’s missionary team to take the Gospel to Europe in Acts 16. The process by which we are discerning God’s Vision is different from what happened to Paul and His team but Luke tells us as a result of God’s guidance that they “knew now for sure that God had called us to … “ Acts 16:10 As a result of Paul’s vision his missionary team knew what God was calling them to do and the unified around that calling. Andy Stanley has described vision as “ a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.” I think this what the Lord gave Paul and his team. We prayed that the Lord would do the same for us, that he would show us what He was calling us to do. In particular we prayed that the Lord would give us clarity and unity, clarity about the future and unity in pursuing it. Given the different nationalities, cultures and church backgrounds we came from this was a prayer that stretched our faith.
The main part of the afternoon was trying to “mine” the raw material from which we can construct our vision for the next decade. We did this by looking at 5 broad approaches that churches have taken to shaping their vision for the future. We thought about our own personal preferences and then in groups thought about which of these categories best summed up what Westlake has been committed to in the past.
The most incredible thing then happened. In our groups of about 4 to 5 people we discussed what two categories the Lord might be calling on us to focus on in the next 10 years. I could hear lots of discussion around the room, big significant issues being talked about. I could hear people sharing their experiences and perspectives. We then asked the groups to tell us which two of these broad categories of vision for the church they had felt the Lord was calling on us to embody. I think there was growing sense of amazement as each group gave their choices and it became clear that we were unanimous. We saw our earlier prayer for clarity and unity answered before our very eyes.
The two broad categories the Lord led us to focus on for our future vision were
- SPIRITUAL FORMATION …. creating a church that trains people to become followers of Christ who are becoming more like Christ
- KINGDOM IMPACT …. creating a church which equips and inspires people to make an impact for the Kingdom of God where the Lord has placed them in their families, communities and workplaces.
The more I thought it about it the clearer it was that this combination had come from God. This twin emphasis links “being” and “doing” in a vital dynamic way. In Christian spirituality, “doing” always flows from “being” and “being” has to be expressed in “doing” to be authentic. Its only those who are becoming like Christ that can do what Christ has called them to do effectively and sustainably. Yet if we focus exclusively on “being” we will become inward looking and passive but if we focus entirely on “doing” we will become no more than social activists who will burn out. It also struck me later that we would desperately need the Holy Spirit to work in us as congregation to bring two things if we were to see this vision for spiritual formation and kingdom impact become a reality, purity and power. The Holy Spirit is the means by which spiritual formation purifies us to be more like Jesus and its only through the power of the Spirit that we can make an impact for the Kingdom of God. Power and Purity are the very aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit that several months ago we asked Chick Yuill to come and speak to us about this weekend. I hope you can see the fingerprints of God in what is happening at Westlake right in this VISION 20/20. Its humbling to look back and see how the Lord has guided us to come to where we are in our thinking about the future.
Some people sent me their feedback and feeling about the day.
- “It was really encouraging to see, at the end of the session today, that we had a unanimous vision for Westlake in the future. Now we just need to get there….”
- “Only God could have brought such different people together in such a clear way”
- “I am thankful for having been there and VERY encouraged by the unity God gave. Hallelujah.
- “We talked about significant things and I think the Lord has helped us make significant decisions about the future of Westlake.”
- “We asked for a posture of prayer in all our discussions and that is what happened, our final decision could only have happened through prayer and openeness to the Holy Spirit.”
So what’s next?
The leadership of the church of needs to go away now and pray and take this raw material for our vision and begin to shape it. We will bring it back to the congregation to continue to get input from people who love and are committed to Westlake’s future. I can honestly say that in all my years as a church leader I have never been so excited and so full of expectation about the future of a church as I am right now about ours’ here at Westlake. One the verses the Lord spoke to me very clearly through as I was preparing for VISION 20 / 20 was King Jehosophat’s words to the King of Israel when they came together to make plans , ‘First seek the counsel of the Lord.’ 1 Kings 22:5 The Lord seemed to enshrine for me a principal for us in that verse, that prayer has to take priority in our planning. Its for that reason I want to call us as a church to prayer for the next stage in honing our vision for the future.
Specifically would you pray in the following ways
- Give thanks to the Lord for answering our prayer for clarity and unity about the direction of our future vision
- Pray for Chick as he comes to speak about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and our need for power and purity
- For guidance for our church leadership as they start to think about specific things the Lord may be calling us to do
- For faith, that we would have the faith and humility to do what we believe the Lord is calling us to do not just what we think we can achieve. Andy Stanley in a book about church vision comments that, “prayer takes us well beyond human possibilities.” Will you pray that becomes our outlook as a church as we think about our future?
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