Vision: “The goals that an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the future.” Vision is intended to serve as a clear guide for both current and future courses of action.
A vision’s effectiveness, whether good or bad, depends on how it is brought together and executed. It is almost, if not completely, impossible for one person to cast a vision for a group. Above all, it must be under the rule of God!
A vision generalized on the front end can become very specific as it develops. Several years ago I attended a workshop on evangelism in Florence, AL. During one of the sessions Marvin Phillips, a minister from Tulsa, OK, together with his elders publicly asked God for a vision. They prayed, “God, please do a work through us that is bigger than we are!” Garnett Road Church of Christ, where Marvin preached, numbered 125 in attendance at the time. They subsequently grew to over 1500 souls over the next couple of decades. A serendipity of their vision was the beginning of the annual Tulsa Soul-Winning Workshop which numbered 10,000 at peak attendance. Their vision lined up with God’s vision to “seek and save the lost.”
Some years earlier, I served with a church in the Midwest with many opportunities to share Jesus but only limited resources. After praying for God’s direction, the congregation considered possible ways to share their resources. By congregational vote, each possibility was prioritized; those receiving the most votes were funded to the best of the church’s ability. This resulted in unified support in the church family, and a budget that was exceeded for the first time in years. The congregation grew from 180 in attendance to over 300 in two years with 100 baptisms per year.
The rural congregation I now worship with had dwindled to less than 50 people in early 2000. They considered shutting the doors and scattering to other congregations. In the words of one of the members, Dr Karen Jones, “We had gotten so legalistic that it made everybody sick. We believed our friends were going to hell, but we were not doing anything about it.” (A two-page article on this church is in the August, 2007, Christian Chronicle.) The members decided they could either shut the church doors or do something to free themselves from the cold, hard legalism binding them.
A vision was cast! They committed to focus on the hurting, the disenfranchised, the unchurched! Dr. Lou Butterfield, the lead evangelist at the time, decided to emphasize serving others in his sermons. Several women approached the church leaders about beginning a Sunday night class on relevant topics such as sex, marriage, drugs,and debt management. They wanted these sessions to be led in a non-threatening, non-judgmental manner that might lead folks to inquire about the organizers’ faith. They met in a near-by Community Center building rather than the church building. That number soon grew to well over 100 each Sunday night.
To further fulfill their vision the church made summer camp for children a priority. “Any child who lives in our county can go to summer camp for free!” That action became the leading evangelistic tool for a time. One summer they invested $24,000 in these children. Entire families embraced Christ as a result of the summer camp experience.
Because these Christians saw the need to try and combat the rampant drug problem, they began to pray that God would grant them wisdom and guidance in addressing it. A recovering addict, Shane Goings, started the Jackson County Recovery ministry at the church in 2006. Four years later God used Shane to start Anchor Pointe Recovery Center, a 501-c-3 rehab. It was recorded as a non-profit in 2011 (27-1404321). In 2013 Shane left and Anchor Pointe Recovery resumed as the John 3:17 Ministry for Women. This year-long discipleship program has graduated over 100 women and has 45 ladies in residence today.
Psalm 118:5 is stenciled on the front wall of the worship center for all to see: “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.”
Across the auditorium is another sign that states, “OUR MISSION: To nurture and equip the saved while reaching the lost, as we honor God, share Jesus and are led by the Holy Spirit.”