Yesterday I preached at Blue Grass UMC (outside of Evansville) and helped to consecrate their beautiful new worship center. Blue Grass was a small country church with a long history dating back to the early 1800's, but in recent years it has grown into what many church consultants would call a "regional rural" church. With the opening of the new worship center, they are now averaging nearly 600 in attendance! The congregation gives much of the credit to their pastor (Doug Heiman) who has been there 17 years and who has led them to grow through many of the stages and "barriers," which often stop the growth of congregations. Such a long-term pastorate is productive when it is not just about staying a long time but about leading a congregation through a whole series of changes. In addition to their pastoral leadership, the congregation also has, as you would expect, a strong group of committed lay leaders.
I share all of that as a "glory sighting" of God at work, and also to share with you a new term that I learned yesterday: "Vision Realization Team."
In the entryway of their new worship facility (right next to the beautiful coffee area), the Blue Grass church has a drawing of their new facility and a listing of the various teams of leaders who helped with their building project. Many of those teams are what you might expect: a vision team, a building study team, a finance team, etc. But what caught my eye was this notation: "Vision Realization Team – the entire congregation."
That is a nice way of expressing a truth we sometimes overlook when we talk about "vision." I hear some people talk about "casting a vision" and others note that the leaders of the church must "own that vision." But I have never before seen the truth expressed that the whole congregation must be involved in REALIZING THE VISION. Leaders (pastors and lay leaders) who miss that truth are not likely to see their vision come to reality. When the vision is just the pastor's vision, it seldom goes far.
When only the pastor and a few key leaders have the vision, it still is limited. The real test of a vision is whether the body of the congregation sees it, affirms it, and works to help make that vision a reality.
Blue Grass UMC is a congregation which seems to understand that it takes a whole congregation to fulfill a vision, to realize the dream, and to make it become a reality. Does the vote on the vision have to be 100 percent? No, but those who vote "no" must at least agree to offer their consent and to withhold their disapproval for the good of the whole church. Frankly I really admire church folks who don't completely agree with a new vision, new program, or new building – but who agree to go along with the will of the body for the sake of the health of the body. Such persons become what I have called "the loyal opposition" who help to shape the vision by asking the tough questions that need to be asked, but who ultimately go along with the vision because they trust the will of the body.
The entire congregation is the Vision Realization Team. They literally bring the vision into reality. It was fun yesterday to be with a congregation as they celebrated their vision of an expanded ministry becoming a reality through the consecration of a new worship center. They are not finished with all of their plans, but they are already realizing their vision.
May it be so in every congregation of our Indiana Conference.