Biblical Theology as a Source for Church Vision
by The Rev. Drew Miller
Statesboro Anglican Mission
Vision has obviously become a buzzword of late, and as a concept has hopped from the business sector to nonprofits, and now into the ecclesial world. The power of a shared vision is simple- it helps set goals and guides our decisions in ways that are corporately understood and desired. Vision can guard us against the caprice of autocracy as well as the rule of mob by giving us something to aim for and check our progress against. It can be an incredibly useful tool.
Setting vision, as a congregation, is an exercise both in communication and in hope. It’s coming together, with common language, to describe a common ‘preferred future.’ In a corporate vision we say, “this is what we want; this is what we mean.” The challenge becomes how we are to establish common language and common hopes in our people. As a church planter joining a team already in-progress, one of my first goals for this year is to begin moving us onto the same page. I had a team of 12 adults on the ground, with at least 15 different visions of success as a church. How could we come to share a preferred future, with a common vocabulary and a common hope?
Well, we might try the same things that so shaped England nearly five hundred years ago: the Bible made plain, and the Prayer Book.
Our strategy this year is to use a basic Biblical theology course to move us in that direction. Drawing heavily from Longman, Bartholomew, Goheen, and Marcia Lebhar’s God’s Big Story, I’m walking our team through the scriptures during our weekly homegroup. I hope that finding our shared place in the scriptural narrative together will give us a common story. To be found in a story is to be found with a telos, a future, a vision. And to retell the story to one another gives us shared experiences, shared understandings- and, critically, a shared language.
Moreover, the Prayer Book begins to give form and language to our life as a church together. We use Compline regularly on Thursday nights, and our Communion services follow the Renewed Ancient text. This too gives us common hopes and common language- it begins to give us a shared vision of a preferred future here in Statesboro.
I’m five months in. Only time will tell how successful this project will be. Yet the word of God is not coming back void. Already our group is beginning to grapple with the ubiquity of idolatry in the hearts of God’s people, the necessity of a Savior outside of ourselves, and the unchanging faithfulness of God. And we have hardly finished the Old Testament! Already our folks are taking Compline home for personal and family use, incorporating structured prayers into their devotions. And I pray, with time, these simple gifts and tools will draw us together towards God’s purposes for us here.