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Following Jesus Pastoral Letter: 2020 Vision & Plan

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Hello fellow travellers on the journey of Following Jesus! I invite you to take time to prayerfully read this very important letter summarising our decisions regarding the 2020 Vision & Planning process.

The journey: Alexander was inducted as team leader/Senior Pastor of Following Jesus on 20 January 2013. His vision was to ‘replant’ the church by a) re-gathering and healing people, and b) re-laying a foundation of what it means to truly follow Jesus – how we do life, church, leadership, ministry and mission – represented in the circled triangle of our core values: Following God, Forming (in) Community, Fishing the World.

Alexander came with a clear conviction of his life MISSION and that of the church he would lead – this church! The OT (Oversight Team/eldership) accepted and adopted it as our church mission. A Mission Statement is one’s reason for existence, of being; answers ‘who are you?’; giving a sense of identity and calling under God. What is your personal life mission? Our church is committed to this stated mission: Following Jesus and making followers of him, learning to live a life of love just as Jesus loved us.

In laying the foundation we also began the process of VISION – looking forward to what God wants us to become. A Vision Statement is a God-given future-oriented picture of becoming; answers ‘where are you going?’; giving a sense of direction and growth under God. What is your personal (5 year) vision? Yes, vision is time related, to know if it’s been achieved or not. Thus our 2020 Vision & Plan process! We invited all our members to participate, to pray and hear God, and attend two Saturday retreats – 5 April and 21 June. We then summarized all the feedback and took 43 broader leaders to Heronbridge (5-6 Sept) to make decisions with God. And God gave us remarkable grace, honesty and unity in a Spirit of worship and love, enabling us to make four key consensus decisions:

  1. A Vision Statement that captures our qualitative priorities for 2020 (below)
  2. A quantitative vision or ‘number-guideline’ of what we have faith for in God (below)
  3. These two form the overall vision of the property (VCC)… resulting in two decisions: a) to keep and use the whole property – not to sell the bottom residential-zoned half in order to finance the development of the top ecclesiastical-zoned half
  4. And b) to functionally separate the operation and management of the property (VCC) from the finances and operation of the church (FJ) – that VCC operates on its own sustainable business model. A team has been appointed to make it a reality!

A mission statement is short and sharp. A vision statement is longer, listing the future-oriented priorities and goals for growth. As you read it, note the five defining priorities – stemming from our core values of Follow, Form & Fish – each with strong language that describes (adjectives) the actions (verbs) they call us to…

Our 2020 Vision Statement:

To be a healthy Jesus family that is diverse, spiritual, healing, equipping and transformational in and beyond our community:

Diverse: authentically reconciling genders, ages, cultures and classes

Spiritual: intentionally growing intimacy with God and others

Healing: wholistically restoring people to wellness

Equipping: purposefully developing people for life and ministry

Transformational: joyfully engaging the world through evangelism, social transformation, church planting and missions

What do you think of it? Read it again… each word was carefully chosen. One can unpack it word by word, phrase by phrase, but not now! It clearly sets the agenda for us. We aim by God’s grace to become this church by 2020, defined by these five characteristic priorities. It raises questions like: what does this look like practically? What plans and strategies must we develop and implement to achieve this? What challenges do we face and must overcome in God, in order to achieve this vision? The answers will unfold as the journey unfolds, but here are some pointers…

Alongside the qualitative vision just stated, we decided on a quantitative guiding picture that makes what we’re aiming at practical and real. When we acquired the property in 2006 (cash paid!), ecclesiastical rights was granted – on the basis of traffic flows, environmental impact, etc – with provision for a 600 seat church building (maximum). The discussion and prayer on the size church we have faith for, or believe God wants us to grow to, had its ups and downs in our three retreats. But consensus was reached to trust God for the provision granted us: a meeting hall that seats 500 to 600 people.

This has many implications that both inform and challenge our faith, prayers, plans and strategies. Without going into detail – be free to ask Alexander or any OT member for further info (we’ll only give answers to the extent we know what we can be sure of at this stage) – it means either extending the existing hall (which can be done) or building a new hall. It means possible extension to the children’s church and youth facilities – all of which can be used as training/meeting rooms during the week for community centre hire, skills training, bible school classes, etc. It means facing and resolving the immediate challenge of the dirt road and green gate, with all its community sensitivities!!

In short, it means a vision to be a resource church, with VCC as a great resource for the broader community and wider church (retreat and conference facility). It means growing about 40 home groups, extensive leadership development, a team of pastoral staff, 100-150 youth church, and probably the same for children’s church, and a monthly income that not only maintains this, but overflows in generous missional giving.

Hope this inspires you! If you’re saying, “Oh no, this is hard work! They’ll suck us dry in terms of our time, energy and money!!”… be assured of the (S)spirit in which we’re approaching this… here are some of the principles we’re committed to:

  1. God-given vision of his preferred future, by definition, will stretch faith and grow us beyond what we think is possible – it’s the radical middle between…
    A) Vision within our comfort zone (easy to achieve) & unrealistic idealism (fantasy)
    B) The spiritual (“just fast & pray and God will do it”) and technological approaches (“set goals & strategies, then work hard and you’ll achieve it!”). We pray AND plan!
  2. It’s a journey! The vision, and especially the date and numbers, are guidelines, not fixed dates and business objectives. We are led by God, motivated by vision and faith, and must never be driven… NOT by numbers, goals and dates… only by God’s love!
  3. If it’s of God, he will give us increasing health and growth, he will stir up the heart, energy and gifts of his people to participate and serve and reach out, he will provide the finances – through us and from beyond us – as we are faithful to the vision. It will happen without push and pull, manipulation and exploitation, use and abuse!
  4. We’re doing this to leave a legacy for the next generation, to train them and hand over the leadership and the church – with a fully paid-for facility for God’s work!

So, how about it? Will you join us in this joy-full (by God’s grace) journey of faith?

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