Today was “Vision Sunday” at Living Vine. Because some people were unable to make it today, I wanted to share my notes via my blog. I apologize if it reads awkwardly at times…it’s written with the expectation of verbal delivery…not a written blog post.
Note: Because I manuscript my sermons each Sunday, I hope to begin using them to create series’ or more focused posts going forward.
Thanks for taking the time to read!
Do you mind if we just chat for a bit today? I’m going to stray a bit from our typical Biblical Study sermon model. Today, I want to spend some time talking with you, hear to heart, mind to mind, and person to person. If you’re new today, bear with us! We’ll be jumping right back into things next week.
However, from time to time, we’ll continue to stop, analyze where we are, and make sure we’re all heading in the right direction.
So, good news! Today will probably be a bit shorter than normal.
So, as we begin, we’re going to take a look at where we’ve been, where we’re going, and where we currently are.
We have just moved through a year of transition, and transition is always- I mean always- difficult. To navigate a pastoral search, to have the uncertainty of “what’s next” hanging over your head can be extremely straining.
Fortunately, you have wonderful leadership here at this church. You have a quality board filled with capable leadership. You also were blessed with a pastor who was able to help this church navigate the process…offering leadership, wisdom and grace.
Many of the positives we have seen in these early months are a credit to Elizabeth Potters ministry here. I’m sure many here don’t realize how much Elizabeth Potter invested in this church, how much blood, sweat and tears were given in service to Living Vine, but this success of this communities transition is largely due to her faithfulness and service.
We, as a church, are grateful for all you have done, Elizabeth. Thank you.
Small But Mighty
When Elizabeth (Palmer) and I first interviewed with the leadership team about coming here to serve as pastors, we immediately heard the statement that this was a church that, though small, is very mighty. And how true this is!
Already, in the 3 months we’ve been here, we have already seen this church do some incredible things!
We successfully threw an Easter Egg Hunt in which 67 (and their parents as well!) came, ate candy, jumped in a bouncy house, and had their face painted!
The worship team is growing, maturing and developing. They are constantly challenging themselves to develop and learn new ways to lead our times of worship on Sunday mornings.
A few early connections have been made between Napa Valley Alternative School.
We have a thriving Community garden. (10 plots being used by people in our community)
Our church continues to serve at the Table each month. (Feeding, roughly, 150 homeless men, women and children in Napa)
We recently hosted and generously gave 430 dollars to the Woolery’s and to Nazarene Missions International. This generous give will go to helping the Gospel continue to be taught in over 150 nations around the world!
And so, while the past has been, at times difficult, stressful, uncertain or confusing, you have been a church committed to the good news. Well done!
You are a church committed to living out the Gospel…and so, it is with that momentum that I want to now focus our attention to the future.
2013 is the year of rediscovery for our church
As a church, we are moving into a period of examination. We talked about what it means to be in a time of waiting, of preparation and listening. We want, as a church, to grow. We want, as a church, to see an outward result from what we are doing on Sunday morning. But, as we begin the process of moving forward, of moving into the future, we want to be diligent to take a look at our foundation, our systems and our practices.
The thinker, professor, writer and statistician (a man of many “hats”), W. Edwards Deming once said about companies and corporations: “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.”
This is true of churches, as well. How things have gone before, and the results we are currently seeing, are a product of the system we have in place here. While that doesn’t mean our system is good, or bad. It just is unique and producing what we see on a given Sunday. But, the general consensus is that we are unhappy with the status quo. This is a church that wants more than it currently is.
And so, as we look for our church to grow, mature, develop, it is imperative that we all take time to examine how we are doing – performing- acting- expecting and achieving.
As a leadership team, we’ll be discussing ways we can improve and empower. How we can prepare and equip, but I want to bring that challenge to you, as well. After all, this is a year of growth for us all!
If we grow together, we succeed together. If we grow a part, we will fall a part.
You can expect me to, from time to time, push you, challenge you and expect a great deal out of you.
I will be honest- my expectation for participation is at 100%.
I don’t, however, expect 100% success. We will fail along the way. But I want to be part of a church filled with people who are trying new things, and willing to learn from their mistakes!
The great theologian, Woody Allen once said, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
There will be mountain top success stories, and there will be heart wrenching failures. We will see tears of joy and sadness, but the important part is that each of you catches the Kingdom vision and begins to act out your unique calling.
As a church, our future lies in the realization that, if we cannot train, equip and release people into leadership, we will never do anything lasting in the world. We might do a few things well. We might even succeed greatly in one area, but without a culture of discipleship/training/equipping and sending, our future will die out when the original group of leaders either burn out or die out.
As a church, we need to rediscover what it means to live within a discipleship culture. Where people are being invested in, and where they in turn disciple others. This isn’t something that will happen by accident. This must happen through intentionality and purpose.
Prayer is the glue that holds everything we do as a church together. We, as Christians, have learned from an early age how to “do prayer” really well. We know the right things to say, the right things to do, all in an attempt to assuage any guilt or let us “get back to our lives.”
We desperately need to be a church that prays, urgently, passionately and consistently for the needs of our personal lives, our fellow congregant’s lives, and our community’s lives. We should approach each Sunday through Saturday with an expectation that God is going to move. It’s not a matter of “if.” The question begins to be “How?”
We should ask God to ignite us with a passion that is will draw the world to us. And that passion, that expectation can only happen through practiced participation.
We are blessed with a wonderful, and dedicated worship team here at Living Vine. Each member is busy with work, home responsibilities and just life in general. Yet, they still take the time out of their schedules to practice and be here each week!
No matter how good our church worship is, an not matter how quality the performance can be, worship will never be complete if it is only singing. Worship is a lifestyle, worship is a daily act…an attitude before God.
This needs to be a daily acting out of our gratitude towards God.
The final aspect we need to take time to rediscover is an attitude of Generosity. Im not going to go into this much because we’ll be going into more depth in this area starting next week. However, I want to talk about one specific way we are putting Generosity, as an attitude, first in this church.
The love fund
Im sure you all realize this, but im going to say it anyways. You, Living Vine, are represented by an awesome leadership team. We, as a team, have been exploring how we can move forward, as a church, and become more missionally minded. One way simple way the board has moved to act was by establishing something called, the “Love Fund” (Or as Doug calls it, “The Love Feast.”)
The love fund is a specifically designated account in our budget that will be used, 100% to help people who are in need in our community. As a church, and as a leadership team, we take seriously the responsibility of making sure the money we are entrusted with is used the in the best, and most Godly way possible. And this is one way that we can participate in that.
Some people have a difficult time trusting institutions with their money. Some people don’t believe in what we are doing….but you can believe in the Love Fund. There are small envelopes in the back that you can write “Love Fund” on, and place in our giving box. And when you do that, you can know that everything you give will go right back out of our church.
Examining the Now
These first few months we have really been dealing with the idea of who we are. We’ve dealt with identity, dealt with who we are, dealt with being. We’ve been offering invitations and looked at what it means to be a Christ-follower.
And as I hinted at last week, there is always a time for being. For resting in who we are as sons and daughters. But I want to also say that in the coming year, there will be times when I challenge you as people and challenge you as a church. I want you to know that, in my challenge, I am not upset, and I don’t need anything from you.
But in the life of the Christ-follower, if we operate only in invitation and never in challenge, we become unhealthy and, like a person who no longer uses their limbs, our muscles atrophy and die away.
So we must always strive to grow, strive for challenge and strive to do what Christ has called us to do.
Know that as I challenge you this coming year, I am challenging you to become who we, as a church, can be in the truest sense- a church not measure by numbers, but measure by Kingdom impact.