A Prayer for Vision

God our Father,

You are eternal.
You are yesterday, today, and forever.
You are then, now, and always.
From everlasting to everlasting You are God.

You are Creator.
You created the heavens and the earth.
You created humankind.
And it was good. Very good.

You are the Re-creator.
You re-create the new heavens and the new earth.
You re-create Your people.
You make all things new.
And it will be good. Very good.

And so, our God, we sit in Your presence.
In the presence of the Eternal One who knows tomorrow.
In the presence of the Creator.
In the presence of the Re-creator.
We sit.
We sit still.
We sit quietly.
We listen.
We wait.
We seek.

We want to dream.
We want vision.
We want to throw off human limitations.
We want Your vision to be cast among us.

What would You have our church to be?
What goals do You desire?
What values do You want us to accept?
What mission do You want us to begin?
Where are we going?
Where are You leading us?

Vision.
Give us vision, O God.
Your vision.
Your vision for Your people.
Your vision for Your church.

We are listening, God…

We are listening…

We are listening….

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN

Dreams

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Psalm 126:1-4

Jewish pilgrims making their way to the temple sang “psalms of ascent” (Psalms 120-134) to prepare for worship. Psalm 126 was a psalm of ascent celebrating renewal after a season of barrenness. They had been through a difficult time, whether from famine, assault, plague, or captivity; but now it was time to dream again. This song recalled God’s faithfulness to bring them through the time of trial and encouraged the pilgrims to dream again about what the future could look like.

“Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev” was the poetic vision statement of their dreams for the future.

Remember how Martin Luther King cast a vision for the future in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

Like the ancient pilgrims and other visionaries, churches need to dream. Lafayette needs to recall, even celebrate God’s faithfulness in leading us during difficult times. We need to dream about what the future could look like with God leading us and doing great things among us.

Do you have a dream?

I encourage you to dream. Maybe you will dream in creative, poetic language like the psalmist. Maybe you will dream in hopeful word pictures like Dr. King. Whatever your style, I urge you to cast a vision of what your church can look like in the years to come.

Maybe starting with these words will help stimulate your creativity—

Restore our church’s fortunes, Lord, like….

I have a dream that at our church….

May God’s faithfulness inspire creative dreaming as you seek God’s vision for what your church can look like in the years to come.

To God be the glory!

Deeper Vision

Here is a section of a sermon entitled Deeper Vision that I preached at Skyline on February 4, 2007. Throughout the year several friends have referred to it as that “I Have A Dream” sermon. Now several months later and after much additional discussion by the church leadership about our direction and vision for the future, I still believe this is an accurate picture of what by the blessing of God can be the future of Skyline. The scriptures that are included were those on the screens behind me as I preached this section of the sermon.
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Today I want us together to imagine what Skyline can be – I want us together to have a vision of where we are going.

Imagine with us shared worship gatherings where all present are invited to offer praise to God, joining hearts before the throne of the almighty God. (Psalm 122:1)

Imagine with us participating in a blend of worship styles and diversity of worship expressions in an atmosphere of freedom. Gatherings where it’s about God rather than us. Gatherings where together we can express our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows. Gatherings where we are drawn closer together rather than divided by our diverse personalities and preferences. Some of us are extroverts, demonstrative with our feelings. Others are introverts, introspective with our feelings. All of us can be together and let our love for one another override our differences in personality and preferences in gray areas. (Psalm 100:1-2)

Imagine with us being lost in the wonder of God’s grace to the point where we accept each other as God has accepted us even when we disagree in matters of opinion. (Romans 14:1)

Imagine with us a church where it’s not about me – it’s about God! Imagine a church where the members are seeking to lose their lives in the cross of Jesus. (Psalm 115:1)

Imagine with us worship overflowing the walls of the church building and turning our everyday lives into a temple of praise as we die to ourselves and live to imitate Jesus. Imagine learning to think, walk, and talk like Jesus in whatever situation we encounter. In the good times, we are like Jesus. In the bad times, we are like Jesus. All the time, we are like Jesus. When people treat us like royalty, we are like Jesus. When people mistreat us, we are like Jesus. No matter how people treat us, we are like Jesus. Imagine being mistaken for Jesus. (Romans 12:1)

Imagine with us lives being transformed in a way explained only by the activity of the Holy Spirit of God. Imagine hearts filled with love by the presence of God’s Spirit. Imagine minds renewed with wisdom and discernment by the indwelling Spirit. Imagine rather than trivializing the Holy Spirit, treasuring the Holy Spirit by putting the “Holy” back in Holy Spirit. Imagine being shaped by the holy power of God’s Spirit into a people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Imagine with us a community driven by love for one another. A community that recognizes that claims of loving God are hollow if we do not love people. (1 John 4:20-21)

Imagine with us a people ready and willing to carry each other’s burdens and meet each other’s needs. Imagine being one with God and others. Imagine a oneness with one another that can only be understood by the oneness between Father, Son, and Spirit. (Galatians 6:1-3)

Can you imagine that kind of church family?

Imagine with us engaging times of prayer in which we hear God speak out of the silence. Imagine when we are in pain, in a time of wilderness, being able to hear God’s reminder of His joy and peace. (Psalm 42:4)

Imagine with us a family devoted to praying for one another at all times, particularly in times of great need. Imagine a family that wrestles in prayer for you. Where your ministers and elders and fellow members are praying for you daily that you may be mature and have full assurance of your faith. Imagine being in conversation with the Almighty. (Colossians 4:12)

Imagine with us people coming to Christ because of the way God reveals himself through us as we live and speak in the world. Imagine people seeing us and knowing we are disciples of Jesus, children of God because we love each other enough to be united. (John 13:35)

Imagine with us a body which always keeps its eyes open for opportunities to spread the love of Christ. Imagine being God’s messengers of hope and grace to our hurting world. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Imagine with us recognizing baptism as an historic confession of faith in Christ and an initiation into the community of faith. But more, imagine a church where baptism is about receiving the greatest gift of God’s grace — forgiveness. Imagine a church where baptism is about grace and about Jesus. Imagine being intimately united with fellow believers and with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Imagine being born again. (Galatians 3:26-27)

Imagine with us hearts emblazoned with the words of Scripture. Imagine people whose words are shaped by and drawn from the very Word of God. Imagine preaching and teaching that flows from the living Word. Imagine a church where the preaching is a time of worship – where God is revealed and we are called to bow before Him with our very lives. Imagine being taught by God. (1 Peter 4:11)

Imagine with us a congregation actively partnering with God in his work in Jackson as we call people into the community of faith, reaching out with God’s love to the lonely, the forgotten, and the marginalized of our community. Imagine being a church that will do whatever it takes to reach the least, the last, and the lost even if that means doing things that challenge traditions and leave some people scratching their heads and saying, “What are they doing now?”

Imagine with us being a church where the most important members are the ones who aren’t here yet. Imagine reaching out beyond Jackson into the surrounding communities, and beyond to Panama, Mexico, Africa, Australia, China and into all the world. Imagine being Christ’s hands and feet in the world around us. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Imagine with us a church family that is the body of Christ. Imagine a church where everybody is clear that we exist to love God and love people to the praise of God’s glorious grace. Imagine a church where each part is a member, each member has a function, and everyone is committed to carrying out their part in the functioning of the body.

Imagine with us a church like all this – that is what we want to be!