God-Sized Vision Delivered One Heart at a Time
“A Disciple Making Culture.” Pastors and church leaders, you’ve heard that phrase before. Some of you may even use it and are actively trying to build a disciple making culture in your church, but what does the phrase mean?
It’s no wonder this phrase causes so much confusion. Even on its own, the word ‘culture’ is hard to pin down. ‘Disciple’ is just as nebulous, used by many people to mean many things. If you’re building a disciple making culture, what exactly are you trying to build?
This is the first post in a series on the marks of a disciple making culture. Each post will highlight one essential aspect of the culture. Though each culture is unique, each one also shares a foundation of traits that support a healthy disciple making culture. This series will highlight those foundational marks.
The first mark of a disciple making culture is, God-sized vision delivered one heart at a time.
Clear vision isn’t a new idea for churches, businesses, or other organizations. Many churches spend significant time developing a vision that’s clear, concise, and memorable. Rarely do these vision statements impact the behavior of the people. Typically, leaders are perplexed at the apathetic response from the people. As leaders observe apathy, their frustration grows and blame develops.
In a disciple making culture vision is distinct in two ways. First, it’s God-sized. What I mean is that it’s been formed with an understanding of what God is doing and how He’s designed us to join Him. Most vision statements are too small. They often focus on discipleship, not disciple making. They also fail to connect with either the big picture of what God is doing or with the hungers He’s designed in people.
One example of a church’s vision is, “To reach the greater Dayton community and expand the Kingdom of God.” Now, I’m passionate about reaching and transforming communities in the Dayton-area, as well as expanding God’s Kingdom, but God’s vision is centered on the nations, not the neighborhood (Matt. 28:18-20, Hab. 2:14, Acts 1:8, Rev. 21:24-27). This particular church is a large influential church in Dayton. I have no doubt that as a community they are making a big local impact. They are reaching the greater Dayton community and expanding the Kingdom, but God calls us to more.
A God-sized vision forces us to struggle with how we’re going to accomplish it. It demands the whole community—each individual participate because the task is so great. God’s called us to reach the nations from right here. So, how do you reach the nations from the neighborhood? It’s a question that God intends for us to struggle with because He’s designed the answer to fit us like a glove.
As an adolescent, I struggled with the futility of life. Go to school, get a job, work for 50 years, retire, and die. And for what? In a hundred years, no one will even know my name. I longed to be famous, just so people would know I was here! Like me, God’s placed eternity in your heart. Whether you’re aware of it or not, God’s designed us to hunger for some of the same things. It’s a short list, but all of us deeply desire to be loved, to be wanted, to be needed to accomplish something important, and to be part of something that will outlast our lives.
To satisfy these hungers, God invites us into His work; the work of making disciples in all nations. There’s nothing on earth that fulfills those desires as completely as making disciples.
The vision of disciple making began to grow in my heart with a well-placed question. I was twenty-one when my discipler said: “Most things on the earth will eventually pass away, but not everything. What can you see on the earth that will also be in eternity?” The answer? People and the Word of God. Like a growing thirst on a hot summer day, that question grew from an a thought to a yearning. I wanted to give myself to something that would outlast my life, something that had eternal ramifications. Investing my life into others is the obvious and Biblical way to do it.
Secondly, a disciple making culture has a vision that’s passed primarily from person to person and heart to heart. Don’t get me wrong, the vision should still be heard in large group settings, both large and small, but it’s felt in one on one and one on two settings. A God-sized vision that completely fills our human needs can be felt through the whole of our being. Not only are emotions stirred, so to, is the intellect, the will, and the Spirit within.
When a person really sees the God-sized vision, and their role in it, the response is passionate.
If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for
the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine de Saint-Expuery
Some respond with fear and insecurity, others with doubt and disbelief, others still with guilt and protests, and a few are ready to cast everything aside to begin. Passing the vision person to person and heart to heart allows space for passionate reactions, push-back and questions.
By contrast, a God-sized vision primarily communicated in groups is rarely received by the heart’s antenna.
God-sized vision delivered one heart at a time is a vital ingredient to a disciple making culture. To achieve it requires a commitment to dwelling with Christ in Scriptures and teaching others to yearn deeply for what only He can provide. After all the best use of vision is to teach people to thirst.
Building such God-sized vision is a bit like Antoine de Saint-Exupery's famous quotation: “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”