Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Future

The picture on our right shows a group of people planning. We think it is important to plan, especially for the future. But the problem with planning is that if our predictions are off, then our planning will be off. Planning can be good because it gets our minds thinking about the future, but there is a better strategy. As Reggie McNeal says in his book The Present Future, "The better (and biblical) approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction and planning.
Why? Because God wants us to pray and to prepare for His intervention. It is not about what we want to happen, or what we think will happen, but rather about being prepared to live out God's will, and help to establish God's Kingdom. So instead, the tough question is: "How do we prepare for the future?" And to prepare, we need to have the goal of being in partnership with God.
To be ready to be in partnership with God we need to seek out God's vision for our lives. Vision is what inspires, motivates, and energizes people. People will get committed to vision. Vision gives content to our lives and our message. Vision helps to reduce the number of decisions we have to make, because we can filter everything through a vision statement.
When we have a genuine vision, it helps to create a sense of significance in what we do. When we view that what we do has significance, especially significance for God, then others will see our sincerity, and be motivated by it. But we have to understand that we do not invent vision.
So how then is does vision come about? It comes about by cultivation. We need to know that it is God who has the vision, and we are seeking to discover it. So it is not about being a visionary, but about being one who seeks the mind of God. And to do this, we need to listen to our heart. What is it that excites us? Empassions us? What causes you to lean forward in your seat when someone is talking? This usually is usually the area where God is calling us to get involved.
But the way the vision will ultimately be tested is whether or not it is supported by the values of God. If our vision is not supported by what God would value, then it is not God's vision for our lives. "Vision is the seed, values are the soil." The soil has to support the seed. And our vision also needs to be supported by the values that God would want us to have (concern for the lost, hurting and poor; a forgiving heart; unconditional love...)
But how do we know what our values really are? Values are demonstrated by behavior. You can say you have a certain value (like concern for your spiritual growth), but if your behavior doesn't show this concern (meaning you don't read your Bible, you don't go to church regularly, your friends don't see Christian behavior), then this is not a true value.
So we must seek to practice our values so they will shape our life and our vision. As we live out our values, we will prepare the table for the vision to be lived out. Reggie McNeal says: "I am convinced that the reason for much burnout, lack of commitment, and low performance in our churches directly related to the failure to declare the clear results we are after." We must be clear about what our goals are in our vision. Only then can we know we God is directing us. When we know where God is taking us, then we can prepare ourselves to live this out.
Do you know your values? Do you have a vision for your life? Does your church have a clear vision? Do you even think any of this is important? Tell me what you think (