Summary: This is the end that we must have in mind when we begin anything in the church. Our destination must be a congregation filled with people who are filled with Christ and who are filling the world with his love.
BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND
The Installation of a New Pastor
November 21, 2010
John 15:1-8 (NIV)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Not long after I got out of seminary, I decided I needed more training. So, I applied for a pastoral residency position at one of the largest churches in our denomination. It was the Village Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. As it turns out, the selection committee asked me to come to Kansas for an interview.
When I got there, they took me out to eat at a really nice restaurant. There were about nine or ten other people and me. And they must have asked me as many as a dozen questions, but I only remember one. ‘What goals do you bring to this program? What do you want to accomplish here?’
I almost choked on my food -- which is one reason I don’t like to do interviews over a meal! I’m ashamed to admit this to you, but I didn’t have any goals. I guess I thought they would set the goals for me. In any case, I had never thought explicitly about goals, so I didn’t have an answer to the question. I felt foolish and unworthy of this group’s attention.
I was to meet with them again the next morning, so that night I worked as hard as I could inventing goals. I mean, I just made them up. When we were together again -- this time at the breakfast table -- I must have had some ten or twelve goals. The day before I had none; now I had too many, way too many. For whatever reason, the committee invited me to come anyway. I guess they thought, maybe, I needed the program. In any case, one thing I learned there, starting that day, is to formulate as clearly as possible in my own mind what my purpose is, what I’m trying to accomplish, whatever I’m doing.. And over the years since then, I have tried to make sure I had some idea of why I was doing anything I was doing.
In a best-selling book that first came out in the late 80’s, Stephen Covey identified what he called the ‘seven habits of highly effective people.’ Perhaps you’ve read it. I was first introduced to the book by Jeff Ritchie, who at the time was on staff at the General Assembly. Jeff and his wife had been missionaries that our church helped to support. And I have to admit, he was one of the most engaging people you would ever want to meet. Jeff recommended the book, and I thought to myself, ‘If Jeff thinks it’s a good book, then it’s probably a good book.’ And I went and got my own copy of it.
If you know the book, you know that it discusses, well, seven habits or practices that will make a person more effective. The second habit the author lists is: Begin with the End in Mind. The idea is: Before you ever start anything, consider where you will wind up -- or where you want to wind up. We do this when we take a trip. In most cases, unless we’re just out for a drive, we have a pretty good idea of what our destination is. We also do this when we cook.Before we ever pull out the pots and pans we’ll need, before we even collect all the ingredients, we have a mental image of people we care about gathered around a table, enjoying the food we have prepared. We even do it when we play a game. We’re in it to win it! Isn’t that what we say? Or, at least, we’re in it to have fun.