Summary: Nov. 2006 Pastor’s Letter - Emphasizing the uniquely personal nature of vision, yet the absolute necessity of sharing yours with others (and vice versa).
It Should Be Simple to See
Focusing on a Congregational Vision
Bright white clouds. As I write this they are moving very swiftly past the windows of The Glenburn Community Church. So swiftly that if I were to show you the one that looks a great deal like a crab’s claws at the moment (of course, I just got back from vacation at Bandon, Oregon), by the time I describe which one to look at, it will have changed so much that it may not even look like crab’s claws to me any more.
Rorschach Tests. You’ve probably seen one, even if you didn’t know what it was called. Ink blots. Random shapes that look like things, but never quite the same thing to everybody. Supposedly, what you see when you look at them says more about you than it does about the ink blots. And that’s the point of using them. (And I might think they all look like crabs, unless there was a lighthouse or two in there.)
Bifocals. Benjamin Franklin’s invention keeps us from having to carry around a second pair of glasses, switching them back and forth every time we wanted to look at something nearer or farther away. And that’s great. But it also means you’re always wearing the wrong pair of glasses, too. As I walk past things, there are shifts in focus, angle, distance and shape. The right parts of the lenses have to compete with the wrong parts of the lenses. I look down at the stairs to climb, but the lower lenses are for reading a book up nearer my face, not for seeing what’s next to my feet almost six feet away. I look up to see the clouds in the distance more clearly, but the tops and bottoms of the window frame don’t line up any more. Maybe once the one eye stops deteriorating, things will settle down for me. In the meantime, though, and for the past couple of years I have had to think a lot about my vision.
Churches often think (and talk) a lot about vision, as though we could define exactly what we think any local congregation should look like. By the time we describe what we see, it changes. Audubon created wonderful paintings of birds that never sat still long enough for anyone else to appreciate. The first step in doing so? He killed the bird. Then he painted it. I believe that Dr. Leonard Sweet (who delivered the President’s Lectures at Simpson University this past year) was talking about that very kind of problem (describing the vision of a living, breathing church in a way that communicates what it’s all about, without killing it) when he said that his vision was “to serve Jesus Christ.” That’s not nearly detailed enough for most of us, he admitted. But it’s far more accurate than just about any other Mission Statement could be.
And yet, despite the limitations of both our eyesight and our language, God asks for us to share a vision of what He is calling us to do together. He promises to assist both our comprehension and our communication so that we may share the same kind of unity He had with the Father. And He tells us that He has a plan, a purpose, a hope and a future for us together. We just have to keep looking, and talking.