This is part 2 of a report on a conversation with a pastor of an unregistered urban church in which he talks about the importance of vision and his churchs vision to serve the community. A medical professional by background, he understands the need to care for people holistically. As a result the church is active in promoting healthy marriages, providing educational opportunities, and addressing medical needs in the community. In so doing he believes they will have a positive impact on the masses of people in their midst. The article is from the Christian Times website.
"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." (Proverbs 29:18, ESV). With the rise of the urban church, it has become normal for churches to have clear public statements of belief and vision. These show the purpose and direction of the church, and they closely unite believers and church pastors alike. A staff member of the Christian Times invited Pastor Zhou, of the Beijing Olive Tree Church, to share about the vision of his church.
How can the church communicate its vision? What difficulties will it encounter?
Pastor Zhou believes that the Great Commission is not just about going out and spreading the Gospel, but that the church should first serve the people in its own community. If we can't do a good job serving the people in our own community, what will we do when we encounter the difficulties of serving people of a different religion or culture? The church often mentions, in sermons, that we should bless our communities. One part of communicating vision is the passing on of news. Another part, however, is by acting upon the vision, helping church members experience the significance of the vision. When the church implements the vision through specific actions, like offering free medical consultations, the members will respond positively and join in. Through this process, they will be built up and made mature.
But communicating vision does not always go smoothly, just as sharing the Gospel is not as simple as just giving out tracts. Sometimes, when you dont emphasize vision, it seems like everyone in the church really loves each other and the Body is really stable. But once you mention vision, going out and serving others, everybody's individual problems start to surface, and we see the true state of each person's spiritual situation. Pastor Zhou finds himself caught in the middle: should he continually emphasize vision? Or should he first help believers get adequate preparation through the Word of God, waiting until they are more spiritually mature, before introducing vision and mission?
Pastor Zhou believes that a believer needs a certain degree of maturity to receive a vision and put it into practice. However, radical change also comes about through breaking yourself by serving God. The two complement each other. If we don't let others change us, or let God break us, our spiritual lives will be stagnant. Believers need to understand that the church, by asking us to serve, also has our own spiritual benefit in mind.
Pastor Zhou mentioned that the church staff does not have a strong sense of the need to serve society, and it's difficult to bestow this upon them. Yet the pastor hopes that everyone will have the mindset that we should go out and help others. People often think that they should act out of love and visit the sick, but that they don't need to participate personally in serving society.
The pastor also mentioned how, often, when you tell people about a vision, they are moved and jump on board, but putting it into practice becomes a challenge. They do something once or twice, but in order to persevere long-term, there must be a team, and they must encourage each other to continue serving. Other people think that they don't need to participate because they don't have a medical background. But a free medical clinic consists not only of doctors and nurses, but also needs people to do things such as receive patients and keep order - there are many roles for ordinary Christians.
Pastor Zhou emphasized his belief that people need be committed, be willing to serve, and become examples for others. He especially hopes a group of people will form themselves into a team. As we work together, we'll learn how to perform better. What we don't want is for people to have only a short-term interest and stop volunteering after one or two times.
The pastor hopes that, in the future, a team of people will be committed to the free medical clinics, and that this team will be made up of members from different churches and different communities. He hopes that, with the right form and substance, this team will become very united, and that they will even become involved in short-term medical missions trips, or bring medical resources to people through other methods. This will also support the national healthcare system.
Some community medical services can be done by any Christian. If they have loving hearts and a mission, their lives will influence others. This is not only in order to spread the Gospel. However, doing these things for people will definitely push them closer to accepting Christ. The main point is, if we see other people's needs, we should help them and serve them.
The church needs to let everyone know more about their vision, not only the people with a mind to share the Gospel. "I hope to put God's heart for service into each person's heart. We need to pay a price in order to serve. Secular business people all know that good business requires an initial investment, how much more so is it with the Kingdom of God?!"
Furthermore, Pastor Zhou said that the Chinese church needs to have a great sense of purpose. This starts with, at the very least, not complaining about what society cannot give them. Instead, they should ask how they can bless society. We must think about what we can give to society. The threshold for Christianity shouldnt be too high. We want to influence all of society, in a positive way, for God. This type of influence will be positive for everyone.
The church wants to bring true blessing to the Chinese people. In this kind of society, if brothers and sisters in the church have a good testimony, the church will grow more quickly. However, if only the number of church members increases but not the spiritual life of the believers, Christianity will not be positively affected. More importantly, it will dishonor the name of Christ.
It is great when a church has a vision from God, but the implementation of it truly is a heavy burden and a long process. May God bless and lead His church to take hold of a vision and mission, spreading the Gospel and God's love to the community, ultimately glorifying God and benefiting people.
Image credit: Vision, by Elademanu, via Flickr
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