As you keep growing, God may well put things on your heart that you’ll need to be the one to initiate. God’s given you a specific vision for ministry—either inside or outside the church, or maybe even planting a new church—and now you literally need to make the dream real. And this brings us, at last, to Season 6: Growing in Your Mission.
As with Season 5 (Growing in Leadership), there are any number of foibles to try to avoid as you do this. And as with Season 4 (Growing Others), I don’t know a single small-group study that tries to help people process this—and not a whole lot of books in general, for that matter.
But have no fear: We’ll help walk you through the issues that come with a God-given vision. Things like:
- First: How do you know it really is God, and not just you? Because once things get real, we’re almost certainly going to find ourselves disagreeing with God on some things. And guess what? God’s right. So when that happens, you’ll need to remember which parts of this vision are truly God’s, so you’re able to keep on trusting him when you don’t understand what’s going on (more on that shortly).
- What holds you back from getting started, and how do you get past that? Fear of the unknown—or for that matter, of re-experiencing something painful—is something we all face. But while the future is unknown to us, it’s not unknown to God. You have this vision because there’s something God wants made known. And the first people he’s going to have to show at least part of that to is us. That should frighten us. But we need to get past our fears and trust that God knows the way he’s taking us.
- How do you get others on board (and praying—a lot)? And this might start even closer to home: Depending on our situations, we might not be able to expect our spouses, children, or extended families to support or even understand what God’s calling us to. But they can still serve as a reality check. They may not see what God’s doing in our lives, but they see us. No matter how painful or seemingly unfair their concerns might be, there might well be a grain of truth to them—and we need to deal with that grain before things get even more serious.
- How will you share the vision in a way others can hear and embrace it, and continue to grow as a team? This is a big and often tricky step. By putting ourselves out there, we open ourselves up to people who we pretty much can guarantee won’t catch the vision right away. But as we share what’s really moving us—Who’s really moving us—we also develop new relationships. People get the opportunity to see where they fit into this new thing. Real needs get revealed. And as relationships develop, others begin to get excited about what God wants to do—maybe even to the point where they can let go of whatever fears or established ways of doing things might be holding them back.
- How will you deal with setbacks as they come? How will you deal with falling flat on your face? How will you deal with waiting? Because once this all gets real, things won’t follow the plans you had in your head. Count on it. Things go wrong, or at least look wrong. Even when we’ve done our best, we might begin to wonder if we’ve disobeyed God somehow, or feel as if we’ve done everything right but failed God anyway. In fact, there might well be a point in time—if not a long stretch of it—where you’ll stop and ask yet again, “God, was that really you?”
It’s always OK to ask God that question. We need to keep talking with God, especially when we don’t understand. But once God answers “yes,” it’s our job to keep walking, even if we’re not sure where God’s leading us. Even if things aren’t going the way we planned. Even when our feelings fail us and we think we’re not good enough to do what God’s called us to do. God knows better. He called us to this. God’s plan is always better than ours, and we need to trust God so we can discover more about what his plan is.
- How will you deal with people leaving, even when it’s not personal (although sometimes, it is)? No matter why it happens—and it will—we need to remember a few things: 1) We should always want God’s best for others, no matter how it affects us; at the same time, 2) what others decide doesn’t change what God’s called us to; and thus, 3) we need to allow God to deal with each person’s decision, and remain obedient to what God’s called us to.
- And finally, how will you keep growing, even as the vision continues to grow and take shape? Because, no matter where you are, you never stop growing. God will always see to that.
But let’s come back to that “vision thing.” Here’s a quiz to get you started. Ask yourself:
• As I’m pursuing this vision, am I sensing God revealing more about the things he truly cares about?
• Will this vision, once it’s realized, reveal more about God to others, or just more about me?
• Which parts of this vision were clearly not my idea (even if I’m excited about the idea now)?
• Have I tried letting go of this idea, only to find God bringing it up again?
• Would I still want this to happen even if someone else did it—or even if I did it and someone else got the credit?
Bottom line: We’ll spend a lot of time exploring how to “do” the vision God’s placed before each of us. But it starts with us being people God’s willing to take a chance on, by being available for God to work through us. Anything good God accomplishes through us starts and ends with God, and therefore any glory that comes from it is his, too.
Thus, it isn’t the end of the journey, it’s only the beginning. And thanks for rolling with it so far.