John Wesley's Clarity in Vision and Stategy: A Necessary Step for the 21st Century Church, Pt. 1

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Clarity of mission and strategy is vital for your ministry.

The tension between increasing needs and decreasing resources can tempt pastors into a ministry model where success is about meeting felt needs, keeping the status quo or leading from one ministry fad to the next. These are just a few ministry treadmills that will quickly sap your time and energy without actually leading your church anywhere. Also, each is notably poor at transferring the faith to the next generation and reaching the unchurched.

Finding the time and spiritual energy to do the hard of work of discerning the Holy Spirit in such a ministry context is daunting and takes courage and maybe even sacrifice. Many pastors can barely scrape together more than a few hours to prepare a sermon and so who has time to clarify their mission and develop an effective strategy to accomplish it?

And yet, we are suggesting that clarifying your vision is the most critically important but non-urgent thing you can do. If you don’t have a clear vision, you need to start seeing vision clarity as critical and urgent. Taking the time to clarify your vision through collaborative prayer, study, and a strategic outside perception is vital to the long-term success of your church and ministry.

John Wesley taught us this through his life and ministry, and clarity of vision shine throughout. Properly, vision clarity has four sides: mission, values, strategy, and measures. In part 1 of this 2 part series, we will show how Wesley was crystal clear in his mission and how you can begin that same process in your church. In part 2, we will explore how his crystal-clear strategy acted as the infra-structure to a movement that is still changing the world.

John Wesley’s Clarity of Mission

In a charge to his newly commissioned circuit riders, Wesley said:

You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most…It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance.

How is that for clarity of mission? Wesley clearly understood and passed on to his leadership a fine distinction between mission and strategy. Surely, the strategy of preaching and caring for societies was excellent, but they were not ends in of themselves.

Saving souls was Wesley’s mission.

What is your mission?

A Methodist Pastor told us recently that 64% of the laity in his church had no vision for their life. To be honest, we suspect the problem isn’t that they have no vision, but that they have so many competing visions they have no idea which one to select. In America, especially Suburbia, where the anecdotal church is situated, the abundance of life options can place us like children in a candy store. We are tempted to think that we need to make our church about 10,000 things instead of focussing in on the one thing that is needed.

Mission statements that aren’t etched into the hearts of our people go unlived and untried. While clear and memorable words that have emotional resonance with life have a chance to be repeated from person to person. When Wesley sent Coke and Whatcoat off to America, Wesley once again clarified the mission and said, “Offer them Christ!” He never wavered in mission and we can’t either.

How to Clarify Your Vision

First, identify the one big idea that sits in the intersection of your passions, your abilities, and the needs and resources of your context. Take this big idea and wordsmith it into a mission statement.

Second, identify and live into a set of unique values that will exemplify your one big idea in everything that you do.

Third, describe the desired outcome of your ministry in simple and measurable ways.

Fourth, create a strategy that can direct everything you do to achieve that end.

Finally, dream big about the impact of your output on the world over time!

Wesley’s vision changed his world because it was clear. It impacted England, America, and the entire world because it was duplicatable. Once you have clarity of vision, find ways to make it transferable to the next generation. This is how we will spread revival to our land.

Co-authored with Mike Gammill.

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Joshua lives in Atlanta and works for Peachtree City United Methodist Church as the Executive Director of Grow Ministries. He is a Priest in the Anglican Church of North America (ADGL) and blogs at trinitarianmission.com as well as co-hosts The Threshing Floor Podcast. The posts on Trinitarianmission hope to engage in a conversation around the Mission of God and missional themes. Find him on Twitter: @joshuatoepper

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