7 Signs of Lifeless Church Vision

Every church has vision.

But not every church vision has life.

Most of today’s “vision statements” found on church websites are insufferably generic. These statements  trap effective disciple-making in cages of lofty language or purposeless planning. Worse yet, pastors and leadership teams meet around the same tables, year after year, wondering why people are still barely responding to their latest program or marketing campaign.

These leaders fail to see that their safe, boring statements of God’s identity and direction for the church are actually the issue at hand. Nobody inside the church is excited, and nobody outside of the church is impressed.

Self-diagnosing lifeless church vision can be a challenge. It can be as hard as self-diagnosing a terminal illness. The examination itself, is predicated on courageous self-awareness and healthy self-confidence.

Unfortunately, there exists no webMD page to discern external symptoms of an internal congregational sickness. But, for those willing to accept the challenge, here are seven signs of lifeless church vision to look for in your church, and a two-question meter to check your visionary heartbeat.

Buck-Shot Bulletins  

Do you feel compelled, or cajoled, into putting as many program and event advertisements as possible into your weekly worship handout?  Or do you focus on just the one or two most important activities from a defined disciple-making pathway?

Lame-Duck Leadership

Do you think about new ministry initiatives in terms of what the next leader could do after you land at the next-larger church or finally retire? Or do you lead a team of leaders who follow God closely, and hold everything loosely, in order to be fully effective?

Self-Contained Sermons

Do you prepare your messages each week in isolation, intending to involve other leaders and ministries, but consistently miss out on any collaborative impact? Or do you seek God’s heart in order to align the sermon each week with key next steps and offer ministry opportunities to engage in community or serving?

Wonder-Free Words 

Do you have a ten page word document on your hard drive that you wrote three Christmas-breaks ago, just in case someone asks you about your vision? Or does everyone in leadership speak from a consistent palette of God-breathed visionary language that took time and a team to develop?

Auto-Pilot Announcements

Do you stand up and wing the welcome each Sunday,  just “reading three” announcements off the bulletin or occasionally show a funny video? Or is every second of every announcement segment prepared and prayerfully scripted to engage each people group in the service with a single next-step?

Mind-Less Meetings

Do your leadership gatherings end up highly relational, with the only real outcome being that you will spend two hours talking about the same issues again next meeting? Or does every leader contribute to an agenda that is set before each meeting begins, and that produces distinct outcomes with ownership and a deadline, before each meeting concludes?

Hero-Complex Hubris 

Do you and your team view bringing outside eyes, or coaching, as a threat to your leadership credibility, maintaining a prideful attitude toward not needing help? Or do you regularly ask “who can help us see what we cannot see” and recognize that what God used to get you “here” today, will not be what He uses to get you “there” tomorrow?

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Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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