Article by Teresa Chang
What does it mean to have the gift of hospitality? What does it mean to be a welcoming community? How can your church become a family that experiences and expresses true love in a way that makes first-time people feel welcome, yet provides a place of community and belonging for those who have been members for several years? As the senior church leader, you are the custodian of your church’s vision. You are the one who is responsible, as a steward, to be sure the vision of a loving community is continually expressed and modeled by the church leaders around you. You need to create an atmosphere in which people hear and see the power of transforming community.
Let’s look at the ways you can strengthen your church’s vision for community.
1. Connect with God.
The first step in building and communicating your vision for a pastoral church is connecting with God. Understand His heart for your church and for each individual within your church. Allow His Spirit to release a fresh vision within you of what it means to be a caring community. Write these things down and go over them on a regular basis.
Pay attention to God’s voice (what He tells you in your personal times with Him), as well as the prophetic words you receive. Be open to dreams and visions, and let God’s vision for the people you love be implanted in you on a supernatural level.
Loving well is easy in the first stages of pastoral care, but it can get a little harder three, five, seven years down the road. Keep turning to God and asking Him for an impartation of His love for people.
2. Turn to God’s Word.
Make a habit of going to the Word of God. Allow your heart to be continually refreshed through Scripture, and study its intricacies.
When your vision and purpose are founded
in the secret place and the Word of the Lord,
nothing can hinder you from getting to the finish line.
3. Write and publicize your vision.
Write down your vision for community and make it available for your people. You may even want to rewrite it in different ways because every time you record your vision, you empower people to run with it (see Habakkuk 2). Your people need help remembering why they are committed and passionate and why they are making sacrifices. Vision provides a sense of purpose for the pain people go through and the sacrifices they’re making. Keep declaring, “This is who we are. This is where we’re going. This is the kind of love we want to express.” This will help people commit themselves to the vision and exemplify it.
Also, use outside sources to confirm your vision, which can be done in a number of ways. Keep your ear to the ground and study the Body of Christ as a whole. Understand your mentors; are you in alignment with the leaders above you in your movement? Are you in some degree of connection with the other pastors in your city? Is your vision reflected across the Body of Christ? Obviously, God gives different visions to different churches, but you will often be able to see how your vision fits in the bigger picture of what God is doing in the rest of your city and region.
4. Celebrate as people walk out the vision.
As your vision becomes known, celebrate those who are walking it out. Even from the pulpit, you can take a moment to point people out: “Sister So-and-So took a meal over to the Joneses when they were sick.” Or, “Brother So-and-So is trying to make sure the people under him at his job have a real sense of connection and community.” In a thousand different ways, you can illustrate how to do community well with close-to-home, real-life examples. Remember that people will emulate what you celebrate, so make sure you have on-going testimonies of those who are successfully creating community.