My intended audience for this blog is the church at Woody Road (though I know it is read by some from outside the church). So occasionally I like to explain our thinking as leaders on a certain subject of particular relevance to the church here. A while back I wrote on our approach to sermon series. On Monday evening the elders are due to consider our vision statement for 2013. I thought I would talk through how we decided to have an annual vision statement and the process of working out what it should be.

About two years ago we had an elders’ away day not long before David started as co-pastor. We felt that we needed some way of sharpening our vision as a church, a way of explaining clearly what we were about. It is good to have something memorable that gives a focus to church life. And so we considered various mottos or straplines which we could use. Speaking personally I was rather fond of the one used by Magdalen RoadDelighting in God, Displaying His glory. It is a good summary of what a church should be about although we decided on balance that we couldn’t really go for Rejoicing in God, Reflecting His glory. To be honest I would never claim that we are a particularly impressive church (although we trust the Lord uses us in our weakness) and it was rather tempting to go for something that seemed to reflect reality- Muddling along in a vaguely helpful direction was one idea that occurred to me!

But, joking apart, we decided on balance not to go for a single strapline because, by their very nature, they are biblically reductionistic. That is to say- they can capture one biblical theme well but they leave other important ideas untouched. For that reason we landed on the idea of an annual vision statement- something that gave a clarity to what we wanted to learn and practise but enabled us to move on to another biblical theme after a twelve month period. In 2011 we had a statement which we now recognize was too long- seeking to grow in our enjoyment of God’s love leading to a greater love for Him, each other and the lost. Our discussions about 2012 seemed very naturally to cohere around a single verse- Not by might not by power but by my Spirit. Regulars will know that we have a usual pattern of devoting most of January to studying our theme in sermons and homegroups before returning to it periodically throughout the year. I think that has been a helpful way of complementing our usual approach of preaching consecutively through books of the Bible in enabling us to focus for a period on one big idea. Our hope is that the big idea really sinks into our hearts and minds across the year.

Of course the process of deciding on the actual statement needs discernment. This Monday each of the elders will arrive having thought about where the church is spiritually. What do we as a group of God’s people need to hear in the next year? Is there a reality that we have forgotten and need to remember? Is there something we say we believe but hasn’t sunk to the level of our hearts? Where should our focus be? Each elder will share in turn and then we see what threads have been common to us all.

A vision statement is simply a tool that we use. However, I do think the Lord has worked through them in our life as a church over the last couple of years. So please do pray for us as we meet on Monday.