A vision is a clear and challenging picture of the future of a ministry as its leadership
believes it can and must be. Let’s unpack this definition in order to better understand
A vision must be clear. A vision is like a guiding star. People need to know where
we are going.
A vision issues a challenge. It is a call to action that challenges the status quo.
A vision forms a mental picture. It is a snapshot of the future that anticipates what may happen 5-10 years down the road.
A vision is future oriented. It is not content to rest upon the laurels of the past. It is not bogged down with the obstacles in the present. It asks the question, “What do we expect God to accomplish here in the next 5-10 years that can only be explained by giving God alone the glory?”
A vision is grounded by potential. The potential is not in us reaching ours, but in believing the promises of God and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit as He advances the kingdom of God.
A vision is compelling. It motivates, attracts and inspires. It gives an organization a sense of destiny.
We acknowledge God is sovereign and we make our plans fully aware of James 4:13ff. Our future is in God’s hands alone, and He alone has the right to do with His own what He pleases. We also know Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Vision is the attempt of leadership to diligently seek His face. We do so knowing that He does all things well.
As we think about the vision of SMPC, we are led to ask the question, “What convictions make SMPC distinctively what it is?” Vision is biblical truth applied by a community of believers to a specific ministry place and time. Vision is always dynamic, not static. It grows and is refined as we grow in our understanding of God’s Word, our ministry context and ourselves.
It is helpful to see that vision is the destination we intend to reach. Our ministry models (strategies) are the vehicle we are traveling in and Gospel dynamics is the fuel that drives the vehicle to the destination from where we are to where God wants us to be.
When thinking of vision it is helpful to consider our core values. Core values are the undergirding, foundational and nonnegotiable principles of ministry. They are distinctive biblical convictions that shape our ministry. At SMPC we are committed to and shaped by ten core values.
Gospel. The Gospel changes everything. The Gospel is not the A-B-C’s, but the A-Z of Christianity. It is not just the minimum required doctrine for salvation, but it is the heart of and the point of all doctrine. The Gospel is the hub in the “wheel” of truth. It is not just the entrance to the kingdom, but the way we make all progress (Gal. 3:1-3) and become renewed both individually (Col. 1:6) and socially (Gal. 2:14). The Gospel renews us as we come to grips with our personal and corporate “idols”. Idols are always alternative works-salvation ways of avoiding Christ’s grace-salvation. Psychologically, all despair, guilt, fear, and anger come to the degree that something besides Jesus and His grace (career, family, moral performance, romance) is operating as our functional savior. Sociologically, all injustice, violence, strife, dependency, and intolerance come to the degree that something besides Jesus and His grace (wealth, race/blood, the state, human reason) is operating as our functional savior.
City. The Gospel changes our attitude toward the city. Spring Meadows is an urban church—not by default, but by design. The city is the best place for a Christian to live and serve. First, we teach the importance of the city as the place where the seminal ideas, values and spirit of a nation’s culture is forged, so as a city goes, so goes the society. Second, we observe the tremendous spiritual receptivity in cities. Third, we teach a love and respect for the city.
Outward-face. The Gospel makes us a people for others. The Gospel teaches us to have a deep respect and great hope for every non-Christian. We are a place not just for ourselves, but for our friends and associates who don’t believe. We are relentlessly aware of and welcoming to nonbelievers in our midst. First, this means that we try to be intelligent in our communication of the Gospel, inviting questions, never saying, “Just believe because we say so.” Second, this means we take a process, not a crisis approach to communication.
Gospel Community. The Gospel creates a new community. We not only speak the Gospel verbally, we embody the Gospel, making it visible through deeds of service and through community. The Gospel completely transforms our human relationships. Without the Gospel, Galatians 5:26 tells us, we will either provoke those we feel superior to or we will envy those we feel inferior to. But since the Gospel has both humbled and assured us of our lovedness and greatness, now we are free from either envy or pride, either inferiority or superiority.
Changed Lives. The Gospel produces changed lives. The Gospel does not just reform people but transforms them. The Gospel makes us new, not nice. First, the Gospel produces an entirely new relationship with God—a personal Father-child one rather than an impersonal boss-employee one. Second, the Gospel gives a whole new motivation for obeying God—A love and gratitude-based delight in God rather than a fear-based self-interest. Third, that means the Gospel gives a new scope to our service – an unconditional obedience rather than a conditional one. Why? Because if we are saved by works there is a limit to what God could justly ask of us, but if we are saved by His grace at such infinite cost to Him, then He can ask anything of us and it would still be a “deal” and a joy! Fourth, the Gospel gives us a whole new relationship with ourselves. We no longer take our identity from what others think of us or what we think of us but from what God thinks of us in Christ (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
Social Healing. The Gospel produces social healing. Because of sin our human community is socially broken – races, cultures and classes are hostile to one another. First, the Gospel makes us humble, which heals the racial/nationality brokenness. Second, the Gospel heals the class brokenness by making people with means generous through the power of Christ’s sacrificial giving for us, and by empowering the poor to self-sufficiency through its hope. Third, the Gospel gives us something of the methodology. The Gospel is that Jesus has moved in with the poor and become a neighbor to us (John 1:14), and has become poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9), in order to redeem both soul and body (1 Cor. 15) and in order to finally rehab the physical and social world (Rev. 21-22).
Cultural Renewal. The Gospel produces cultural renewal. The Gospel enables us to realize afresh two things. First, all of our work matters to God. When the Gospel clears out religiosity which makes religion and church itself into an idol, then so called “secular” work is as valuable and God-honoring as Christian ministry. Second, God matters to all our work. That means the Gospel shapes and affects the motives, manner and methods we use in our work. The Gospel enables Christians to work in their vocations both with excellence and Christian distinctiveness, thus transforming the culture in which we live from the inside out.
Movement Mindset. The Gospel continually breaks out. The Gospel does not just have power, it is the power of God (Rom. 1:16-17). The kingdom of God is gradually but inexorably growing (Mat. 13:1-23; 11:12). Therefore, we encourage Christians to initiate and lead ministries. We do not control everything from a centralized bureaucracy. Second, we are willing to network and partner with a great variety of churches and ministries in the city to see the Gospel spread. We are not turf-conscious but kingdom-conscious. Third, we aim to plant churches with the same Gospel-based core values into every neighborhood and people group of the city. It will take not one church, but a multiplicity of churches, to transform the city.
Christ exalting worship. The Gospel exalts Christ. Worship is seeing what God is worth and then, in response giving God what He is worth. God is both transcendent (awesome, beyond, other) and immanent (intimate, present, personal). Therefore, worship that is balanced is filled with both awe and intimacy. Postmodern people hunger for a spiritual encounter that is greater than their personal experience and yet is culturally accessible. Thus, as we exalt Christ, the God/Man (transcendence/immanence) we have balance.
Theologically reformed. The Gospel is best understood from a Reformed perspective. To effectively minister in a postmodern culture, the Church must remain firmly rooted in the timeless truths of historic Christianity. To be “Reformed” is to have a paradigm for life and the world that is God-centered, with the historic Sola’s (Scriptura, fide, gratia, Christus, Deo Gloria) given their proper emphasis. We will be consciously Reformed without it being our functional righteousness. We will teach the doctrines of grace that have been used by God to equip and advance His kingdom in all kinds of cultures. We will also remember that, “The Church Reformed is always reforming.”