Have you ever been white water rafting? I went for the first time last weekend. I’m not sure if rafting is categorized under extreme sports, but in my mind (and sore body afterward) it sure felt pretty extreme. There’s nothing like crashing down the rapids in a rubber raft with seven other people for three hours. A thought did come to mind as I was going down the rapids, being thrown back and forth at the mercy of the river: Why on Earth do people do this? The answer is pretty simple – it’s exciting and exhilarating.
When participating in an activity such as this, there exists a fine line between exhilaration and petrification. If the seven of us were dependent on our strength and experience to navigate through the rapids, we would’ve been doomed. But good thing we had an river guide. One that’s been down the rapids before. One who was calm and collected. One who can anticipate what’s going to happen next and give clear instructions. One who was able to see the best line of attack amidst the rapids and rocks. That’s the tension between exhilaration and petrification – trust. Looking back, never once was I seriously concerned for our safety our lives. Never once did we question the instructions we were given despite our situation and surrounding. We just focused on the instructions being shouted from behind us. Why? Because we trusted her. We knew that she knew better. Because we knew she’s done this before. Because our guide has vision. We were looking at the same river but seeing entirely different things. On that river, I’m reminded to never mistaken the ability to see for having vision. I saw chaos and a raging river, but she saw a path to navigate through.
Will Mancini, in his book Church Unique, states, “A church without motives is like a river without banks – just a large puddle. It is missing an opportunity for white-water movement…Think of motives not as what we do but rather as what characterizes everything we do.”
White water movement is exciting. Puddles are not. Okay. Large puddles in the form of lakes are beautiful, but stagnant water not so much. What Mancini calls “motives” here can also be understood as “vision”. Vision gives us focus and turns problems into potential for great growth. In a river, wider banks means a slow and shallow river, whereas in areas with narrower banks, the river becomes fast and deep. In the church setting, the guide is God Himself who navigates us through both the quiet and the storm. Even though we may not have walked down the path before, we know the One who has. Fear comes from the unknown, but faith and trust comes from worshipping the One we know.
Vision directs which way the church is going to go. Vision gives you a target to aim at and without vision, you’re aiming at nothing. Vision allows you to say what you’re going or not going to do. Without vision, everything is a good idea. Or on the flip side, without vision, everything is a bad idea. But it’s not about what’s a good or bad idea, it’s whether or not it’s a God idea. What’s the vision for your life? For your family? For your church? During my time at ACTS Seminaries, I learned from Dr. Randy Wollf, Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership, that vision is God’s painted picture of a preferred future. Notice a very important detail – it’s God’s picture. It’s God’s preferred future for your church, for your family, for your life. If the vision is to build community, your actions will reflect that. If it’s to make an impact in the city, your actions will reflect that. Your actions reflect the vision you follow. When we have a God-sized vision, it’s no longer about what we want – it’s all about God and our actions display that. The best and most exhiliarating place to be is when we trade the thought of “what I think is best” for “what gives God the most glory.”
Simply put, God’s vision trumps our preferences and discomforts. God’s vision gives clarity and assurance in the chaos. For Jesus, it was for the “joy set before him” that He endured the Cross. (Heb. 12:2) Jesus envisioned humanity being saved through His sacrifice, and nothing deviated Him away from this. This vision focused His ministry. This vision forged the strategic relationships He built.
The struggle is real for us. The human condition is to settle for the puddle, but God wants white-water movement. It might be cute when my three-year-old son splashes in a puddle. But it’s not so much when a grown man does. We may be content observing from the shoreline, but God made us to voyage on the deep ocean. We’re not called to merely observe, but to participate. So whatever God has been calling you to, prayerfully consider stepping in. Our lives and churches aren’t meant to merely exist but to thrive – and life happens where God is.
Church, are you ready? Let’s go.
That’s what we’re trying to do here at church. You’ve heard me say this countless times now that our vision is “For all to receive and live out the love of Christ”. This means all that we do at LLC is to help people receive and live out Christ’s love. It’s simple. Nothing complicated. It’s all about receiving and living out Christ’s love. It’s this vision that sends us to the streets of South Hill. It’s this vision that sends teams to Ghana and Panama. It’s this vision that allows us to focus on kid’s ministry and families. It’s because of this vision that we have small groups, fellowship nights and community learning. It’s this vision that each Sunday we give the worship thatGod deserves.This God given vision is the DNA that drives all that we do. Although this vision will never fully be attainable, it’s still measurable. How do we do it? We use our values as a pathway and marker. By “Loving God”, “Connecting with Community”, “Reaching Out” and “Building the Church”, we’ll become fuller disciples and move closer to who God wants us to be.
What does this have to do with moving our service into the Main Sanctuary on October 14, 2018? Everything. This decision has everything to do with God and our vision and little to do with our preference of time and space. This past January, we initiated phase one of two in this change. We first changed the time to work out the kinks with our ministries, and now it’s time to change the space. Our leadership firmly believes this sanctuary change reflects and aligns with our vision and values. This change reflects what God means to us – who and what God is. The move into the main sanctuary represents and symbolizes God’s power, grace and provision. It’s an acknowledgment of the growth He’s been blessing us with. This change is a proactive step and response towards God’s faithfulness. From day one, the vision and goal was for the English Ministry to grow and to fill the Main Sanctuary. Church, as God continues to use us to reach people with the Gospel, the time is now.
There are many men and women who have and are still working hard to make this happen. This spans from shifting and communicating to our ministries, to drawing up the fuller renovation details. In terms of the renovation, the plans have preliminarily gone through the City of Vancouver and will take some more time to finalize before presenting it to our church. Even though the full renovations will not happen by October (we don’t anticipate completion within the next year), God has given us creative solutions. Our building space will not stop God’s vision from moving forward. Why? God is worth our worship and He is bigger than the problems we face. Our worship transcends the mere physical and pierces into the spiritual. Because the church is not the building, but the people. Church, our faith and community that Christ died for is more resilient and beyond the time and place we meet.
Though the vision of this change is spiritual, it still needs to be practical. Before the full renovations are complete, the main sanctuary will still need to be functional to meet our needs. There will be a more spacious nursery in the back of the sanctuary for families with babies, as well as rows reserved for parents. Don’t worry about your baby making noise. We embrace it because babies are part of who we are. This is us. If you need to step away, the family room will still be available downstairs with the live feed of the service. With the lobby upstairs being quite small, our creative solution is to weekly set up a welcome and coffee tent outside in our front yard. This will not only serve our needs, but give us opportunities to interact with our community. There will also be a new sound system that’ll benefit all congregations. We know the current time hasn’t been ideal for some, and we’re working hard to adjust the service times for the different congregations. Please pray for this. Though schedules may look like it’ll work on paper, know we’re not working with paper but with people.
Church, in this time of change, press into faith and not the fear. You have been bold and courageous, and it’s even more important to be so now. A change to allow for growth may be difficult, but we’re called to embrace the difficulties than settle for the comfortable. When there is a vision overflowing from the heart and throne of God, nothing but life can grow. No matter how rapid the river, how flimsy the small rubber raft feels – it will hold. So, let’s on hop that raft and be the church that yearns for white-water movement and shape our community.