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By Susan Beach.
visioningSome visions are received, without even asking for them. They startle us and change our plans. Mary knew that kind of vision.

But visions can also be sought. While we can be active in pursuing them, these visions may still surprise us and change our plans.

Richmond’s First Baptist Church is about that intentional visioning process now. We are seeking God’s vision for our church at this time and in this place.

So how does that happen?

Jim Somerville, FBC’s Senior Pastor, explains how we began this process: “We first discussed the idea of long-range planning because of concern about attendance and giving at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. Although our giving is up over last year and our membership is actually increasing, our Sunday morning worship attendance has been in decline. The Deacon Advisory Council suggested that we do some long-range planning to address that issue and to energize the church around a shared vision for the future.”

To initiate this vision-seeking, Jim and Deacon Chair Richard Szucs invited Bill Wilson, Director of the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC), to speak via FaceTime video to the deacons in May 2015. He talked about nationwide trends in church attendance and giving and reassured us that even though the church in America is experiencing decline, those churches that are clear about their mission and identity can prosper.

The deacons responded well to Bill’s presentation. Richard said they especially resonated with his explanation that “people give their time and money to churches where people are doing things that matter and where they can be a part of something worthwhile.” This session led to a discussion of seeking a visioning process for our church.

The Center for Healthy Churches was selected as FBC’s guide for that process. CHC builds on a church’s strengths so they can be used as the foundation for future direction. Also core to this process is CHC’s emphasis on the input of the entire congregation: God’s vision will be realized as the work of discerning is shared by staff and laity alike.

To begin this work a lay leadership team has been identified. Mark Larson and Clint Smith will co-chair the team of Allen Brown, Virginia Darnell, Anne Keo, Shawnae Lacy, Michael Lipford, Jim Norvelle, Julie Pierce, Lee Stephenson, Charles Tilley, and Lisa Tuck. This Visioning Team will facilitate the work of the congregation in determining FBC’s goals for the next three to five years.

40 Days of PrayerIn January the Visioning Team will begin its orientation. During Lent, the congregation will be invited to meet in small groups in members’ homes, using 40 Days of Prayer: Preparing Ourselves for God’s Calling. This study guide and the Journey to the Cross series on Wednesday nights will combine in a Lenten emphasis, “Praying with Eyes Wide Open,” to prepare us for the next stage of our visioning process.

In that stage the entire congregation will work through the Appreciative Inquiry process – highlighting what we have done well in the past and what we are doing well in the present – in order to determine our direction for the future. These meetings will most likely be held in April and May.

Seeking a vision is work. If you want to know God’s plans for you, you must ask. And you must ask in a way that prepares you to hear – putting aside your plans and listening for His. You must do this repeatedly until you are really listening. If we want to know God’s plans for FBC, the entire church family needs to ask in a way that prepares us to hear Him.

Author’s note: On Sunday, January 17, Adult Bible Fellowships will meet in Flamming Hall at 9:45 a.m. for study and prayer around discernment and the practice of spiritual disciplines. This session, led by Lynn Turner and Susan Beach, will prepare the congregation for the Lenten “Praying with Eyes Wide Open” and the Appreciative Inquiry stages of seeking God’s vision for our church.

Visit related web pages:
Lent: Praying with Eyes Wide Open
2020 Vision

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