"Let's make disciples of Christ through authentic and real relationships with people." - Yours truly, to the Southwest Church
"Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." - Paul, to the Philippian Church
"I appeal to you, brothers, that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." - Paul, to the Corinthian church
"May they be brought to complete unity. - The prayer of Jesus Christ, concerning all of his followers
"I have come to find, as a builder and leader of spiritual communities today, that [shared vision] is still one of the most important distinctions and vital characteristics of self-sustaining effectiveness and success in organizations." - My friend and coach, Jim Spivey
"A shared vision is not an idea. It is not even an important idea such as freedom. It is, rather, a force in people's hearts, a force of impressive power. It may be inspired by one person's idea, but once it goes further - if it is compelling enough to acquire the support of more than one person - then it is no longer an abstraction. It becomes palpable. People begin to see it as if it exists. Few, if any, forces in human affairs is as powerful as shared vision." - Peter Senge
"I am starting a Lifegroup with 5 couples. And I have started a men's group. We have been meeting for 4 weeks. There are 2 of us right now, and we will share the intimate community we are enjoying with a few others when it is time." - a paraphrase of my Elder and shepherd, Billy Burr
For those of you who know me, the 7 quotes above are enough explanation for why my heart is sky-high after the conversation I had (that I quoted above) with my 75-year-old friend and elder today. It might be little more dramatically clear if you read the first quote (which is our church's vision) and then read the last one (which is a leader of our church conforming his actual life to that vision).
I have this vision. It's not mine, but I have been totally captured by it, and can't seem to be loosed from it's grip (and I don't want to be. But it seems this vision is viciously opposed and assaulted all the time...as if the whole world conspires and has it's face set against it). I think my slavery to this vision of becoming and making imitators of Christ comes from a brilliantly mixed "life-cocktail" which includes the combination of 1) my life experience, 2) my ensuing salvation from that life experience by Christ, 3) my continuing Bible study, and 4) the commitment to finding whatever it is that brings me the most abundant life to my heart.
End result? "Let's make followers of Christ through intimate and unconditional community with people."
Now...the word "let's" can be deceiving. I can live out this vision out by myself. Well, sort of. Of course, I need at least one other person with whom to be in intimate community with. But what I don't need is the leadership of any church I serve to agree with it and conform their lives to it for me to live it out. Hear me...I'm not being defiant...all I am saying is that I am self-responsible by God's design, and I can personally and humbly live out the vision of offering myself to my world, creating an atmosphere where we can all become more like Christ, all by myself. If I'm not doing it, there is no one, including those in authority over me at my church, whom I can blame.
However...if, in any season of life (such as the one I am in now), the call from God is to have this as a "shared vision" at one of His kingdom outposts (church)...well, then...I would need to use the world "let's"...I'd need other self-responsible people, leaders of the church preferably, to also personally and humbly offer themselves to people in their world, creating an atmosphere where they can all become more like Christ.
All of the elders and ministers at the Southwest Church of Christ made an agreement a few months ago. A commitment to conform the reality of our lives to the agreed upon vision of our lives...that is, to make disciples of Jesus Christ through authentic friendships. So, to have our oldest elder come in today, sit down across from me, offer intimate community to me, and then explain how he is making good, taking seriously, and conforming his actual life to that commitment in such a sacrificial and intentional way...
I'm getting choked up just typing it out. I'm scared to death that the simplicity of his actions will dilute the power of them. Our vision is "our stated vision" when we agree intellectually upon it, which we have done. Our vision is what Peter Senge calls "our shared vision" only when all of us leaders leaders die to it and give their lives to it...in the tangible, palpable reality of our actual schedules and lives.
As Billy so "matter-of-factly-isn't-everyone-doing-what-we-said-we-would-do" spoke of how he has 3 times read the latest book given to our leadership team on the subject, and how he is starting two different sets of weekly, relational, transformational gatherings of people, and how he is depending on the Spirit to identify and send him one more couple who "needs it" to join his couple's group, and how he's training the young man in his men's group to be open to God using him to invite the next man who "needs it" to his men's group, I had to just interrupt him...
I got up out of my seat, went over to where he was sitting, put my arms around him, and burying my face into his shoulder said... "Thank you."