It’s time to Dream Big again.

Every eight years, as written in our church bylaws, we have the chance to step back, consider the big picture of where we are as a church right now and—more importantly—where we sense God leading us together in the future.  We pray, we dream, we share, we listen.  The deacons are responsible for facilitating this process of developing what the bylaws call a “strategic plan.”
A ministry group of deacons began laying the groundwork for this process back in April, and they’ve done an outstanding job.  Some of you have already participated in committee-related listening sessions with members of this ministry group.  Elsewhere in this edition of Connections, you’ll find a schedule for what the next steps in this process will be.

At the outset, then, I’d like to offer four guiding principles—think of them as four sides of a frame—to define what we’ll be doing together in the coming months.

First, this is a church-wide project, which means it requires church-wide participation.  The deacons are leading this process, but its success or failure will largely be determined by the extent to which the many, diverse, and creative voices of Providence speak up and buy in.  Because we’re Baptists, we believe that every Christian has priestly gifts—that is, the ability to communicate directly with God, to discern God’s leadership, and to share God’s wisdom.  In other words, we’ve all got something to say.  Now’s the time to say it.  I hope you will.  The future of our church is too important for Spirit-led Christians to remain silent.

Second, while it’s called “strategic planning,” I’m thinking of this process more in terms of strategic preparation.  This is an idea I’m borrowing from author Reggie McNeal, who writes that, in a swiftly-changing world, long-term planning—even eight years out—is an increasingly dubious proposition.  Better, he argues, to engage in strategic preparation, which is less a matter of making a to-do list than it is doing what’s necessary now to make sure that we will be in an advantageous position to say Yes when God opens doors for us in the future.  This kind of preparation includes naming our values as a body of believers, discerning our priorities as followers of Jesus, celebrating our strengths as platforms to build on—and identifying the limitations that, if left unaddressed, may prevent us from living up to our potential.

I want us to be prepared to recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit’s movement in our midst because, third, I believe that Jesus wants to do great things through Providence Baptist Church. This is no secret.  Jesus reveals his intention for us in John 14:12-14.

“Very truly, I tell you,”  he says to his disciples, “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  

Jesus intends for His friends and followers to not just continue His ministry but go beyond what they’ve seen Him do.

Greater works.  That’s what the Lord Himself tells us to expect.  What this means is that, in order to be faithful followers of Christ, we must be willing to expect greater works.  We can’t be afraid to dream big.  We can’t let our understanding of what’s realistic limit our faith in what’s possible for God.

Fourth, but by no means finally, we’ve got to begin this process from a position of prayer—and by prayer, I really mean more listening to God than talking to God.  I’m confident that the Lord knows what He wants to accomplish through us—and I’m confident that He knows how He wants to do it.  Throughout Scripture, we see a familiar pattern: When God is ready to act, God lets His people in on what He’s about to do, and then He invites them to be part of it.  Our task right now is to listen—deliberately and diligently—with open hearts, open minds, and open spirits to what God is saying to us as individuals and as a body of believers.  I’m convinced that, as we listen, the Holy Spirit will lead us consistently.  Familiar themes will emerge.  We’ll find that what we’re hearing is the same voice, spoken in different ways, but moving us in the same direction.

We’re told in Hebrews 11:6 that the Lord “rewards those who seek Him,” so let us start here.  Use John 14:12 as your centering verse for prayer.  Throughout the month of August, read it at least once daily, preferably more.  Write it down and tape it to your bathroom mirror or refrigerator door.  As you read John 14:12, ask God: What greater works do you want to do through Providence? Ask and listen.  Write down what you sense the Spirit is speaking to your heart.  Some days—maybe most days—you may not hear anything.  Keep at it.  Earnestly seeking God is a process, more of a marathon than a sprint.

It’s time to Dream Big again—and I’m grateful that God trusts us enough to share His dreams with us.
May the peace of Christ be with you!