By George Bullard
Who knows for sure exactly how the Gospel according to Luke came to be written? I mean exactly. No one knows with absolute surety. But we can imagine.
For me to imagine this, I read the first four verses of Luke and discover some interesting things. First, the author did research. He (probably a safe gender assumption) sought to compile an account of the things that had happened. Second, he did not compile just random things, but those things “on which there was full conviction”. (See the note for Luke 1:1 in the NASB.)
Third, his sources were the oral tradition — and perhaps some early writings — of those who were eyewitnesses to the events of the life of Jesus. These people were also seen as “ministers of the word.” Fourth, he sought to investigate carefully everything that was available to him from the beginning. Fifth, to the best of his knowledge he sought to place things in chronological order.
Sixth, he wanted Theophilus as a representative of those who would read this Gospel to know as truthfully as possible the things on which he had been “orally instructed”. (See the note for Luke 1.4 in the NASB.) In the midst of this holy experience of writing, certainly the inspiration of the Triune God was felt and empowering.
In the same manner, congregations who become captivated by God’s vision should ultimately put into words their experiences of vision and the oral tradition that develops around congregational vision.
Here are four vision insights that focus on the subject of writing a congregational vision. The first 36 vision insights about congregational vision are contained in the posts found here.
Vision Insight 37: When considering how vision comes to us, it may be helpful to consider how the New Testament came to us. It came by experience first, and then was written.
The New Testament — particularly the four Gospels — did not come to us as a movie or television miniseries script for which actors were recruited to play certain parts. The New Testament did not come to us as an already written story.
The New Testament came to us as a real life experience from an oral tradition culture which told and told and told the stories of Jesus they had experienced in real life. At a certain point when those who experienced the life of Jesus could not be everywhere, were graduating to heaven, the stories were collected, and the possibility arose of stories creeping in that were not really part of the life and ministry of Jesus, the stories were finally written down.
Obviously they went through various editions until they wound up in the canon of our New Testament.
Vision Insight 38: Vision is experienced. We reflect on it and share it orally with our full heart, soul, mind and strength. Then we write it.
Likewise vision should be first experienced, and the stories and concepts about it be allowed to mature before we canonize a statement. Real life experiences before words about real life experiences are essential. It is like I-Thou before I-It in the tradition of Jewish theologian Martin Buber.
What are the stories of vision in your congregation that have been told repeatedly that you now need to write down? If you already have a vision statement, as the stories told illustrate the vision, is there any way the statement needs to be updated?
Vision Insight 39: We write down the vision we have experienced to have a consistent historic and dynamic sharing of the vision with the congregation.
It is important as you come to the point to write a statement of vision, to use clear and decisive words to communicate vision that fits the culture of the congregation in its community context. It is also important that people who read it can say, “Yes, that is it!”
They also need to be able to think of an experiential story of their own that fits with the statement. They may also develop their own paraphrased interpretation of the statement that fits into their congregational vision experience.
Vision Insight 40: Since vision is not a statement, do not try borrowing a vision statement from your favorite congregation.
I have my favorites. I try when coming alongside a congregation in a strategic leadership coaching situation not to impose my language on a congregation. Often when congregations pick up the language of other congregations and make it their own they are borrowing from the mission state or motto or tagline of another congregation, and not actually their specific vision statement.
Go experience God’s vision for your congregation, and when necessary write it down!
This is the 16th in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here.