President's Blog

A Vistion of Church as a Green Garden and War Zone

Do you remember this historical vision communication?

On May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” By July 1969 the vision was completed with Neil Armstrong standing on the moon. Vision must be short, sweet, and memorable. But vision is mandatory if mission is ever to be completed.

While serving as a pastor, I shared “vision vignettes” from time to time. They were brief challenges, stories and parables that succinctly crystallized the vision or mission of our church. Answering, why do we exist?

Here is one of those vision vignettes:

“Let me ask you a question. What is the oldest profession? I know what half of you are thinking right now! You’re wrong. The oldest profession is actually gardening. Adam and Eve began as gardeners and the world will end in an eternal gardened city.

Imagine with me the Church as a garden. The church needs to be a green garden with peaceful spaces where parched people can find rest for their lives. One of my favourite verses is Isaiah 58:11 (NLT): “The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”

People need nourishing green spaces in life to connect with God. But, there is a danger in thinking the church’s mission is to solely be a lush, green garden. A safe green space for people to gather and grow and flourish spiritually. The reality is that we do not yet live in heaven. We live in a fallen world surrounded by sinful people. And unless we tend to our little garden regularly with care, the weeds of this world will invade our garden.

I read W.O Mitchell’s book, “Jake and the Kid”. It’s a story of a twelve year old boy growing up in the Canadian Prairies during the 1940s. There is a line in the book that struck me. It went something like this “The prairie will take over if your backyard don’t fight back.” Our garden is not a playground. It’s a garden we must continually tend and fight for. It’s a green space surrounded by the ravages of war. A spiritual battle that is constantly “fighting back”.

So our mission as a local church is not to build nice, lush, peaceful gardens to protect us from the battle, but, to use our gardens (churches) to prepare us to assult the beaches of our common enemy.

My son Alec, and I, took a trip together to visit the War Memorials, mostly found in France. An awesome experience shared with my boy. We visited the beaches of Normandy where 70+ years ago brave Canadian soldiers stormed Juno Beach.

On D-Day the allies established a beachhead and repelled the enemy further inland. But the War (the work) wasn’t finished in one day. They had another 11 horrifying months before their mission was complete. However, the beachhead on June 6th, 1944 became a “green-space” to rally the troops, re-equip the soldiers and direct the army to continue inland.

This is what I’m picturing when I call the church to be a “well watered garden” (Isaiah 58:11). Not a place to get comfortable and meet my needs; but, a green place, a stopping off point, to get refreshed and prepared to go back out there into the battle and advance the beachhead inland for the sake of Christ. It’s not a playground out there. It’s a war zone where spiritual battle is taking place every day.

I know you know this. That’s why I love you for leading the charge. Spiritual orphans all around us are counting on us to lead the charge forward. Jesus, our Commander in Chief, once said to us, “GO!” (Matthew 28:19)

Leadership author, John Kotter wrote:

“In every successful transformation effort that I have seen, the guiding coalition develops a picture of the future that is relatively easy to communicate and appeals to people. A vision always goes beyond the numbers that are typically found in five year plans. A vision says something that helps clarify the direction in which an organization needs to move. Sometimes the first draft comes mostly from a single individual.”

That individual is you. The leader, in consultation with others. It is the responsibility of leaders to cast vision. It is a dereliction of their duty not to state clearly, simply, often, and memorably…. The preferred picture of the future. Go cast vision!