When the temperatures cool down and the kids head back to school, life resumes a sense of routine and normalcy. (Of course, for my friends in the southern hemisphere, you’re just getting warmed up, but bear with me…)
Early Fall tends to be an optimum time for shepherds to speak to the flock about the journey ahead over the next twelve months or so.
From a financial standpoint, there are still a few months left before the end-of-year giving surge, and the holidays tend to be a time when people feel most generous. From a programming standpoint, as a sense of rhythm and routine sets in, people are most willing to try volunteering in an area. And from an attendance standpoint, vacations are over and people who are deciding to visit churches are making a short list of a few they’d like to try.
Because the fall happens to be in the final weeks of Pentecost season, leading up to Advent, it’s also an optimum time to speak to the church’s identity as the institution Jesus commissioned to extend God’s Kingdom and the good news of Christ into every community. We’ve been empowered by the Spirit to take every opportunity to show and share the good news with everyone.
Therefore, it’s an optimum time to preach a “vision series.” And what, exactly, is a vision series?
What Is a Vision Sermon Series?
Preaching should, of course, always be rich in biblical theology, applied to the lives of church attenders. But pastors are shepherds of a flock, and flocks move through seasons, and the shepherd’s responsibility is not only to feed, nourish, and protect, but also to lead the flock in the right direction in the appropriate seasons.
Since preaching is the primary means of shaping the spiritual life of a congregation, one of the responsibilities of the pastor is to shape the life that the body as a whole takes on. The New Testament epistles, themselves, are excellent examples of discourses intended to be read to churches that included a lot of vision about how the church could be a witness to Christ in the world.
4 Aspects of a Strong Vision Sermon Series
A vision sermon series teaches the church about its identity in the world.
Some sermons are geared toward each individual “me” in the congregation, but others need to address the question of “who we are,” collectively. Who is the church? What, exactly, have you joined, when you made the decision to commit to being a church member? A vision series addresses those questions with biblical answers.
Simon Sinek wrote a great book called Start With Why. He explains that there are only two ways to influence people. You can manipulate people (and while this happens in too many churches, we must fight against the temptation to do this) or you can inspire them. He says,
We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.
And why does the church exist? I continually go back to the five biblical purposes outlined in Rick Warren’s classic, The Purpose Driven Church. You might have your own answer to your church’s why already on the tip of your tongue. Share it with the congregation often!
A vision sermon series calls the church to unify around a common mission.
The New Testament is full of messages about the need for unity among God’s people. Jesus definitely desired for our love for each other to be the evidence of our connection to him. When the church is unified, great things happen within and around the church.
What is the mission? Ultimately, the mission of the church was assigned to us by Jesus in the form of the Great Commission as he commanded us to go into all the world and to share the good news about his kingdom becoming a reality for all who want to be included in it.
A strong vision sermon series reminds us that, regardless of our differences of opinion, personality, or culture, we’ve been brought together to show the world the love of God, share the message of Christ, and shape our culture and communities.
A vision sermon series reminds a church of its core values.
As Angie and I gave a decade of our lives to the planting of a church, we found over and over that the most important aspect of who we were and how we did ministry came back to the core values we had written before starting. We re-worded them over time, but the values we talked about shaped the life of our congregation.
Your church’s core values may or may not be written down or communicated verbally in some set form, but they do exist. Every church values some things.
When you repeat your values, make decisions using your values as guardrails, and protect your values over the years, the culture of your church will be shaped according to those values. And a vision series is an excellent opportunity to remind people of what those values are.
A vision sermon series points out the strategies your church uses.
I really believe it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Some churches are especially gifted at creating an atmosphere in which people can encounter God in worship. Others are fantastic when it comes to serving families and children. And other churches may specialize in serving those who are disabled or part of a marginalized population.
While churches may share a common theology and a commitment to the same biblical purposes, every church tends to have a unique personality and a unique strategy for carrying out the mission in its surroundings.
A strong vision series will communicate not only the why of the church’s existence but the how of the church’s approach to ministry. This is the part of our preaching that calls people to commit to personal involvement.
4 Tips for Making an Impact with a Vision Series
You obviously want to make the most difference possible with a vision series. Your hope is to move the body forward on mission while calling for involvement from those who are committed or considering their place in the congregation. So how do you maximize the moment and make the most impact possible with a vision series?
These words of advice won’t apply equally to every situation and if you’re a pastor or church leader, you must craft your own unique approach, but these are principles I’ve seen work in my own ministry and in the ministries of those I’ve observed.
1. Let the bulk of the messages be from the lead pastor.
I definitely appreciate churches that utilize a plurality of teachers and preachers, and who wish to avoid creating a cult of personality. I also know that from the perspective of what makes for effective leadership, someone will garner the trust of the congregation and that leader should craft the vocabulary of the church’s culture, values, and vision.
2. Take at least four weeks for the vision series.
This is a matter of having the congregation soak in the message. While each week will present a unique angle or aspect of the church’s vision, there will be repetition, and that’s a good thing.
3. Ground the message in the New Testament.
Some theologians believe we should mimic, as much as possible, the life of the earliest churches. Others believe that, as culture changes, so should the life of the body. Either way, the foundation for the church today is still Jesus and the teachings of the earliest apostles.
The gospels show us Jesus’ life and teachings. The Book of Acts shares the story of the early church. And the epistles are filled with wisdom about how the church can grow and relate to its surrounding culture. The New Testament is virtually inexhaustible when it comes to guidance for churches today.
4. Call people to action and involvement.
Presenting the vision of your church should not only call everyone already involved to unify around the mission but should also call those on the fringe to take another step closer to the center.
A vision series calls people to own the mission themselves and see themselves as locking arms with the rest of the church’s membership to face outwardly together.
Remember, the goal is always more than merely growing numerically. The point of a vision sermon series is to unify the body to move forward so that the good news can be shared with more people, more effectively.