Years ago I came across this powerful quote from Charles Swindoll: “Organizations tend to lose vitality rather than gain it as time passes. They also tend to give greater attention to what they were rather than what they are becoming. It is easier to look back into the past and smile on yesterday’s accomplishments than it is to look ahead into the future and think about tomorrow’s possibilities.”
Swindoll’s words are so true and especially true when it comes to the local church. How many churches do you know that are still living in the past? How many churches do you know that still talk about where they’ve been more than where they are going? Very few churches are looking into the future and imagining the possibilities.
A local church will stay stuck in the past unless it is being guided by future-focused leaders. A local church must have leaders in place who see what “can be”, not just what “once was.”
When I think about a church with future focused leaders I think about the Church in Jerusalem in Acts. The leaders of the original Church, the apostles, had some choices. Would they courageously lead the Church into the future and take on new territory, or would they simply live in what they once experienced when Jesus was with them? Would they sit around and tell stories about what Jesus did, or would they create new stories of what Jesus “is doing” in the present through their ministries?
As I think about the leadership of the Jerusalem Church, I see several factors that made the apostles more future-focused leaders:
First, future-focused leaders make serious sacrifices! I think everyone knows that moving an organization into the future means having leaders who are willing to sacrifice. David A. Johnston once said, “Pioneers take the arrows, settlers take the land.” When an organization moves into the future, it always means paying a price. Think about the founders of the United States. Many people gave their lives to pave the way for what we have now. The question we must ask is, are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary to lead into the future?
Second, future-focused leaders are driven by core convictions! As a young church planter, I remember a man looking at our church’s core values and asking me if they were a conviction or a suggestion. My first thought was, “Who the heck does he think he is?” I then realized his question was spot on. He was looking for a church that truly knew what they were about and what they believed. He was looking for a leader who was certain about the church and how it ought to function in the world.
The Church in Jerusalem was so committed to what they believed and what they were called to do that they were willing to die for it. In fact, many did! When leaders launch into uncharted territory, they must do so with conviction.
Third, future-focused leaders are willing to take real risks! Some risks are not very risky, while some are “all or nothing.” I am sure many a business started knowing that it would be an “all or nothing” proposition. That had to be the way the leaders of the Jerusalem Church felt when they began to gather and begin the movement of the Church we continue today. I’m sure the apostles knew the risk they were taking when the Church began to gather in the temple courts, met in houses, and started sharing the gospel in the streets.
Imagine when the pilgrims loaded on the Mayflower to head out in uncharted oceans. They understood real risk. They knew that once they set sail there was no returning home. We now know the risk was worth taking.
The Church today needs future-focused leaders who are willing to lead the Church to make disciples in the future. Impact Discipleship Ministries can help you in that mission. Contact us for more information!