In Mark's gospel, Jesus sees a fig tree from a distance. It appears to be growing fruit. A closer look reveals that the tree actually has no fruit! We are called to be a tree that looks fruitful and is fruitful, making disciples of all generations. Vision 2020, a process to discern God’s next vision for a fruitful Harvest, will launch in January of 2019. The process will include three parts: listening to God, listening to our community, and listening to each other. The listening work will conclude in April 2019.
Listening to God
Over 160 people joined the 144!
Over 160 people committed to joining the Church Council, staff, and pastors in listening to God in order to discern God’s next chapter for Harvest. The work that we are doing will form the foundation for the rest of the listening work that we will do together. Currently the 144 receive an email each week (January 7 – March 25) that includes:
- A biblical image or story
- Brief commentary to help focus our thoughts on God and discerning God’s vision for Harvest
- Questions to encourage us to listen to God
- A short assignment to complete
The Alban Institute describes a segment of a church’s congregation as the “productive 24 percent.” These people are thoughtful. They are interested. They are willing to work with church leaders and others to discern what is best and believe the work of addressing questions to be important. These are people to be invited into the work of church vision preparation.
Harvest currently averages around 600 people in weekly attendance. 24 percent of 600? 144. This struck the Church Council as quite interesting considering the biblical roots around the number 144.
The Old Testament tells us Israel was comprised of 12 tribes. Mirroring the number of tribes, the Gospels explain that Jesus took 12 disciples. 12 is the representative number of the completeness for God’s people. The book of Revelation describes a heavenly vision of all people whom God has redeemed. The number is too high to literally count, so the author uses the number of completeness, 12. That number of tribes and disciples is squared, 12 times 12, and multiplied by 1,000, common literary practices of the time to indicate a huge amount (think in modern vernacular of someone who might say, “There were a million pieces to that puzzle!"). The result is the largest of complete numbers in the bible: 144,000.
The 144,000, or 144 in our case, are representative of a much larger group. The Church Council and pastors see you as an individual who has demonstrated a willingness to serve and sacrifice for the sake of the whole. This church is built on the belief that the harvest is plentiful, all that is needed are laborers who will join God in reaping it. Will you join us as one of those faithful workers for the Kingdom of God?
Listening to our Community
We will work together to discern the needs of our community. We will spend time in the community listening, observing, and praying. We will listen to those who lead and work in our community. We will pay attention to demographic research. All of this to discern how God is calling us to see and serve the people who live, work, and play around us. This listening work will take place in February and March of 2019.
Listening to Each Other
As we, the people of Harvest, listen to one another, we will use various methods to do this work. We will conduct a series of focus groups that ask specific, future-oriented questions to groups that represent the demographics that make up our congregation. We will also utilize survey materials in worship and online. This listening work will take place in March 2019.
Our quarterly church celebrations will continue to be an important part of Vision 2020. Our celebration dates for 2019 are: January 27, March 31, September 8, November 17
Why Vision Planning? Why Now?
Harvest, in existence for 20 years, has moved from the founding work of the church into the grounding work. A vision planning process is an important part of any church moving from founding to grounding, as the church is growing up and growing deep roots. Our goal is to have a conversation about who we are and why we do what we do. We hope to gain clarity around our “Why.” Why has God placed our church in this particular community? What is the work that God is calling us to do for the next 10 years? Our vision planning work will not center on problem solving; it will emphasize listening in order to discern the will of God for the fruitfulness of our congregation.
Who Designed the Vision 2020 process?
The Church Council commissioned a sub-team to create a vision planning process for the people of Harvest. Members of the Council who felt particularly called to this work volunteered. We met weekly through the summer and fall of 2018 to do this work. We utilized the following resources in creating the process: Rev. Russ Moxley, Rev. Thomas Bandy, and the book Holy Conversations by Gil Rendle and Alice Mann. The vision planning sub-team members are Ron Zabel, Mark Burling, Scott Hendren, David Steurer, Terry Cox, Rev. Katie Pestel, and Rev. Jennifer Potter Buff