June 2016 (remix)
Pastor's Perspective. . .

 
When the founding fathers of the United States of America set out to forge a new nation, they did so with deep conviction and clear purpose.  Even a cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence will show you that they knew what they were doing, they understood the consequences, and they were able to articulate their reasons.  The American Revolution was in many ways a “Purpose-Driven” Revolution.  In other words, they not only knew what they were against, they knew what they were for.
 
This Purpose-Driven Revolutionary spirit is what separated the American Revolution from its French counterpart.   While both Revolutions sought to gain freedom from a tyrannical monarch, the American Revolution was unique in that the revolutionaries struggled toward a positive vision, while the French Revolutionaries revolted against the King.  While the American Revolution concluded with an enduring Constitutional government in place, the French Revolution plunged France into a period of violent chaos.  Instead of finding the freedom they desired, the French Revolution resulted in one group killing the other until a new dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte, arose from the ashes.
 
The tale of two revolutions shows us the advantage of a Purpose Driven movement.   History shows us that having a positive vision for the future works a lot better than rebelling against the previous regime or way of doing things.  Sadly, many within the Church, and in America, still engage in the destructive pattern of rebellion without positive vision. 
 
My favorite passage of the Declaration of Independence is a very simple statement of political purpose and vision.  It is likely the most well-known passage of this important document.  The passage is both tactical and practical and can serve as a guide for determining the values of the founders if understood correctly.
 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
 
In these two (albeit complex) sentences the founders set the whole of the American experiment into motion.  They articulated a positive vision of the foundations of government, with a radical new way of seeing power and its use.  No longer was governmental power to be used for the advantage of the powerful (the government: be it a Kingdom or Democracy), but in order to secure the basic God-given rights for the citizenry.  And what are these rights?  They are rightly ordered as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; for a government that cannot secure its people in the land cannot preserve liberty.  A government that cannot secure the freedom to name and claim our individual destiny cannot promise to us the ability to pursue our dreams and goals.
 
The Constitution continued in the proclamation of the positive principles of the founders.  The principles are found throughout the Constitution, but are explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights, which articulated the sacred rights of the individual.  The founders made it clear what the values and the principles of the nation were.  The founders believed that the ultimate authority should be given, not to the government, but to the governed.  For this reason restrictions were placed not on the citizenry, but on the federal government.  It is because of these statements of purpose that we can assert our individual rights from the encroachment of governmental interference.  While the tension between the state and the individual is at times palpable, the Constitution sides with the rights of the free.
 
I am sharing this with you for one PURPOSE.  In every good Purpose Driven plan there must be a clear understanding of positive priorities.  Only in understanding the positive purposes of the Church can we successfully navigate the turbulent waters of 21st Century ministry.  As we are pulled in different directions we consistently fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people.  The attempt to be universal in scope (with ever decreasing resources) creates the image of failure in most churches, as most of us are unable to be successful in all areas of life and ministry.  Churches faced with the realities of decreasing resources and increasing need must endeavor to create a set of priorities so that we might target our resources to effective places of ministry. 
 
This is happening today, even in the bloated federal government, as our nation is now forced to make clear choices as to priorities and purposes (though we are loath to accept this reality).  In this same way First Baptist Church must make our priorities in ministry understood and help people to articulate the direction of what we might accomplish through the work of God in Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, we must rightly order the word of Truth in our lives. 
 
In order to rightly order we must first acknowledge the need for choices.  We must also seek the knowledge of ourselves and the scripture to determine what we might be called to accomplish here at First Baptist Church.  We must ask the tough questions; of ourselves and our Church.  Do we have the correct ministry priorities here at First Baptist?  Do we know what they are or even how we can discover them?  Have we been chaotic in our call to ministry (reacting to the “squeaky wheel” or the loudest voice) or do we know the positive rationale for our actions?
 
It is interesting to note that both the nation and the Church seem to be experiencing a common period of struggle concerning our identity and purpose.  We must resist the temptation to react negatively to the difficulties we face.   The wise men and women who created our sacred structures of Church and Government would seem to direct us to another path: to seek the truth and create a positive vision of transformative change for ourselves and our posterity, based on values consistent with our founding principles.
 
First Baptist Church is currently working to articulate our ministry priorities for the coming months.  We are asking you to join us in this process.  Part of this will be to join us at our Annual Meeting, after Church on Sunday, June 12.   In order to truly set the course for First Baptist we must know the passions, priorities and purposes of not only the leadership, but also the membership of the Church.
 
It is within the intersection of our priorities, passions, and purposes that we will find the direction that God has for our lives and our Church.  Thom Rainer, in his book Breakout Churches, refers to this as the Vision Intersection Profile.  This “VIP Factor” represents the common foci of the passions of the Church’s leadership, the Gifts of the Congregation, and the Needs of the Community.  When these are understood, then the direction becomes clear.  When these are connected they can create a bulls-eye for ministry development.  It is the goal of First Baptist Church and our leadership to hit the divinely targeted bulls-eye in the months and years to come.
 
Striving To Hit The Mark,
Pastor Dan