The pastor asked for people to help in the children’s ministry, and I volunteered. I loved kids, but I wasn’t really a Christian.
Fortunately, recognizing that fact, the leader of the children’s ministry put me into the two-year-old’s class with some old ladies and told them—quietly—to not let me teach anything. (I was twenty, the women were probably in their forties, and I thought they were dinosaurs.)
The children’s ministry director thought it would be good for me to hear what two-year-old are taught. It was, and I surrendered my life to Christ that year. I still loved kids, now I was a Christian, and the director recruited me to continue working in the children’s ministry. She gave me an internship, and that began my life of ministry to boys and girls.
While I was interning, I heard about a missionary prayer meeting. I was super zealous and anything “missionary” sounded radical to me. Grabbing two of my equally radical friends, we went to the meeting and met this old missionary who was visiting the US from Asia.
At the end of the meeting, he asked everyone to pray for China, India, and Indonesia because “that’s where all the people live.” At that time there were slightly less than 6 billion people on earth, nearly 3 billion lived in those three countries, and nearly 1.5 billion of them were under the age of fifteen.
As those words came out of his mouth, I sensed the Lord speaking in my heart. I can’t describe it. It wasn’t an audible voice. Rather, it was a profound sense of personal and intimate communication. I sensed the Lord telling me that He was going to allow me to help churches in those and other countries by developing their children’s ministry.
Again, I was only twenty years old, a new but zealous Christ-follower, and pretty much clueless.
Afterward, while we were standing in the parking lot, I told my two friends what I’d been thinking about, and we all laughed.
Discerning God’s Vision for Our Ministry
That was forty years ago, and the vision God gave me that evening turned out to be exactly what God wanted me to do with my life. I had heard Him correctly.
After serving in a large US church for ten years, I moved to Poland and eventually founded Every Generation Ministries (EGM). Its purpose was—and still is—to develop and train children’s workers in local churches around the world. EGM establishes national ministry teams that are governed, staffed, and funded by their own Christian communities.
Those teams provide innovative training and development programs as well as culturally relevant Bible teaching materials. EGM has work in seventeen countries and recently launched work in India. God gave the vision, and over these past twenty years, thousands of people have been drawn to that vision, giving their time, talents, and treasure to see children come to Christ and be discipled in local churches.
It’s that kind of vision that we read about in 1 Chronicles 28. There, God gave David a vision for the Temple, His dwelling place among His people Israel.
Rather than examine the entire chapter in detail, we’ll look at five guiding principles:
- Discern God’s vision
- Declare that vision to God’s people
- Lay out the plan for achieving the vision
- Invite people to join God in accomplishing His vision
- Let God be the fundraiser
This week we will examine the first two and next week take a look at the final three. All of them are essential elements of vision casting and fundraising.
Recognizing God’s Vision
First, a leader must discern God’s vision for the ministry. At the beginning of 1 Chronicles 28, we see what appear to be some differences between David’s vision and God’s.
David’s heart was to build God a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God (1 Chronicles 28:2 NASB).
God, however, had a different plan: namely, a house will be built for Him, but not by David. God said to David, “You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood” (v. 3 NASB).
David didn’t say how he knew this. Did he hear an audible voice? Did a prophet come and tell him? Was the idea something he just sensed deep in his heart, perhaps a whisper from God’s still small voice? I don’t know.
Whatever God’s means of communication, David discerned God’s vision and even his role in it. God had also told David, “Your son Solomon is the one who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him” (v. 6 NASB).
It is fascinating—and significant—that this entire scene takes place in front of the leaders of Israel. Apparently, David sensed the need to include the leaders in his process of discerning God’s plan that Solomon, not David, would build the Temple, what the Temple would look like, and what materials were needed for its construction.
David ran all this by the leaders for what could be considered their confirmation. Although not stated specifically in the text, having the support of Israel’s leaders was clearly crucial for David. And David isn’t alone in this regard:
- Moses wanted the confirmation and support of the elders in Egypt. He feared they might not confirm his calling (Exodus 3:13-4:1, 4:29-31).
- Peter’s calling to share the gospel with the Gentiles had to be vetted by the council of early church leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 10:1 – 11:18).
- Writing that he had received his calling directly from God and didn’t need anyone’s approval, Paul nevertheless went to Jerusalem for the church leaders’ blessing (Galatians 2:1-10).
That Peter and Paul sought and received the support of those church leaders is pretty important. In fact, it’s why we “Gentiles” are Christians today! If these pillars of the early church had not confirmed and blessed Peter’s and Paul’s calling to preach to the Gentiles, Christianity might have remained a sect of Judaism.
Just as Peter and Paul did, centuries earlier David illustrated for us the first and crucial principle for Christian leaders and pastors today: Well before we begin recruiting workers and gathering materials, we have to discern God’s vision for ministry.
We need to be careful that we aren’t pursuing our own vision for ministry, absent God’s genuine leading. We are all familiar with other leaders who appear to be building their own personal fiefdom—and we never consider that we ourselves are doing the same!
We need to stay focused on God and be careful as we speak on His behalf regarding a ministry vision and our part in it.
Five years ago, I began sensing that God was going to bring new leadership to our ministry and that my role was going to change. Field research had begun in India, and the launch was to happen in the near future. I remember also thinking that since it had been forty years since God gave me that vision, I needed to step it up!
Specifically, I needed to get work up and running in China and Indonesia. Time—specifically my time overseeing EGM—was running out! We didn’t have the resources, people, or money to expand, but that wasn’t going to stop me.
Then I realized that God might intend for me to be part of that outreach to China and Indonesia in a different way than I’d been involved—even leading the way—in the past.
Supported by the prayers and helped by the counsel of other leaders, I realized I wouldn’t be the one starting the work in China and Indonesia. I was glad God would allow me to be part of it in some other way.
Declaring God’s Vision
After first discerning God’s vision for ministry, pastors and leaders need to declare the vision to God’s people.
In 1 Chronicles 28, David assembled at Jerusalem all the officials of Israel to share the vision God had given him for the building of the Temple (v. 1 NASB). The text is not clear as to why David called together Israel’s leaders.
Perhaps he was simply being obedient to God’s command. Or perhaps David made this announcement before the crowd in order to have them affirm or not affirm it. As later chapters reveal, the people’s response to David’s vision was certainly an indication that David’s discernment was authentic and his vision was in fact from God.
As the leaders heard David talk, they were inspired, sensing that God was about to do something great and that they were going to be part of it.
This kind of communicating God’s vision of the future is an essential element of Christian leadership today. When we who are leaders discern God’s vision for the future, we need to share it with the people God has given us to lead. We let God use us to influence them toward His purposes for them.
This vision casting is crucial: God uses it to show people what He is doing and to inspire them to consider how they might be part of it. Vision casting engages people’s heart with what God is about to do and helping that happen is an essential element of leadership and fundraising.
Vision casting has been a big part of my life, but sometimes I am on the receiving end. I think of when my wife and I heard our worship pastor share God’s vision for a new ministry at our church.
Our son had some wayward years and struggled after high school. When Caleb was twenty, though, God worked in some unique ways for him to enroll in the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Discipleship Training School. God used YWAM in a tremendous way in Caleb’s life, and he still has friends from those days.
After completing his discipleship program, Caleb enrolled in a School of Worship. God opened a new door in his life, and we began seeing video footage of our son leading worship, and we learned he was even writing original worship songs. Shortly after that, our worship pastor announced that our church was hosting a YWAM-style School of Worship.
He shared the vision of having a group of young people within our church equipped to lead worship throughout the church, for all ages and all ministries.
However, some of the young people who wanted to attend didn’t have the funds. The pastor asked us to pray about helping with small $100 scholarships. We knew the impact the School of Worship had on our own son, we loved the vision, and we responded accordingly. And we weren’t the only ones!
Unfortunately, the Road Well Traveled has made vision casting something akin to presenting a business plan or giving quarterly updates to the stockholders. This in turn creates an environment where Christians are “investing” in ministry.
As such they want to know about the accomplishment of visionary plan and the spiritual or even material return on their investment (ROI). This places the primary accountability between the giver and the church or ministry receiving the gift. God can almost become a third party to the transaction.
On the Road Less Traveled the vision that is discerned and declared is God’s. As we noted previously, the fundraiser/pastor/Christian leader is giving themselves and already joining God in the ministry through their giving. They are “casting” that vision, inviting the people of God to join Him in the ministry work.
Financial gifts are given to God, received by the church or ministry placing God at the center as it should be.
Next week we will look at the importance of laying out a plan to accomplish the vision, inviting people to join God and letting God be the fundraiser.