Published in Family Matters

July 2016

During our annual business meeting last November, I called for a process that would engage our congregation in a season of discernment. Throughout the spring, the deacon body and I have worked to develop, authorize, and fund this process. I am excited to share with you that in the fall we will begin Vision 20/20, a season of spiritual discernment and visioning together with the Center for Healthy Churches and their executive director, Bill Wilson.

The Center for Healthy Churches (CHC) comes highly recommended from other churches from around our state such as Second Ponce De Leon Baptist in Atlanta, as well as friends of Highland Hills such as Brett Younger. “What impresses me most about the CHC,” noted Dr. Younger, “is the way Bill Wilson and his team use their understanding of pastors and churches to help congregations see better, bigger, more Christ-like possibilities than they saw before.”

Seeing Christ-like possibilities is the vision we are talking about. When I talk to members of Highland Hills about significant moments in our church’s history, many of you mention an earlier season of discernment with the “New Dream” committee. “Engaging our congregation in a spiritual discernment and visioning process at this time in the church’s history is critical,” said New Dream chairman Larry Brumley. “I believe it has the potential to bring Highland Hills members closer together while making the church more relevant in our community and for current and future members.”

Many leaders in our congregation are already excited about this process. Deacon and former pastor Jim Bruner explains, “I applaud our leadership’s decision and effort to move us in this direction. If there’s one thing I have learned about life, it’s that it in constantly in flux. Our church is no exception. In every season of a congregation’s life, there is a need to examine our mission and purpose for the present and the future.”

Vision 20/20 will involve our entire congregation. This process will include a series of on-site meetings with our whole congregation over a period of approximately four to six months. These conversations will explore our identity and mission through “appreciative inquiry,” an approach that focuses on our unique strengths and opportunities. This approach resonates with our deacon leadership. For deacon chairperson Allen London, “appreciative inquiry will allow us to examine the fabric of our church community through the power of storytelling. Every HHBC member has a story to tell about why they joined our church and why they stay.”

This process will be guided by a vision team, a group nominated by our congregation and appointed as an ad-hoc committee by our deacon board in August. This team will work with consultant Bill Wilson in designing and leading Vision 20/20. The focus will be on developing a plan for the congregation’s growth and future ministry.

This is less of a corporate strategic planning process and more of a season of congregational spiritual discernment. That may sound like a distinction without a difference. Many of you have worked with consultants in your office or business. Yet, congregations are not corporations. This process is different. As Paul Lewis recently noted, “We will intentionally and explicitly be asking the question, ‘What is God calling us to be and to do?’ Too often, we assume that we know the answer to that question or answer it in clichés like, ‘God wants us to grow.’ This process will get us to move beneath such generalities and wrestle with the details of who we are today and what is really going on in our world as we seek together to discern God’s will.” The final outcome is the result of not just the work of our people, but also the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

As details emerge over the next few weeks, there are two ways everyone can prepare for Vision 20/20. First, you can be involved in the process by praying. Pray for our church. Consider the challenges faced by churches in the twenty-first century and make them a point of prayer for our church. Pray for the generations of our church that follow our generation. Pray about the approximately 39 percent of people in Macon who claim no religious affiliation. Pray about the new developments and incredible opportunities in our city. Pray about how Highland Hills can be a more vital congregation in Macon and beyond.

Second, we need you to show up. Preparing through prayer is necessary; showing up is essential as well. When Vision 20/20 begins this fall, be there to participate. Truly, the shift from summer to fall can be difficult on our schedules. Yet, this is an important moment in the life of our congregation. We ask you to be present at the congregational meetings. We challenge you to make time in your schedules.

I thank God for a church like Highland Hills, a church truly gifted for the work of ministry in our time. I am so excited about this season of dreaming and visioning as a congregation as we look towards what God has for our future together.