Most of us, when we go on a trip, do a bit of thinking beforehand about what it will be like when we get there. We don’t just show up in Rome and then think, “Hmmm what is there to do here?” Aside from the rare nomad who considers that kind of travel fun, most of us would, say, buy a guidebook beforehand—or at least look around online. There we could find a picture of the coliseum. We’d look at it, imagining what it would be like to be there in person. We might visualize ourselves alongside a significant other, with the monument lit up at night. We might picture ourselves there on a sunny day with our kids getting an educational tour of the site. We might visualize ourselves backpacking and seeing the city on foot and staying in hostels. Whatever it is we’re visualizing, we’ll call our picture postcard—it’s our ideal version of the future journey.
We can’t know everything it will take to get there along the way—the delayed flight, the crowds of tourists, the rain on the day we arrive, the kind local who helps us when we get lost. But the point is that we have some expectations. Those expectations may be close to how the trip actually pans out or they may be wildly wide of the mark. But how we envision our trip determines how we prepare for it—everything from who we travel with to what type of clothes we pack to what sites we decide to see.
Church planting is similar. You, as the planter or planting team, need to imagine where you’re going—what type of church you want to start—even though you know you can’t possibly get all of the details right in advance. But you still need to spend some time imagining your vision—praying over it, looking for it, refining it, articulating it. The type of church you want to start determines the kinds of choices you’ll make to get there… even though no church ever ends up looking precisely like it did in your imagination.
To help you think through your vision for your church, your neighborhood, and the people you’ll reach, check out a recent series on my blog: