Any church planter worth his or her salt is a visionary, has a visionary on his team, or has done considerable thinking (and praying mind you), about the vision God has summoned her to in planting a church.
Vision points like a hunting dog to something not yet in existence. It peers into the future and there is a discernible horizon to head toward. It perhaps is just in the form of an idea or a dream or a picture, but it is out there beckoning.
In other words, there is a "there" up ahead, a destination, an of some sort. This vision is the enticing suggestion of what people refer to in church planting circles as "God's preferred future."
The particular there one sees and desires to pursue defines and focuses where here needs to aim. It is compelling potential needing to be realized. It requires passion, creativity, courage and strategic savvy. It doesn't yet exist, but, boy, it should.
Imagine/Northampton began as such a vision, a there if you will. Simsbury was a long way from Northampton. Today, we are here and imagine/Northampton is here . . . sorta.
You see the imagine/Northampton of today doesn't match the vision yet. Because of all the adversity we have faced since we arrived in these parts, the vision sometimes dims like a fading rainbow. We have had to pull back, pare down and regroup more than once. Rather than heading steadily toward there, it feels these days more like we are mostly keeping our heads above water and gasping for air. All manner of resistance and obstruction show up frequently. Apparently, we have been noticed by occupying intruders.
So, lately I've had to wonder just "where is there?" I'm not saying we've lost or abandoned the vision we were given. Not in the least; it's still welcome in our hearts. I am saying there has been very hard to hold in view because we are frequently overcoming illnesses/injuries, putting out brush-fires, trudging through relentless distractions, enduring scary financial pressures galore, negotiating a fierce mental battle, and trying to keep on our spiritual feet when we get pushed over. Perhaps the most trying of the challenges we face is we don't have all the people needed in very strategic roles to gather a true head of steam. They're just not here. Some are on the horizon, but not yet here.
For me, the question "where is there?" illustrates the unpleasant sensation of the vision fading in and out, and remaining presently well beyond our reach. There seems no closer than when we first got here. It feels unreal sometimes, and yet when I come to my senses, it pulses inside me with a longing which confirms the rightness of pursuing this vision until it becomes flesh and blood reality.
I think it is good to wonder "where is there?" It keeps me looking for the way through and the way forward. It keeps me dialoguing with God and raising questions with the team. I guess if I stopped asking, I wouldn't be much of a church planter.
I am going keep asking, you know. I will keep trying to find our way. I will stay on the search until imagine/Northampton incarnates what it's summoned to do in Northampton, at least on my watch.
I suppose some of you have a there in your life these days whether you are a church planter or not. Maybe it's not a vision. maybe it's a tough problem you desperately need resolving. You have more questions, than answers. You are frustrated, bewildered, maybe even angry or sad about it all. There is no end in sight.
To you I say: take a breath and regroup like you mean it. Make enough time to smell the roses and get some fresh air. Laugh with a few friends who get it. Have a grog. Learn to play the drums (a noble enterprise for anyone).
Help someone who could use a hand. Take a nap. Never overlook the goofy or the silly; they are there to help you laugh. Laughing is a gift. It releases endorphins.
When your head is clearing and the dissonance has stopped, climb back in the saddle, get your bearings and head back to the trail. Keep your eye out for God. He has the way forward and he just might lead you to the there which means so much to you.
Oh, and don't stop wondering . . . it keeps you in the search.