Begins with seeing Jesus.
In management seminars I once attended, presenters would take one of two approaches to a museum’s fundamental statements: Either one’s vision statement came first, followed by one’s mission statement, or one’s mission statement came first, followed by one’s mission statement.
If a church has a flawed vision, its practices will not be what they should be. Nor will its mission be what it should be.
Most people think “church” refers to a building, or an institution. But the way the New Testament uses the word is in reference to a people who are called out of the world. A church is thus an assembly of people who are the Body of Christ with Christ at its head (see 1 Corinthians 12).
It is unfortunate, but in the minds of many pastors and parishioners today, “church” is an institution. One of the key purposes of an institution is self-preservation and perpetuation. If a pastor considers “church” to be a building and its programs, then the pastor and its people will attempt to do “church as usual” during these perilous times, rather than seeing that this pandemic is offering new opportunities for the church to do ministry in the world. It is only natural that Christians miss the experience of gathering together, that we miss the singing of hymns, that we who are Anglican miss the communal sharing of the cup and the passing of the peace; but far too often we who are ordained have neglected the training of our people for ministry, ministry both to one another and to those in the world (see Ephesians 4). Even though we need institutional structures to operate, a church should be an organic, living entity.
The first step we need to take in understanding what the role of a church is during a time of pandemic is to recapture what should be the collective vision of the called-out people that is the church. The Oxford English Dictionary defines vision as: “Something which is apparently seen otherwise than by ordinary sight.” The “something” the local church is to see is the vision of the Triune God as seen in the face of the reigning Jesus, the complete Jesus as He truly is depicted in both Testaments: we are to see Him as the once humble and humiliated incarnate Son of God who, because of His obedience, even to obedience to death on the cross, is now the glorious Caesar of this Cosmos seated at the right hand of the Father (Phil. 2:5-11), a vision depicting One of utter majesty and sovereignty of a Being who sits next to the One encased in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16).
Theologians call this the “beatific vision.” Although many theologians consider the beatific vision to be strictly eschatological, or something future (and it does have an eschatological component—see Ps. 17:15 and Rev. 22:3-4), the vision of Christ as reigning King should be the vision of the church. We should see Him as standing amidst the seven golden lampstands of Revelation 1-3, one of which is representative of every local church today (Rev. 1:12-16). We should see Him as both a comforting and a frightening presence. We should see Him being worshipped in heaven as well as on earth. We should see Him sending the Spirit to do His work in revival, regeneration and transformation. We should see Him as active in all of the affairs of life on earth as well as over all of the affairs of creation; we should see Him actively bringing about the uniting of “all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10). We should see Him as Christ Pantokrator, or “Christ, Lord Overall.” Key vision passages are Rev. 1, Heb. 1, John 1 and Col. 1:15-23.