Our vision is big and bold. But our conviction is that if our vision for the church is not God's vision for the church, than...what are we doing? Than what are we trying to accomplish? So our vision is born from God's hope for his world. And there are a lot of scriptures we could draw from to understand this but for us, Isaiah 11 has been inspiring. This is our vision-picture:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
It may not seem from the outset that this speaks well to a church's vision. But please understand few things.
First, Jesse was David's father. This illusive figure talked about, the Branch, is the promised Messiah who we know as Jesus Christ.
Second, the judgment He brings through righteousness and justice is restorative. This text is speaking of a day when all the wickedness and evil and horror within the world is done away with. It promises someone who will still chaos and mend brokenness and end sin.
Third, it speaks of this day being like a wolf lying with a lamb, or a leopard with a goat, a cow with a bear, etc. These are natural enemies that have found peace and reconciliation. The world functions as it was intended and designed to function. There is no more pain sickness or death or disease, crying, mourning or pain--because the old order of things, the world of sin and death--have been done away with.
Lastly, it is said this will happen as the knowledge of God covers the earth like the water covers the sea. Think about how water "covers" something. It doesn't cover like a lid but fills every crevice. Somehow, when the knowledge of God penetrates something, that something is restored--and Isaiah didn't mean factual knowledge about God, but intimate relationship with God.
We've been given a plot of God's world to enact this. Our prayer is for our community, the people we regularly interact with as we live where we live. Do we believe in world wide missions? Yes, but we will not jump over our neighbors who need the gospel in order to reach the world. One must inspire the other.
Here's the thing: God has promised that in and through Jesus Christ, peace will be found and the further we go into the knowledge of Christ and the love of Christ the more this peace will be experienced. Peace for the world that is burdened by war and injustice. Peace for societies riddled by racism and sexism and modern-day slavery. Peace for work places that are environments for anger and discontentment. Peace for playgrounds that are stomping grounds for bullies and gangs. Peace for households where children listen to parents fight from behind closed doors. Peace for marriages that are buried in resentment and apathy. Peace for single mothers and fathers who just need a day of rest. Peace for kids who are questioning their worth and purpose upon this earth.
Peace for a world that is harboring the weight and effect of sin.
This is what it looks like for the wolf to lie with the lamb: the restoration of right relationship with God, others and self. And this is why we've made it our mission to know God and to make him known.