Below is an adapted excerpt from my book, 10 Things Every Minister Needs to Know
“My first pastorate was in a town of 300 people. It was a very special church. Each Sunday I would go to lunch at a different member’s home. We will never forget those days. It was a great place for me to learn.
One of the greatest lessons about vision I learned in the simplest manner while I was at that church. Some of the church’s leadership determined we needed to air condition the building. This led to a business meeting. We were discussing the situation as the ping-pong match began. One of the men felt strongly we did not need to do it because “times were hard.” A godly woman in the church had heard about all she wanted to hear. She stood up and said to them, “God will take care of this. Let’s help the church move forward to the future for our younger families.” In her passionate speech and plea, she nailed the hard times issue by telling them she would give the first $1,000. Needless to say, within minutes the whole issue was solved. The church was getting its own central heat and air unit.
In the middle of the match, I had resolved that the deal was over and the man had won again. However, I learned that night I was not thinking big enough! I had forgotten the power of vision and how people love to rally to a better future. The lady had called people to a better future, even demonstrating sacrifice toward it.
What God etched in my heart that night I will never forget. A godly lady had a vision and was not going to let anyone torpedo it. She painted a vision, and people ran toward it.
The Lord has used the lessons I learned that night and built upon them church by church and situation by situation. God wanted to build me into a man of vision and faith.
When I came to my present church in 1986 and preached for the church to vote on me becoming their pastor, I was grilled with questions for a long time. That night, I began to cast a vision in many areas.
I remember saying to them, “Surely He wants to use our church to place Jesus and His gospel all over the world from Northwest Arkansas.” That was a strong statement of vision and faith. On that night, I rallied people to a better future.
Through the years, I felt there was no way that would happen, but I continued on in the vision. With the limited population in this region, I lost my vision and faith periodically. Sometimes I would believe we had peaked and there was no way for growth to continue. Yet it continued to happen. Every time I felt the lid was on, God would blow the lid off the church. I was not thinking big enough! Each time I would look back and say to myself, “I should have known God better than that.” Each time, vision and faith were contributing factors. Each time, people were rallying to a better future for their lives and our church.
Vision is rallying people to a better future. Vision is helping people see what you see already. Vision is calling the invisible into visibility. Vision is usually determined by your burden and by your faith.
Jesus Thinks Big
When Jesus was about to ascend to be with His Father in heaven, He demonstrated the big idea. It all fit into His extraordinary plan. He had died for our sins. He had been raised from the dead supernaturally. Moments before His ascension, He laid some major visionary plans upon His faithful followers. He stated, as recorded by Luke in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This was a big idea. Jesus was thinking big! He was calling His followers to expand their belief in Him and His good news. He wanted His followers to begin sharing where they lived, then stretch to their own country, and eventually go into the entire world. This plan for reaching the world with news about His gift of eternal life became the marching orders to the church from our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ. Any vision we have needs to be a vision that is tied to the vision of Jesus. He pulls for your vision to be fulfilled when you join Him in fulfilling His vision for the entire world, beginning with your own world.
When we do this, we experience a better future. We see things happen that do not logically make sense. We begin to realize that when God factors into our lives and churches, He creates something that is powerful! The supernatural power of God is unleashed upon you and your church when you have the heart for and begin to step toward reaching your region with the good news of Jesus with great intentionality. The power escalates along with the vision.
Whether you are trusting God for central heat and air to be placed in your building, or something else, ensure the vision somehow connects with reaching others for Jesus. When you connect what you desire to do with His vision, you send your vision to an entirely different level. The commitment from the divine towards you and your church begins to escalate.
Are you thinking big enough? Is your church thinking big enough?
It all begins with our vision. Do you have one?”
A Personal Account
Pastors and church leaders, Great Commission strategizing ignites my spirit like nothing else. I long to exhaust all approaches, and all resources, in telling every person in the world about Jesus Christ and making disciples of all the nations. This has been my heart’s vision for many years.
There is no way I could share a word about vision without mentioning an experience that changed me forever. Johnny Hunt, then president of our convention, appointed me to serve as chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2009-10. I led a Task Force team of 22 diverse leaders in bringing a report and recommendations to our convention of more than 40,000 churches and congregations, on the question of how we might better work together to fulfill the Great Commission.
I led this gifted team for one year through, long, exhausting, and exhilarating hours. I knew this was the most wonderful, significant opportunity I would ever undertake in my earthly life. At times I felt overwhelmed with our task.
The Lord taught me many things during my time with the Task Force. Through my interactions with these 22 leaders, He ultimately matured my vision for the Great Commission. I concluded that time in my life still holding a deep passion and vision to see the every person in the world hear the great name of Jesus Christ, but with a matured vision to encourage the next generation of pastors and church leaders to join me in this passion.
As part of my Great Commission vision, today I diligently make time to engage the next generation and encourage them in every way possible. I see tremendous value and importance in pouring into the lives of the next generation of church leaders. I encourage you to come alongside and invest in your developing leaders and share your vision with them – may the Lord ignite your vision in them as well.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas, and had the opportunity to share a vision for a new line of Bible studies available from LifeWay this Fall called Bible Studies for Life. The following is an excerpt of the conversation that took place between Dr. Eric Geiger and I on this new series.
[Eric Geiger] Good afternoon. My name is Eric Geiger. We are really excited to introduce the new Bible Studies for Life to you. We’ve listened to the church and wanted to solve problems, real problems that local churches are having.
First, we believe that the new Bible Studies for Life series is going to help local churches connect the unconnected in their church. As a pastor, one of the most painful moments for me when I preach is when I look out and notice people in the congregation who are not yet connected to a group or not yet connected to a class. And we know this from research; we know that when people get connected they’re much more likely to stick. They’re more likely to serve. They give more generously. They serve more sacrificially. They share the Gospel more. And they’re cared for. They’re cared for more carefully by the Body when they’re connected to a group. And so when I preach, when you preach Pastor, when you see people in your church that are not connected it – it really breaks our heart.
Hebrews 3:13 says “Let us encourage one another daily as long as it is called today so none of us are hardened by sin’s deceit.” In other words, biblical community stops our heart from getting hardened by sin’s deceit. So all these people in our churches that are not connected to a group or to a class, we want to help them. We want to help local churches get these people connected. Dietrich Bonheoffer said this: “Sin demands to have a man by himself it withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”
So, we believe the new Bible Studies for Life will help churches get people that are not connected, connected into groups. It’s compelling studies that will grab people’s attention. And we’re going to offer free videos with every six sessions so that a church leader can show those videos to try and grab people’s attention, to bring them into a small group.
Secondly, the studies not only help connect the unconnected, but they also help local churches strengthen families. As we’ve listened to local churches here is what we’re hearing. Pastors and church leaders are telling us that their people are going in a plethora of directions and we want to help local church leaders strengthen families. And so Bible Studies for Life Kids, Bible Studies for Life Students, and Bible Studies for Life Adults, those studies are aligned every single week around the same biblical concept so that moms and dads can more easily have discussions with their children and with their students about what the Lord is teaching them. Every single session, the children and the students, will come home with one conversation that the mother and father can have with the children or students so we can help parents have spiritual conversations every single week with their families.
And lastly, we’re hearing from church leaders that they fear that their people, their groups, their classes, are studying in a bunch of different directions and they’re unsure if all of the things they’re presenting to their people are actually making disciples. And so we built the new Bible Studies for Life on this wise discipleship framework. It has been validated by research so we can say with confidence that we’re going to disciple people with wisdom. We want to be able to say and we want you to be able to say, Pastor, as the Apostle Paul said, “I lay a foundation as an expert builder. I didn’t disciple people haphazardly but I disciple people with wisdom.” And so that’s how we designed Bible Studies for Life Kids, Students, and Adults.
I’m going to ask Dr. Ronnie Floyd to join me today. Dr. Floyd is serving as our General Editor for Bible Studies for Life. One of the reasons that we asked him to serve as our editor for this Bible study series is the commitment and the conviction that he has to lead a church. And the reason that the Lord has used him so significantly, I believe, is because he walks so closely with the Lord. When I first went into ministry, one year at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Dr. Ronnie Floyd preached on prayer and fasting and invited our Convention to pray and fast. I was 19-years-old when the Lord called me into ministry. That message impacted me so much. I’m so grateful for his influence and I’m really honored that he’s a part of this Bible Studies for Life series.
Can you tell us why you feel the Lord led you to be a part of this Bible Studies for Life series, Dr. Floyd?
[Ronnie Floyd] Thank you, Eric, for the privilege. When I heard your heart about designing and launching a curriculum series to go from the church to the church — that encouraged me greatly. And you know, when I think about how Bible Studies for Life is being used right now already — it’s the largest curriculum series that LifeWay produces, it is right now in 30,000 churches, 150,000 small groups, and approximately 1.5 million people per week are already using this curriculum — and when we think about the opportunity to join in partnership with discipling and encouraging churches to use the Word of God to shape the lives of people, I only could say yes.
[Eric Geiger] And one of the things that we’ve talked about, that I know has resonated with you, is as we designed this material we really didn’t want it to come from this big, tall building in Nashville. We really wanted it to come from the heart of local churches. And we tell our team all the time at LifeWay that when the Lord returns — no matter what your view of eschatology is — LifeWay doesn’t exist anymore but the bride of Christ does. And so we want to be the servants, the behind the scenes servants and really allow local church leaders to be the heroes.
So talk to us about your observations as we designed this curriculum, as we designed this new Bible Studies for Life series, about how it really is coming from the church.
[Ronnie Floyd] Well, I’ll tell you Dr. Geiger, one of the things that really encouraged me right up front was that you said, “Ronnie, we’re going to – together with your help and your leadership – we’re going to bring together an advisory team from the church that’s going to tell us how this curriculum needs to be designed.” And let me tell you, we designed this curriculum series, the scope and sequence of it, over three years. We listened to people from all sizes of churches, all kinds of leaders from scholars to local church pastors and ladies in ministry. We heard from all walks, even leading student pastors and ministers of education. And as we gathered there in that particular meeting in Nashville, it was quite amazing.
Your team had already done a lot of work. There was all kind of things on the board already that they saw from their perspective. And within a few hours, your team came back together after listening to us and said, “You know what? We’re going to remember what we did but we’re going to start from scratch again. We have heard you.”
Therefore, I want to assure all of us as Southern Baptists that the Bible Studies for Life series comes from the church to the church. That is very, very important.
We have put together all kinds of leaders, all kinds of pastors, all kinds of people from the church to say to you, we’re going to make a difference for Jesus Christ.
[Eric Geiger] Awesome. Thanks so much – one of the things that I’ve really admired so much from you as I’ve watched your sermons and listened to your sermons is your ability to take the timeless and true, the sacred, infallible, pure, faultless Word of God and apply it to people right where they are — apply it to their life. And that’s the heartbeat behind Bible Studies for Life.
Talk to us about that idea, “where the Bible meets life.”
[Ronnie Floyd] We were in that process of trying to come up with a theme where we could connect all the dots of the lessons, series by series – every one of the series lasts six weeks, some are designed around books of the Bible, some are designed around various themes like stewardship or the Great Commission, or even one of those weeks could go to various social issues, moral issues, or something on our hearts. So I want Southern Baptists to understand this is not about just running after a feel good moment or just designing something that will connect with somebody’s life. Oh no, no, we started from the Word of God and we listened to people and we designed the series around the issues. So thank you for the privilege. This is where the Bible meets life.