Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Vision Architects Gather at Northern Seminary

Vision Architects Gather at Northern Seminary
Santa Ana, Calif. – Nov. 14, 2005 –

With the purpose of framing a new structure for the organization or network that will replace American Baptist Evangelicals, pastors and professional lay persons from across the country gathered at Northern Seminary on November 11. Bill Hoyt, NexStep Consulting and Coaching, facilitated the meeting.

Hoyt recounted an incident in which he was being recruited to return to New England, where he had grown up. He stated that he had no desire to return to New England, but didn’t know why. As he and his host, a local pastor, were driving past the charred remains of an old burned-down strip mall, his host remarked that the mall was being torn down and one “exactly like the original was being built in its place.” Suddenly it dawned on Hoyt: He didn’t want to return to New England because the culture there is to keep things exactly the same. When Hoyt looked at that empty lot, he saw all the potential for something new and different.

He then delivered that challenge to the vision architects: We have a “blank slate” and it’s time to create something entirely new. Rather than replicating the past, we can develop a new cutting-edge organization that will serve as a model for others to follow. Rather than maintaining an institution, we can spring forward with a network or a movement that’s lean and effective.

Hoyt also discussed organizations that are future-minded – organizations that value churches planting churches, and where missions is now referred to as “globalocal.” That means the missions focus on a particular people group encompasses not only that group in a foreign country, but also right here at home. In other words, it’s about people, not geography.

The current pathway to effective cross-cultural mission is:
• 2-5 years to raise support
• 1-2 years to learn the language
• 2-5 years to learn the culture

The common annual cost of a missionary today is $120,000. Factoring in one-term missionaries (those who last only for one term), the cost for one thirty-year missionary is $3.6 million. Hoyt’s point is that investing in foreign nationals is not only a less expensive, but also faster, way of leading people to Jesus Christ. He warned that denominations will either embrace the coming missiology and allocate resources for the new day, or their missionary force will shrivel to a handful until they have no effective missions program

Breakout groups discussed four areas:
• Church health
• Church planting
• Missions
• Care of pastors and leaders

The group then agreed upon the following two sets of core values to be applied to the new network or movement. The following values emerged and are shown here in draft form:

Missional Core Values
We will be a movement of churches that values:
• Spirit-infused Biblical Orthodoxy
• Obedience to the Great Commandment and Great Commission
• Congregational health and growth

Operational Core Values
• We will serve churches.
- We will be additive to and distinctive from churches.
• We will partner with ministries, ministers, missionaries, individuals, business people, and seminaries.
• We will leverage wisdom and experience for greater effectiveness.
- Networking- Brokering
• We will empower leaders for success.
- Coaching and mentoring
• We will maintain an effective structure.
- Flat

- Lean
- Primacy of practitioner leadership
- Virtual
- Maximize technology
• We will measure success in terms of practical, real-world effectiveness-outcomes.
- Forward thinking, innovative, proactive partnerships

At the end of the day, participants realized that while much was accomplished, much work remains. Bill Hoyt and Bill Nicoson, Executive Director of ABE, will schedule two to three additional meetings to complete the vision architecting. In the meantime, Bill Nicoson will also assemble a team to develop new a new identity, including a new name for the organization or movement.

As a resource for future work, Hoyt recommended that participants read Shaped by God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches, by Milfred Minatrea.

The first reports from the gathering of "vision architects" excite my interest. This enterprise holds forth the promise of an organization crafted along modern lines of flatter and less bureaucratic structures, with a firm commitment to biblical authority, and the kind of Kingdom values that should gladden the hearts of all Baptists on the right.

We must continue to bathe this nascent effort in our prayers. With several critical follow-up meetings yet ahead of them, pray that the planners continue their focus as they avoid the pitfalls and temptations of any new thing seeking to replace an old thing.

The ABCUSA has become manifestly incapable of continuing to bear a faithful Gospel witness in this new century. Tinkering with the endemic problems using the clumsy tools of standing rules and parliamentary procedures may extend the duration of the dying, but it will not restore health to the body. The time has come for us to join this new thing that we believe is a gift of God to us for "such a time as this."

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