It is quite a deal when you discover something new from something familiar. You may have driven by that section of the forest a 110 times, and yet this time you noticed that one particular tree slightly hidden but somehow on this one day more obvious than all the others. The unique color and type set it apart from the rest. It is so obvious. Makes you wonder why you had not really seen it before. Your perspective of that familiar bush is slightly and refreshingly different because of the one very obvious tree that caught your attention.
It is helpful from time to time to take a closer look in order to see the tree in the forest. And when we do it often has the capacity to change the way we see the forest, making it seem refreshingly new.
This past week seven pastors from various parts of North America came together in Sioux Falls away from the familiar with the hope of noticing something new in their churches regarding adult discipleship. All seven are well acquainted with their particular “forest,” and deeply concerned with how to help their churches pay even greater attention to equipping their particular batch of saints for good works of ministry.
This magnificent seven make up our third Vista cohort. The purpose of Vista is to provide an opportunity for those who want to help their local church or organization think more clearly and practice more effectively the development and maturing of the adults within their setting. Vista helps churches and organizations assess their existing structures and processes to determine if they provide the most effective means of adult discipleship.
Twyla, Kirsten, Maureen, Anthony, Kevin, Denise and Lynn long to see their churches become vibrant places of learning—that is, communities where people are consistently mentored into a life of apprenticeship with Jesus. Pam (on the far right) and I tag team crafting a set of learning experiences with plenty of space for processing with one another, thinking critically about one’s context, and taking a closer look at that which seems familiar.
Many good things happened over the three days that we spent time together. And by the end of it there was hope and anticipation to actually want to come back together again six months from now to have another go at it. That makes a teacher feel good and muse about the possibility that you might be on to something.
There were many good aha moments for each of us, like single trees noticed for the first time. Most of those single tree sightings had to do with a realization of the weight of responsible trust each had been given by their communities and consistories to provide a leadership that would become catalytic for making more and deeper disciples. To see each of the seven Vista participants own this responsibility was remarkable. These are sharp leaders who have the character, the capacity, and the caring to help their churches become more effective at igniting and deepening the adults within their settings. You would want to hire any one of them!
For some of the Vista participants the most colorful tree they spotted took place when they looked more closely within themselves. Many had practiced a form and pace of ministry that caused them to see the forest but prevented them from noticing the trees. They had one of the more profound paradigm shifts you can have as a person, and as a leader…one that has the capacity to change everything in a church or any organization for that matter.
They discovered that leading Christianly brings with it the responsibility to invest in the formation of those around you. It is fundamental to discipleship. Without it we miss the trees and see only the forest.