Dear Church Family,
As a pastor, I enjoy discussing questions about the Bible, theology, decision-making, relationships, moral issues – all kinds of questions. There’s one question, however, that I really don’t like; it’s my least favorite question, but it’s a question that I’ve been asked several times over the years: “What is your vision for the church?” I understand the sentiment behind the question, but I would never want to presume that just because I’m the pastor, that my personal vision is that which ought to be directing the church. I also think that some of our “vision casting” language that comes to us from the business world is not always very helpful in the church.
So, my usual answer – which I hope is also simple and biblical – is something like this: My vision for the church is that we might remain faithful to our mission of gathering and perfecting the saints through the ordinary means of grace of the Word, sacraments, and prayer (see the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 25, paragraphs 1-3). I believe that this is the biblical goal or vision for every local body of believers. Too often, however, when the church begins to take on goals and aspirations that are not biblically founded, mission-drift occurs and the church inevitably becomes less pure (WCF 25.4).
At the same time, I recognize that having specific goals for a local body of believers can help to bring focus and unite her members in ministry and service – especially in a mission church. So, here is my vision, if you will, for Hill Country Church (PCA). It’s actually more of a three-phased plan toward moving from a mission church to a particular church. If you had asked me a year ago when I first received the call to HCPCA about this, I don’t think I would have been able to articulate it, but this is something that I have given much thought. Of course, unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it (Psalm 127:1), so I have also been praying that the Lord would bless our plans and strategy because we depend upon Christ’s promise to build His church (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, subject to the Lord’s blessing and providential directing, here is my “strategic plan” for HCPCA.
HCPCA Strategic Plan
Depending on the Lord Jesus’ grace and providence, Hill Country Church (PCA) seeks to grow from a “mission church” to a “particular church” in three phases. As each phase is begun, the previous phases are not abandoned, but continue to be implemented and improved upon. For planning purposes, each of these phases is designated to be about 1 ½ years.
Phase 1: Establishing membership / building relationships (begun in the spring of 2020)
Over the past year, even in the midst of the pandemic, our little church has grown. We have grown numerically and spiritually, and hopefully gained a good understanding of the visible church, the importance of church membership and the ordinary means of grace. At the end of last year, we even had a topical sermon series entitled, “The Church & the Means of Grace.” Of course, the pandemic has limited our ability at times to physically gather together and do some of those things that we would hope to do in building relationships; however, the Lord has blessed our efforts as we did what we could.
In the future, we will continue to seek more ways to grow spiritually through worship, Sunday school, and Bible studies, as well as to grow in our relationships with one another through social, fellowship, and service functions. To reiterate, we won’t ever move on, or consider this phase complete, but will continue to seek and implement ways to continue to establish church membership and build relationships within our local body of Christ.
Phase 2: Establishing processes / building gift usage (beginning in the fall of 2021)
While a number of people are already serving in various ways in the church, there are still many needs and opportunities for service. And, it will be helpful to begin to establish the infrastructure of the church in order to continue to grow, allow members to use their gifts, and develop continuity. So, beginning in the fall of 2021, we will distribute a formal “volunteer survey” which will be based around areas of possible service in the church (e.g., setting up and closing the church, being a greeter for worship, finances and bookkeeping, media (website and Facebook management), mercy ministry, worship music accompaniment, evangelism and outreach, Christian education, fellowship, etc.). If you have any specific ideas, please let me know.
When looking at the various ways in which one may serve in the church, it’s important to ask yourself three questions: (1) Am I able to do this? (2) Am I willing to do this? (3) Do I want to learn how to do this? Another way of looking at this, you might ask yourself: “Am I F.A.T. – Faithful, Available, and Teachable.” Initially, we will ask that you commit to serving in a particular area for at least a year, but ability and willingness are key. Again, we won’t ever move on, or consider this phase complete, but will continue to seek and implement ways to continue to allow for members of the church to exercise their spiritual gifts and talents within our local body of Christ.
Phase 3: Establishing leadership / training and ordaining elders and deacons (beginning in 2023)
According to the PCA’s Book of Church Order, “A mission church…is distinguished from a particular church in that it has no permanent governing body, and thus must be governed or supervised by others. However, its goal is to mature and be organized as a particular church as soon as this can be done decently and in good order” (BCO 5-1). Presently, HCPCA is governed by a provisional session; however, our goal is to train, elect, and ordain ruling elders from within our local body to serve alongside the pastor in shepherding the flock.
It should be noted, however, that the church does not make elders; the Lord gives them to the church as a gift (Ephesians 4:11-12). It is the Holy Spirit who makes men overseers and shepherds of the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). This means that we must pray that the Lord will bring and raise up men from within our church with the gifts and desire to love, instruct, and defend His bride. And, we must pray that these men discern the call of God upon their lives to serve either as elders or deacons in the church – men who are biblically qualified to serve (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).
Phases or Tiers?
I’ve described this three-fold strategic vision in terms of phases because it helps us to think about these things in terms of a chronological timeline and set goals for the future. It might be useful, however, to think of this three-fold strategic vision also in terms of the tiers of a pyramid. In this way, we can see something that I’ve repeated several times: none of these phases are ever abandoned but continue to be implemented and improved upon.
I have been a pastor for many years, previously serving as the pastor of two different PCA churches for about eight years each. I am always learning and seeking to grow as a pastor, but as a new church-planting pastor, I feel like I have been on a steeper learning-curve over this past year. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I pray that the Lord will bless this “strategic plan” and that it will help us as a congregation to plan for the future as we seek to establish a particularized Reformed and Presbyterian congregation here in Killeen, TX.
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch