Since being diagnosed as diabetic, I have had to get a vision check each year. The doctor examines my vision, just like any other annual checkup, but then they do a series of tests that check for specific issues that could be caused by my blood-sugar levels. While it’s normal to experience some sort of deterioration of vision because of age, extended times of high blood sugar can cause other problems or speed up the natural occurrence of poor eyesight. The issues regarding diabetes increases my concerns about my eyesight.
It’s one thing to try to deal with natural progression; it’s another to deal with problems that I am causing. To be honest, the solution is fairly simple: get the vision check, figure out the necessary changes, make those changes, and repeat. The process is simple, though not necessarily easy. It’s often very easy to check your vision, but identifying the next steps and taking them aren’t quite as easy as we would like.
It’s time for a vision check, Church. How are we doing? Fortunately, we don’t have to push our faces up against that big device with all the lenses. But look around. Better or worse? Let’s change the lens: Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Better or worse? Let’s fine tune that: Jesus also said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20). What about now? Better or worse? A quick exam like that should help us see that some change is necessary.
Now, for a deeper check. Ever had your eyes dilated with those drops? You know it’s coming, and suddenly – PLOP! Then your eyes water and the light gets brighter, even painful. 3… 2… 1… After six years, going from about 90 in weekly attendance to about 50 in weekly attendance and having had only six baptisms in that time (four of which I had done), we must conclude that things are worse. (Frankly, if you’re thinking, “About the same,” you have gotten used to the deterioration, and you’re probably going to be just as surprised as when I had to have eye surgery the summer after I graduated high school.) The big question: is the problem natural deterioration or something worse? The bigger question: what are we going to do about it?
Here’s the prescription: we’re going to work toward a 2020 vision for discipleship. That is, in 2020 we’re going to refocus on discipleship – what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and what it takes to make disciples of Jesus. To be honest, some of the changes we need to make may be as subtle as the differences in lenses at the optometrist’s office, but even subtle changes can cause dramatic improvement. On the other hand, some changes might feel awkward – like when I had to stick prisms on my glasses to try to correct my double vision in high school.
Here’s the caution: don’t freak out. I know that mentioning change causes some fear. I know that change brings some discomfort. I just ask that you look at the past six years and trust me when I say that I am not one for making abrupt changes for the sake of making changes. I’ve been trying to shore up our foundation for the past three years, focusing on the Bible (2017), focusing on Jesus (2018), focusing on the Church as a community (2019). With this foundation, I believe we can start making subtle, yet significant, changes by refocusing on discipleship.
To that end, we will adopt this vision of discipleship: we exist to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ who help others to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. In order to fulfill this vision, we will work to reveal Christ from the Bible, in our lives, and through our service. In everything we say and do, we will value biblical teaching, godly transformation, and merciful living. That shouldn’t seem foreign; it ought to be part of our DNA. At any rate, through preaching, teaching, writing, and serving, I will do my best through 2020 to help us to be the healthy Church God wants us to be. Will you join me?