Attempting the Extraordinary

As those who have read my recent e-book, Leading God’s People (part of the Living Out the Call series) I am a great believer in churches setting out their vision clearly. Vision is key to leadership, and “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov 29.18).

In my recent visit to Western Australia I preached at a Baptist church in the suburbs of Perth that was into vision with a vengeance. They gave me a a copy of their vision document entitled: Carey 2020: Attempting the Extraordinary. Founded in 1996 less than twenty years ago, the church first built a school, Carey Baptist College, and then a pre-school, Jump: Carey Early Development Services, which between them have 1400 children and young people. In the last year or so they have built a large worship centre, an amazing coffee shop, and a suite of offices.

This is a church that is ‘attempting the extraordinary’. In their vision document they state:

Carey is a community of people united by a common dream. We long for nothing less than a world transformed by Christ’s love. We believe as a community that we are called on mission with God to attempt the extraordinary. Our strategy is to connect with the community and the world to develop community platforms through which people can:

  • Experience God’s love
  • Have the opportunity to say yes to Jesus; and
  • Demonstrate God’s compassion for the world.

Their vision document includes a detailed strategy for service in six areas:

  • Serve and develop those in the early years. This includes developing a multidisciplinary health and family support centre.
  • Serve and develop children. This includes setting up another primary school in the neighbourhood
  • Serve and develop youth. This includes increasing the awareness of young people via short-time exposure trips to the developing world to foster a heart to serve and empower the disadvantaged and the oppressed
  • Serve and develop indigenous Australians
  • Serve and develop the disadvantaged
  • Develop servant leaders, recognising that by 2020 they are likely to employ around 500 staff

The vision document includes an ethos statement which highlights hope, compassion, family and learning:

  • At our core we are a community of hope, touched by the love of Jesus, and ever convinced that God guides our path and oversees our future. Hope keeps us going even when things don’t go to plan…
  • Touched by the needs of the world, we are a community of compassion… We structure our time and resources to make a constructive difference
  • We strive to strengthen the family, mindful that it now finds many different expressions. We believe that no one should live in isolation, and we actively try to link people together in meaningful ways
  • We are committed to learning and growth…, We view each person’s ongoing development as a way of saying ‘yes’ to the wonder of the world God has made

Carey also has a list of values which shape the decisions they make and impact the way they implement them: viz. courage, respect, humility, integrity and kindness

  • Without courage we will never attempt the extraordinary, but might succumb to the mediocre and the mundane. Our courage follows from our confidence in God’s goodness and call
  • Our deep conviction that all people are made in the image of God reminds us of the value of every human being, and calls forth from us respect for the God given dignity of all on the planet
  • Humility comes more easily to those who know they are forever indebted to God’s grace. What we have comes to us on trust from God, and we are mindful that without God’s goodness, we will accomplish little of lasting value
  • Without integrity, all that we stand for is hollow and shallow
  • Kindness is the posture we are called to adopt towards all. We are conscious that much of life involves struggle, and while much is gained through struggling, we know that without kindness we are tempted to give up and become less that we could be

I find this a wonderful document, and all the more wonderful in so far as I have seen that it is more than a package of words – Carey is a church which is determined to implement its values, and model its ethos and live out its values. The church has put together a great vision document which I found personally challenging.

With regard the strap-line Attempting the Extraordinary, I confess that my initial reaction was to feel that the church had secularised William Carey’s great slogan, Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God’. However, I then realised that the spirit of William Carey is well and truly alive in this church, and that what they have done is to package the slogan in a way which will encourage more easily the wider community as a whole to come on board with the church’s God-given vision. Incidentally, I like the participle ‘Attempting’ which emphasises the ongoing nature of the church’s mission.

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