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Proverbs 29:18 for the Central Texas Conference

It is the old King James translation of Proverbs 29:18 that stays with me. Perhaps you recall it as well. “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The new CEB (Common English Bible) translation renders the passage, “When there’s no vision, the people get out of control, but whoever obeys instruction is happy.” (Proverbs 29:18) Either way the importance of vision towers over our spiritual landscape. [Note: I am intrigued by how rarely the entire passage is quoted. The writer of Proverbs clearly ties vision to obedience and yet rarely do we make such a connection. This will be the subject of next Tuesday blog but for now I choose to focus on vision.] This passage in its great phrasing from the KJV sticks both in our heads and hearts because it captures an essential truth. Our Lord offers us a great vision of a renewed world – “on earth as it is in heaven.” This is truly gospel – good news! The Wesleyan Movement came with this great vision to “reform the nation, especially the church, and spread scriptural holiness across the land.” The vision points us, directs us, and leads us into a preferred future of obedient faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ – God with us in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is from that larger vision that visions (plural) naturally spring forth for every faithful Christian body – a local church, a Conference, a Denomination, etc. Since coming to the Central Texas Conference as the residential bishop in 2008 I have wrestled with how best to convey the deep overpowering vision I feel called to offers us as a conference. I’ve shared it in a host of different phrasing but always with the same essence. It is akin to the famous phrase from the first election of President Clinton. In that election his strategy team post on the way for to see one phrase, “it’s the economy stupid!” My phrase is equally simple. “It is the local church!” My vision is to build powerhouse local churches all across the Central Texas Conference. What is a powerhouse church? It is not based on size. It can be large or small, rural or urban, dominantly ethnic or wildly diverse. Powerhouse local churches are churches that live the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” They are launching pads of faithfulness and fruition; robust and vibrant in both personal and social holiness (holiness of heart and life!). Powerhouse churches are missionally engaged. The five practices are intermixed in their being and everywhere evident in the life together and outreach to others – radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission service, and extravagant generosity. They are growth enabling, growth enhancing places of faithfulness and fruitfulness! What does this vision look like? Images flood through my mind. President George H.W. Bush’s “1,000 points of light” come to mind. The great missionary emphasis of the Irish Abbeys re-Christianizing Europe in the Dark Ages spring out of the past as a picture of the future. (Thomas Cahill’s marvelous book How the Irish Saved Civilization is still a great read!) The Methodist chapels and class meetings of 18th century England dance before my eyes. Wonderful congregations of the current (yes! That is correct! The current!) Central Texas Conference parade before me. It is not a mistake that every Annual Conference meeting in my episcopacy has one crowing central theme – Energizing and Equipping local churches. Local churches are the locus of disciple making. It is their great blessing and enthralling mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Powerhouse local churches aren’t perfect. They are places real people, warts and all, come to worship, learn and follow God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are places from which we leave to serve and love others – all others, every accessible human being we may reach. We can’t do this stuff of being faithful Christians alone. It takes not just village but a real community of faith, fellowship and the fullness of the gospel. It takes a powerhouse church.  It takes a Lord ruling and Spirit empowering and creator God guiding. It is this glorious adventure that thrills my soul and gets me out of bed in the morning.