A God-sized Project: A Vision Becoming Reality
by Scott Landon, Executive Director
It was just six years ago—January of 2005—when the members of our church approved a plan that put in motion the design and construction of our new campus. This multimillion-dollar decision was clearly a God-sized project. Some of us remember the day in May that same year when we had an incredible worship service at the new site and many of us made personal financial commitments toward the cost of the project. And over the next three years, we gave nineteen million dollars over and above our regular giving, and moved to the site in July of 2008.
I recently pulled out a copy of the plans we approved in 2005 and revisited the vision God gave us for ministry at this new campus. For me, that time of reflection and remembering was such a powerful experience that I want to share that historic perspective with you, connecting our 2005 vision with how we’re seeing God at work among us today.
Our overarching vision was framed by the desire to reach people for Jesus. “Our new facilities,” that vision statement began, “will elevate our platform and expand the reach of our ministries to better share the good news of Jesus Christ with the residents of DuPage County and to see them become radically committed followers of Jesus.”
The specific application of that vision was spelled out in six areas, each of which is followed here by a snapshot of how that vision statement continues to shape our church today.
1. We will be caring in community: “We believe the church is a hospital, not a country club. We place a premium on relationships.”
Last year, two of our sermon series, Present Help in Present Trouble and When the Bottom Drops Out, made it clear that we are a community of imperfect and hurting people who welcome imperfect and hurting people. During the year, hundreds of women, men, students, and children who were struggling for various reasons stepped out of their private shadows and sought help. As a result, we expanded our support groups and caring ministries. We improved our counseling process so that we can meet with people in a more timely and effective manner. In addition, we saw more and more marriages in crisis and began developing a more proactive ministry that will strengthen the bond of husbands and their wives and help couples survive the challenges that life all too often delivers.
2. We will be consistent in discipleship: “We take seriously our responsibility to become like Jesus, so we live dependently upon the Spirit. Our vision is that our life-changing Bible teaching permeates our ministry.”
Our church continues its tradition of providing strong Bible teaching—and through some research we conducted in 2011, we learned that most of us come to Wheaton Bible Church and stay at WBC for that very reason. This teaching takes place not only in our worship services but also in our Adult Classes and in the women’s and men’s Bible studies, which are growing steadily. We also saw the working of the Holy Spirit in many ministries and in people’s lives, stories that are so encouraging and affirming of the ministries God has called us to. Today and in the days ahead, we are committed to continuing to go hard after the Bible. We want God’s Word to so permeate our lives that we live in ever greater and growing dependency upon His Spirit.
3. We will be bold in evangelism: “We accept our assignment to reach others for Christ. We deeply believe in the power of the Gospel. At the heart of our vision is a passionate desire to spread the Gospel. . . . Our mix of both Bible teaching and evangelistic passion is what distinguishes WBC from many other churches. . . . We believe we will see greater numbers coming to Christ than ever before through our weekday activities and weekend services. . . .”
In 2011, we knew of several hundred people who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through our ministries. We praise God for that spiritual harvest and pray that we would see even greater numbers of those in our community come to faith in Christ. To that end, we desire to be obedient to the full direction of Jesus in Mark 1:17, where He tells His disciples not only to follow Him but also that He will make them fishers of men and women. We have a growing urgency to be bolder and better prepared to share our personal faith stories and the message of the Gospel with others.
4. We will be transparent in worship: “We believe we are made for worship and that our greatest joy is found in worship.”
In 2011, we witnessed a record number of baptisms and were blessed by two Saturday-evening combined Spanish-English baptism services. In that same year, we had record attendance at our Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas Eve services; however, we also experienced a negative trend that most churches in America are experiencing: people are attending church less regularly. It is now fairly common for people who attend worship services only once or twice a month to consider that “enough” or “the best they can do.” As a church, we want people to be so in love with Jesus that they follow the direction of Hebrews 10:25, which tells us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
5. We will be bold in mission: “Our church is nationally known for its global ministries. As we expand our base, our vision is to double that commitment. We will also boldly call people, even groups of people, to serve, sometimes together, in strategic areas around the world.”
This past year, we sent out sixteen new missionaries, including a team of eight sent to reach North African immigrants living in Europe. Our church helped these people raise their full support in just nine short months, and they are off to a terrific start. We have others who are preparing to go. In 2012, we plan to spend $2.5 million on global and local missions, which is $1 million more than we spent in 2005.
6. We will be sacrificial in service: “We believe we are most like Jesus when we serve; we will create a culture of service. Our vision is to create church-wide ministry groups that will impact our community for Christ through service.”
A substantial number of individuals regularly provide voluntary services that have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the ministries. We have literally hundreds of people volunteering thousands of hours a year in our after-school and care ministries through our Puente del Pueblo ministry at the Timber Lake Apartments. In 2011, we started an English as a Second Language (ESL) program, and earlier this year we expanded the after-school program to grades seven through nine. We anticipate an even greater impact on the lives of individuals and families living in West Chicago in the months and years ahead.
In 2011, we saw much more diversity within the body of Christ, and experienced even greater synergy with Iglesia del Pueblo, our Spanish-speaking congregation. God is moving among us! It is our desire to continue to embrace diversity and grow our Iglesia family through practical actions such as the weekly Community Groups we have started at sites away from the church campus.
As I reflected on these vision statements we adopted in 2005, it was evident that bold and courageous decisions of the past are bearing fruit today, and I’m confident they will continue to do so in the future as we allow God to work in us and through us.
Courage applies God’s faithfulness in the past to our dreams of the future, which we utilize in our decisions in the present.
—from the NIV Stewardship Bible
I pray you will see, along with our church leadership, that God’s faithfulness in the past leads us to conclude that we can do bold things. We can take the Gospel into areas where resistance has been strong! We can reach out to those who are vulnerable and to those who are hurting. We can be a sending church—one that sends our people to reach out with the Gospel to immigrants here in the US, in Europe, and in other strategic parts of the world. We can live radical, sacrificial, contagious lives in the western suburbs. We can bring hope to a watching world.