“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” Mark 8:23-25 NIV
Each year the Lord gives me a ministry theme that keeps me, and the Pawnee Assembly family focused. I am a planner and to know where I am going brings great comfort. The theme for the year serves as the tracks on which we carry out the ministry mission. Coming into 2020 there was an obvious theme and many in the church world were eager to use it. They have been eyeing this particular year for a very long time and finally they could declare - “2020 Vision!” Now if you know me, this theme was simply, well... too simple! I determined to dig deeper and ask God for something that was not so “2020”. Why get distracted with the obvious when there is a nugget of gold under the surface?
It was in this search that God gave me our theme which has also served as our title for these devotions. “This Is Our Purpose!” Yes! This is missional, directive and a great reminder. The tracks for the train to motor through 2020 would be about our roots and reason for existing. It was also a great proclamation for celebration. 2020 brings two milestones for Pawnee Assembly. The first being our 90th Anniversary celebrating nearly a century of ministry to our community and surrounding area. The second milestone was my tenure as lead pastor. It has been a joy to serve for 15 years in this position and it marks the longest tenure of a senior pastor in the 90-year history. Yes... “This Is Our Purpose!” is a great ministry theme and far from “Vision 2020” that is so predictable.
Then came 2020 and just two months in, the grandiose plans came to a screeching halt. I can still smell the rubber from the tires in March. The smoke from those tires made it hard to see for a while. At that time, we were commissioned to flatten the curve. 15 days seemed like an eternity. We are well past 15 days and that curve has become a very wide turn, but the challenges have helped us fulfill our purpose. It brought us back to the essentials and the tracks we have been moving on have been the same tracks that have existed since the Great Commission in Matthew 28. The gospel has been preached even with the help of Zoom. YouTube and Facebook have carried the Good News to living rooms that have turned into worship centers. The church has expanded our reach more than ever before. Youth and Children’s ministry has been returned to the home where it should be, and life groups have become the life source to spiritual growth and relationship building. I can actually preach a 30-minute message! I never knew I could do that before 2020. I was feeling pretty good about my nugget of gold called “This Is Our Purpose!”
The way we do ministry has changed because of what 2020 brought to us. Trials and storms have a way of redirecting and correcting. This year has been an opportunity to see ministry differently. Our vision to preach, serve and connect is clarified. The clouds have lifted, and the sun is shining brighter than ever before on the mandate of the mission. What? Wait a minute! Did I just say vision? Did I admit that I am seeing things differently and for the better? I didn’t see that coming. 2020 was to be about purpose and yet God has made our purpose clearer through the pain and frustration of 2020. 2020 is about vision! The old cliché is right. 2020 has been all about going to the spiritual eye doctor. No more memorizing the charts and doing things the same way year after year. The cataracts of religion have been removed for all who were willing to be worked on. Yes, it was all about 2020 vision after all. And because of that, we can now clearly see our purpose.
Jesus wants us to see clearly. If He spits in your eye, it is for a purpose, not dramatics. For crying out loud, it’s not even according to COVID guidelines. 2020 has been hard, but God is using it to help us see clearly. It’s the spit in the eye, but it is also the process of patience. Jesus wanted the man to see clearly and that took a little more time. Kind of like 2020. When we do not see clearly, Jesus will be faithful to touch us again. It is there we will see with 2020 vision and be able to fulfill our purpose.