I don’t see as clearly as I used to. When I was young, my vision was better than 20/20. I eagerly showed off my ability to read the smaller letters below the “normal” line. Now, I’m relatively happy that I can still read that great big single letter at the top of the chart! Old age is tough on vision.
This truism extends beyond the physical realm. Established churches often suffer from diminishing vision. Statistics tell us that it takes 70 adults to reach one adult for Christ in a church that has existed for ten years or more. It only takes three to reach one in a church plant. Wow! That’s a serious problem. What causes vision to blur? What diminishes a church’s ability to really see the people who live around them? Is it inevitable? Can we do anything to expand a church’s visual capacity?
Great questions. The answers may be found in understanding glaucoma, a common disease of the eye. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. However, with early detection and treatment, individuals can often protect their eyes against serious vision loss. At first, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. It causes no pain. Vision stays normal. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eyes. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead (central) vision may decrease until no vision remains.
If you lead a church, read that paragraph again. Carefully. Notice the symptoms. No pain at the beginning. Vision seems normal. But eventually, peripheral vision is minimized, and the result is tunnel vision. Over time, the ability to see is completely lost. Reads like a book on church closings. Congregations and leaders begin with foresight—an uncanny ability to see their community. Arrows are pointed outward, and programs are focused on reaching the people around them.
In time, the pressures of church life begin to damage the optic nerve. It goes unnoticed for years. Slowly but surely, the church loses its peripheral vision, and it can no longer see what’s happening outside its four walls. Without intervention, it loses its sight. Darkness settles in and death is inevitable.
How do we stop this destructive loss of vision? The same way we deal with glaucoma. With early detection, the eye can be treated and vision loss is minimized. Put simply: get an eye exam. Invite people you trust to examine your spiritual eyes. Look for early signs of tunnel vision. Take a good look at your community so you can really see the people who live there. Consider planting a church designed to reach them with the gospel. Odds are, they will never darken the door of your established church. But they just might respond to someone with the eyes to really see them.
Need help getting a diagnosis? Let us know. We’d love the opportunity to enhance your vision.
National Church Planting Coordinator
for Regular Baptist Ministries