Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Correcting Vision Loss - Part 1

I have been called to help churches with their vision. It is in my DNA to do so. I get energy from thinking and talking about it. In fact, I have recently changed my four areas of service to have a unifying theme of vision. But here's the irony. About 8 months ago, I came to the realization that I had major vision loss in my right eye. Epiretinal membrane is the technical term,  which simply means that a chunk of my came off in there somewhere and it reattached on my retina. 

Now this has been a frustrating thing. When I realized that I couldn't tell how many cars were coming at me in the other lane, I thought to myself, "Self, you better do something about getting some vision correction". So, armed with the wonders of modern medicine, a health insurance policy, and the motivation to see this to the end, I have been at this for months now and I am still in the middle of it. 

As I was pondering this one day, it occurred to me that this may not all be so ironic after all. I have come to embrace it. When I did, a flood of spiritual parallels came into my mind and spirit. That flood has brought me to this first of several blog posts. As I begin, I have 7 things that could help others with their church vision. I have chosen to call them lessons.  Don't be surprised if the list grows to more than 7. The first lesson is this: 

Vision Loss Can Occur Long Before Symptom-Awareness

When I began to talk to my retinal expert, I asked him how this happened and he said, "Have you had any unusually large eye floaters in that eye recently?" You know what he means by that. You get these weird things that seem to float across the surface of the eye. They are odd-shaped and seem to have a life of ease cruising on your eye. I said, "Yeah I have, but that was at least a year and a half ago." And he replied, "That's when it started. You had a piece of your eye come loose, and we all do, and it decided to reattach but in the wrong place." And I thought, "A year and a half?!?"

A symptom is a sign or an indicator of something else. I had no symptom that something was going wrong with my vision for over a year. And then suddenly my horizontal and vertical lines were wavy. I couldn't read a license plate on a car in front of me. And I new something was wrong.

Church vision works the same way. Life goes on as normal and then one day we realize things don't look right. What was so clear before is now fuzzy and strange. We can remember when it was easy. And now it is hard.

Statistics show that 75-85% of churches in America are plateaued or declining. Whereas they once could see their way, something happened. It's not that what they are doing now is necessarily bad. But at one time it was more attractive than it is now. What happened?  It might have been a lack of attention to cultural changes, facility needs, staffing, or inattention to funding. For some, they lost track of keeping the main thing the main thing and became side-tracked by lesser things. Jesus experienced this with the disciples in John 4:27ff. They lost sight of more important things and he said open your eyes and look! (It is reassuring to note that these visually impaired ones eventually took over the leadership from Jesus and changed the world.)

When the symptoms finally show themselves, leaders do what they are supposed to do and they lead the necessary change to seek vision correction. This will take time and work. But it is  more than very necessary. 

By the way, I had retinal surgery and that was successful. But that led to something else - another lesson for another day. 

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