I'm from the Northeast, a part of the U.S. where roads and highways are generally named for what they are: The Mass Turnpike, The New York State Thruway, The Long Island Expressway. But now I live in the Midwest near Chicago. And while streets here tend to be more organized than in New England (no cow-paths-turned-superhighways or evasive signage just to confuse visitors), there is one notable exception: The Elgin-O'Hare Expressway. You see, the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway goes neither to the town of Elgin nor to O'Hare Airport.
The vision for the highway was clear—join the western suburbs of Chicago, as far west as Elgin, with the airport. But somehow that goal got lost along the way. I read about the difficulty of connecting to existing roads near O'Hare, and something about tax money running out. Whatever the reason, the project was abandoned on both ends, but the misleading name hasn't changed. It really should be re-named "The Elgin-O'Hare Partway."
Recently as I drove the ill-named expressway, I felt a pang of conviction. Almost every ministry I've been involved with began with a clear and well articulated vision. In every case we wanted to reach out to the lost and nurture believers into mature disciples. But the truth is that the ministries we've built serve people on part of that journey, but we never really reach either end.
Most recently I've been working with the Willow Creek Association discussing the findings from more than 1,200 churches that have taken the REVEAL survey. We've discovered that most churches are very effective at helping their congregation grow for a portion of the journey—and that's wonderful news! Thousands of people are being served every day.
But the same research makes me wonder about ...