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  • Making Your Vision a Reality: Proven Steps to Develop and Implement Your Church Vision Plan by Paul Canning
  • Darcey Lazerte
Paul Canning. Making Your Vision a Reality: Proven Steps to Develop and Implement Your Church Vision Plan. Grand Rapids, mi: Kregel, 2006. Pp. 170. us$16.99. isbn 0-8254-4274-5.

Paul Canning’s Making Your Vision a Reality follows in a long line of books, readily available in your local Bible bookstore, that combine theology, the practice of ministry, and leadership techniques to provide church leaders with skills to grow their church. Canning’s objective is to provide church leaders with the skills to develop and implement a vision statement for their church, based on his experience at Living Word Fellowship in Houston, and to do it in such a way that is consistent with the early church as found in Scripture.

Canning’s theology portrays an ecclesiology that is based entirely upon a biblical model. He effectively brings together the letters of Paul, the narrative of the book of Acts, and the teachings of Jesus, as found in the gospels, to portray a vision of the church that is vibrant, engaging, and relevant to its members and beyond. As he concludes his chapter giving a biblical overview of the church, he surmises that the role of leaders is to build a church that lives out its vision in a way that conveys the mission and goals of the church as ordained by God in Scripture (31). There is something very compelling and vibrant about the church that Canning communicates, and the fidelity to scripture is a gift that should not be lost. There are two shortcomings to his ecclesiology. The first is that while he often refers to what has happened at Living Word Fellowship, there is no recognition that the two millennia between the church of Acts and the church in which he is employed matters. The second is that he does not recognize that even within the early church of Scripture there are different models operating in different communities and there is no one uniform model of the church.

Canning bases the practice of ministry upon his experience at Living Word Fellowship, which is a vibrant church that has taken its vision statement seriously and has implemented it effectively. He successfully communicates each step by which a church can develop a comprehensive vision statement that captures the essence of what the church is about, culminating in the creation of a motto that encapsulates the vision statement. While at first glance the vision statement of the Living Word Fellowship might seem daunting, as it seems to cover every conceivable thing a church can do, not all vision statements have to be so broad. Whether your church has one area of focus or a multitude of them, development of a vision statement can be tailored to a local church community. Where Canning is less accessible in portraying the practice of ministry is in how that vision statement can be implemented. His process of application is bureaucratic, [End Page 159] presumes a significant amount of staffing, and seems consistent with how megachurches are structured. There is very little on implementation that is consistent with how smaller churches are organized and structured. That said, there is enough conveyed in the process of developing a vision statement that implementation can be developed locally.

Canning’s discussion falls short on leadership techniques. He devotes close to half his book to leadership development, staffing techniques, budgetary processes, and structural flowcharts. Each section contains a plethora of lists and/or charts, without any explanation of how leadership development, staffing, budgeting, and structure are connected to one another, let alone the development of and implementation of a church’s vision. As one works through these areas, it is clear that they matter, but it is not clear how to develop them to keep the pursuit and presentation of a church’s vision front and centre.

In summary, there is something compelling about what Canning has to say. He rightly identifies the need for and lack of a vision in many congregations, and he presents a way through which this can be achieved...


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pp. 159-160
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