Reality Check 101 talks about how important it is that each congregation discovers its vocation or calling from God. Discerning congregational vocation is a lot like figuring out how to play a hand of cards. Some congregations will discern that they are called to play the hand that God has dealt them in Hearts, that is by focusing on their heart for mission.
Once the core leaders realize that it's really ok for their church to be totally invested in mission, a subtle shift takes place. The congregation begins to think of themselves as a church with Christ’s heart. Thier identity becomes shaped by their vocation to be serving the needs of others. Discovering they are a "heart-driven church" is a releif. They stop being obsessed with church growth and balancing the budget and start focusing on doing what they find fun, that is, showing God's love. Not every church has this calling, but those that do find a lot of joy in fulfilling their calling.
In the closing scene of the Christmas classic, “It’s a wonderful life,” George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) realizes that the world has been changed for the better by his actions. This, “I’m making a difference,” attitude is essential for success in playing Hearts. The church council should spend a few moments each month reflecting how this church has made the world a better place. Each committee meeting should include some time for evaluation of how successful this group has been in furthering the loving outreach of the church. In the same way, seek to interpret the church budget as a mission budget. Instead of saying “x was spent on office expenses and y on staff salaries,” break each line into how the money benefited the ministries and outreach of the church. If the paid youth leader spent a week with the teens on a mission trip, then that week’s salary appears under the mission budget. Cultivating a culture of charity is the chief goal of the council. Don’t get caught up in the trap of comparing your church to other churches or organizations. Having this church feel good about doing the good that it can do, is key.
As the fact that this church is choosing a ‘heart’ path is communicated, leaders should look for opportunities to verbalize what they have discerned. Adopting a mission statement, such as, “We’re the church that cares,” doesn’t instantly make it so. Using missional language in all of your communications, however, does shift the identity of the church. It would be nice if both your people and those outside the church stopped referring to it as “the church on the corner of Pine and Main” and started calling it “those nuts that are always helping the homeless” or “the church that raised $10,000 to defeat malaria.”