Vision is like the weather: everybody’s talking about it but nobody’s doing much about it. Let’s try to de-mystify this a bit, and maybe we can do something about it.
“Visionary leader” is redundant. While not every dreamer is a leader, every leader is a dreamer. Our founding fathers dreamed of an America without foreign domination. Lincoln dreamed of a re-united, United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of an America without racism.
That brings us to four bottom-line truths:
- Vision is controversial everywhere and always. Why is this?
- Because dreams are powerful. They have the capacity to inspire (or disgust), to motivate (or de-motivate), to empower (or disempower). Dreams have the power to change the future.
- Because visions differ widely. Take a look at my three examples above. All three of the dreams mentioned were challenged by those who had profoundly different visions for America. In all three cases the differences were significant enough to lead to bloodshed.
- Because dreams – in many cases – are represented as being God-given. Claiming my vision to be God-given skews the argument doesn’t it? If a highly respected leader claims to have a vision from God, it’s pretty hard to oppose it without being seen as disloyal.
- Just about everyone has a vision for their Christian ministry.
- People who believe in visions have dreams for how they want the ministry to be different in the future.
- People who don’t believe in visions also have dreams for how they want the ministry to be different in the future.
- People who don’t want to see any change at all also have visions for the future. They may be visions of “sameness,” but they’re still visions.
As an interim pastor, I discovered that if I asked people what their visions were for their church’s future, I wouldn’t hear much. But if I asked people what their dreams were for their church or what they would love to see changed over the next three years, I heard plenty.
And most of what I heard was very, very good.
The catch was that the dreams varied widely and in some cases were mutually exclusive. Fred dreams of a simple church. Mary dreams of a church with innumerable ministries addressing every sort of human need.
- It’s hard to argue with the concept of God having a vision (dream) for our ministries.
Almost all of us believe that God has an ideal picture of what He’d like to do with our lives (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:1-3). If God has a dream for my life, wouldn’t He also have an ideal for what He’d like for my church or other ministry?
- A group of people who believe they’ve downloaded God’s vision are almost unstoppable.
You know this is a glorious thing if you’ve experienced it. It is shear joy to work arm in arm with other human beings who share a common vision.
The Bible speaks about the joy of fellowship. I’ve observed that seeking after fellowship as an end in itself is a fool’s errand. It results only in an inward-focus and all the negative consequences that come with such organizational narcissism.
The best fellowship is experienced by people whose passion is pursuing the realization of a common vision. Fellowship becomes the blessed by-product of such almost-effortless work.
Alexander the Great reportedly said: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
Your ministry needs a lion (who may have been a sheep yesterday) who has a clear vision of a preferable future and is able to convince the flock that his dream came from God.