Helen Keller was asked once “What would be worse than being born blind?” to which she replied “Having sight without a vision.”
It is obvious to me that vision is vital to the growth and success of God’s work. I believe that the ability to “cast a vision” is one of the most important things that we do as “General Practitioners” of the Faith. While some of us might consider ourselves evangelists, or counselors, or master teachers of the word, or leader/mentors; most of us do not have the luxury to be able to specialize in our ministry. Most of us pastor small congregations, therefore, we have to wear many hats and one of the most important is the ability to lead people to a greater work than they think that they are capable. This is what I call “vision casting.”
As we read in our scriptures; the people need vision…we are the leaders of the people; therefore, we need to have vision; and, God’s vision for us is that we are to be the “vision casters” for the people.
There are many wonderful books on the need for change in the church and for vision casting; Visioneering by Andy Stanley; The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren; Turn Around Strategies for the Small Church by Ron Crandall; etc. They are excellent reading and give us a lot of material on how to lead with a vision.
Tonight, I want to just touch on a few things that have been helpful to me as I have tried to cast a vision for our church in Micro; and, hopefully for our denomination for the next couple of years.
What Is Vision?
C. George Barna writes in his book, The Power of Vision: “Vision for ministry is a reflection of what God wants to accomplish through you to build His kingdom.”
I Believe To Cast the Vision:
First, You Must Have a Burden!
In Crandall’s book, Turn Around Strategies for the Small Church, he tells us that to have a vision, you must have a burden. You have to realize that something is wrong. We may be very efficient in the things that we are doing; but we are no longer effective. The things that we do, we might do well; but are they the right things?
When I took over as Women’s Basketball Coach at Mount Olive College, I had been a very successful boys high school coach. But, suddenly, I had to coach with a “shot clock” in the mix. The “slow-down” style of my coaching was no longer efficient and very unsuccessful. While I could be very effective at what I had been doing, the efficiencies were lost on the new game that I was forced to play and coach.
We must take an honest assessment of our situation. Are we happy with the state of our ministry? Are we unwilling to change what we do? If you are content with your situation, your ministry, your church, your denomination; then there is no vision to cast. You’re already there. There is no destination to seek.
Winston Churchill, during World War II stated; “The great thing is to get the true picture, whatever it is.”
Someone wrote that “vision is hope with a blueprint.” If you are where you want to be, then you don’t need a plan. If you know that you need to change, you must plan for that change!
Secondly, You Must Have an Attitude of Divine Purpose!
“God has to help us let go of our tiny vision in order to release the greater good He has in store for us.”—Richard J. Foster
I do not have to wonder or strive for a vision for my life. God has ordained me a minister. I don’t know why He did that. I am certainly unworthy; but, as I read the scriptures, I find that most of the major characters of the Bible had major character flaws. God shared His vision with each one of them to raise them up. And I thank Him that He has forgiven me my flaws.
“And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).
I believe that those of us on this mountain this week have been given a divine vision and commission to lead God’s people to become a more relevant church in our communities. I do not believe that God can be defeated. We have to have the attitude that our calling is a divine calling and our mission is of God. Our vision must take a prominent role in our lives.
Phil Grant wrote in Leadership magazine, “A vision is the dominant factor that governs your life. It determines all the choices you are making. It’s what’s left after all the layers are peeled away like an onion. Clinging like glue to the inside of your rib cage…. It’s what your mind naturally gravitates toward when it is not legitimately concentrating on something else. It’s…what determines your friendships and your relationships that you are cultivating…. It’s what your prayers are about—what you dream about and are giving money toward.
Thirdly, You Must Have the Courage to Act!
Max DePree writes, “The tenders of vision are often lonely, usually unpopular, and frequently demand that others change. People with a vision inject ambiguity and risk and uncertainty into our lives.”
Dr. Martin Luther King once stated: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
If your church is not the church that you believe it should and could be, then it is up to you to cast a vision that leads your congregation to where it needs to go. That takes courage, patience, commitment, a lot of prayer, and hard work. And, then it takes PERSEVERANCE!
Someone once asked Paul Harvey, the journalist and radio commentator, to reveal the secret of his success. “I get up when I fall down,” said Harvey.
Fourth, and most importantly, you must change the “Me” to “We!”
I read an illustration somewhere of a minister that brought a new idea to his deacon board and did his best to convince them that the church needed to head in that direction. Following his long plea, the board voted and all twelve deacons voted against it. The Pastor was so disheartened. The chairman then reporting that there was no more business and called on the minister to close the meeting with prayer.
The pastor, still smarting from the vote started off his prayer; “Lord, I have brought your vision to this board tonight and they have dismissed it. Lord, please do something to show this board that this is your will and not mine!” Suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning shot through the ceiling and blew the table in half scattering the deacons all over the floor. The Pastor looked at the Deacon Chair and said, “Well Brother, the Lord has spoken!” Upon which the deacon dusting off his pants replied; “Well, Preacher, it’s still 12 to 2.”
The Vision Should Belong to Everyone: “If vision is going to be owned by the people, it has to be more than something we talk them into.”
We have to lead the people into change. They cannot be driven and they aren’t going because you said so. To be a leader two things have to happen: 1) you must be in front, and 2) you must have followers.
Give your people the opportunity to be part of the process so that they have ownership in the outcomes.
In his book, First Things First, author Stephen Covey writes about Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany. Frankl made a startling discovery about why some survived the horrible conditions and some did not.
He looked at several factors: health, vitality, family structure, intelligence, and survival skills. Finally, he concluded that none of these factors were primarily responsible. The single most significant factor, he realized, was a sense of future vision—the impelling conviction of those who were to survive that they had a mission to perform, some important work left to do.
Survivors of POW camps in Vietnam and elsewhere have reported similar experiences: a compelling, future-oriented vision is the primary force that kept many of them alive.”
“Vision is the world’s most desperate need. There are no hopeless situations, only people who think hopelessly.”
It is up to YOU to cast the vision for God’s Church! Will you accept this challenge?