“The Triune God is the only true source of vision that is clearly spiritual and has any chance of pulling a congregation forward in the direction of its full Kingdom potential. Humankind has great ideas. Humankind has experiences of inspiration. Only God has vision that fully recognizes the future potential of a congregation that builds on its past and present.
“At the same time God does not seem to impose vision but to inspire vision. God clearly and powerfully helps us imagine what it will be like when we are fully captivated by vision. God is the author of vision in congregations.”
When a lead pastor candidate said this to the search committee of a congregation their hearts sank. They thought this person was the best candidate for lead pastor. They were looking forward to the vision this pastor could bring to their church. His current congregation had soared under his leadership. In the midst of their disappointment they were not sure where they would turn next.
For many congregations this represents their perspective. Great pastors bring vision and help congregations soar. At least this is what their congregations say to search committees as they set out to find the next pastor. This idea is repeated so often that congregations believe it is true.
What if it is not true? What if the pastor is not the source of vision? What if God is the only reliable and faithful source? God as the only source is certainly my perspective.
Here are some insights that speak to my perspective on God’s role in vision. They are a continuation of insights on various themes that were contained in a previous post. To see the first part of the insights go here.
Vision Insight 008:
The only vision that will work is God’s vision. Neither the pastor’s vision nor the lay leadership’s vision is sufficient.
The vision of the pastor, staff, or lay leaders is the vision of humankind. Often it is an organizational vision of success and not a spiritual organism vision of faithfulness, effectiveness, and innovation.
Vision by pastors, staff members and lay leadership are typically either short-term tactical visions or grandiose visions that are more a fantasy than a clear vision of the future. The vision of humankind is insufficient. The only sufficient, transformational vision is God’s vision.
Vision Insight 009:
Vision is initiated by God to the body the church, cast by leadership, and owned by membership.
Pastors, staff members, and lay leadership do not initiate vision. They may initiate conversation, prayer, reflections, discernment processes and actions to pursue vision, but they do not initiate vision. Only God initiates true vision.
God’s initiation of vision does not happen as a result of calendar planning by congregational leadership. It happens in God’s timing. I have often felt it primarily happens when a congregation is ready to receive it and act on it.
Vision Insight 010:
Vision is more about the pulling of God into the future than the pushing of humankind to do better each year.
We all want to succeed at whatever we do. We all want to do better next year than we did this year or last year. But, God wants more from us. We focus on short-term fixes. God focuses on long-term solutions.
It is not that God is pushing us and putting external stress on us. It is that God is gently pulling us forward. When we respond to God’s pulling it is stress free. When we resist God pulling or seek to do it ourselves, it is stressful.
Vision Insight 011:
One crucial test of vision is that it moves the congregation forward in God’s image and not the image of humankind.
Discernment of the true, grace-filled direction for a congregation is an ongoing process that continually asks if each new major action is taking the congregation in the direction of fulfilling its God-given vision.
It is not about moving the congregation in the direction of any individual leader, the pastor and staff, the board or council, a certain age group, longer-tenured members, the key influencers in the life of the congregation, or the people of the greatest spiritual passion about the future of the congregation toward which God it leading it.
True vision continually images the congregation in the image of God. Like a master artist God creates an ever clearer image for a congregation with ever sharper high definition that experiences the image as multi-sensory and dramatic.
Look for the next post, entitled “God’s vision for congregations is not about me.