By George Bullard
Matt Carswell, pastor of Mountain View Church, is a gifted preacher and a warm, caring pastor. Spiritual formation through worship and in-depth pastoral care are places where he excels. He is loved by his congregation.
At the same time, when it comes to expressing leadership for the forward progress of the congregation he is lost. Casting vision and then aligning the programs, ministries and activities of the congregation around vision is not one of his strengths. He understands the importance of it, but he just cannot do it.
Because he understands he must provide visionary leadership for his congregation, he seeks to discover staff persons and lay leaders for whom vision comes naturally, and coaches them in the process of vision plus intentional actions to live into that vision. He also allows them to coach him in casting vision through preaching, teaching, and personal influence.
Vision casting needs to be seen as the responsibility of all congregational leaders. The best visions are ones where the senior or solo pastor is not the only vision casting person. Here are several vision insights that speak to this perspective. The first 28 overall insights about congregational vision are contained in posts found here.
Vision Insight 29: When pastors do not get vision easily, they may find some true visionaries among their congregation who do get it.
If we can get beyond the false idea that pastors bring vision, and all pastors are visionary leaders, we may be able to address vision from a healthier perspective. Since a key principle is that God is seeking to impart vision to the whole congregation, then many pastors need to be listeners and discerners of what God is saying to the congregation.
They need to identify the people in their congregation who are visionaries, then pray, dialogue and plan with them. A wise pastor does not have to have all the answers but can use the various spiritual gifts present among people within the congregation.
Vision Insight 30: Vision casting is the responsibility of all leaders in a congregation with the pastor providing initiating leadership.
Pastors would do well, especially in regard to vision, to distinguish between directive leadership and initiating leadership. Directive leadership is straight-forward leadership based on the principles and perspective of the leader. Initiating leadership seeks to initiate and coach the essential processes of a congregation.
Vision casting is more about initiating leadership than directive leadership. Pastors who are initiating leaders may actually be better at vision casting than pastors who are directive leaders. Initiating leaders can be artistic and inclusive in vision casting. Directive leaders may believe it is all about them.
Vision Insight 31: Few followers get vision easily. Leaders must paint a picture of what it could be like once captivated by vision.
A key part of the vision casting role of the pastor is using preaching, teaching and other formal and informal leadership opportunities to tell the stories and paint a vivid picture of what vision looks, feels and acts like within the congregation and its community context.
They need to talk about Genesis 12 and the journey of Abram’s clan, or the Exodus being led by the cloud by day and fire by night, or the vision of Paul from God to come over to Macedonia, or many other stories from the Bible where God led people towards something not yet seen.
Vision Insight 32: Potential leaders who cannot articulate their passion for the congregation’s vision need to remain potential leaders.
The functioning of lay leaders in regard to the vision of their congregation needs to focus around their passion for fulfilling that vision. If current and potential lay leaders do not feel passion for vision fulfillment then their actions and attitudes will not reflect sacrificial and passionate commitment to the vision. Both visionary actions and attitudes are required of lay leaders.
Vision Insight 33: When does the leadership of a congregation finish casting vision? Never, or it dies. Casting vision is a forever activity.
Pastors, staff members and lay leaders must continually cast vision. It must be second nature to them. In casting vision they are not promoting something to the congregation. They are celebrating a current and emerging characteristic of their congregation.
Casting vision is like spouses telling one another of their love. Doing this is never finished. Doing this cannot be trite. Saying the words of love must remind spouses why they truly do love this person and celebrate their lifelong relationship.
This is the 13th in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here. Look for the next post, entitled “Business leaders should leave their ideas about congregational vision at the office.”