“We need to get a new pastor who will bring us vision and get us moving in the right direction”, or something similar, is the number one statement I hear from lay leaders of congregations during the transition from one pastor to another.
The second most frequent statement from lay leaders refers to their current pastor. It goes something like this: “If we had a real pastor who had a vision for this congregation and would lead us to accomplish it, we could really be a great church.”
Among the most frequent statements I hear from pastors is, “These people will just not follow my vision. I need to move to another church where people are open and responsive to my vision.”
Or, another is, “I prayed and God gave me a vision for this church. I have tried and tried to cast this vision, but my congregation gives no evidence of hearing it.”
Still another is, “we hired this great Christian consulting group who promised they would help us develop a vision statement around which we could organize all that we do. The process was great and truly inspiring. The early results gave evidence of a true transformation of our congregation. But, a couple of years in it waned, and once again we are wandering in the wilderness.”
All of these statements miss the point of the three faces of congregational vision. They are confusing the source of vision, the casting of vision, and the ownership of vision. For congregations to truly be captivated by vision they must understand the faces of source, casting, and ownership. Not just one or the other. It is a synergy of all three that is essential, and it probably happens in the order presented here.
The Source of Vision
The first face of vision is the source of vision. From where does congregational vision originate? This has a simple answer. God. God is the source of all true vision for a congregation.
It is not the pastor. It does not come out of the latest staff or board retreat. It does not come from the deacons or elders. It is not a committee–much less the pastor search committee or the staff parish relations committee. It is not in a book from a highly successful mega church. It is not in the latest business book or conference speaker.
Any statement of vision by humankind that does not reflect a truly spiritual movement inspired in a congregation by God’s vision is only a statement. Vision is a movement of God that is memorable rather than a statement of humankind that is memorized.
The Casting of Vision
The second face of vision is the casting of vision. Whose responsibility is it to cast vision? Leaders have the key role in casting vision. The most important leader who casts vision is indeed the senior or solo pastor. But, that does not make the pastor the source of vision. Leaders are the voices of God’s vision and are casting what God has inspired in them.
God is seeking to impart vision to the congregation. It is our hope the pastor is among the first if not the very first to be captivated by God’s vision because of the important role the pastor has in casting vision among the congregation.
Likewise we hope other key leaders and people with positive spiritual passion in the congregation are captivated by God’s vision and proactive supporters and additional voices for casting the vision.
Never does that make vision the pastor’s vision. It is always God’s vision for the congregation. Leaders are simply the ones casting the vision.
The Ownership of Vision
The third face of vision is the ownership of vision. Whose responsibility is it to own vision? The congregation must own the vision at a sufficient depth that they are passionate about the fulfillment of the vision. The desired end result of being captivated by vision is not the captivation. It is the action to live into or fulfill the vision.
Never will 100 percent of a congregation own the vision. Yet it is essential that it be owned by 20 to 25 percent of the congregation who exhibit positive spiritual passion about the future of the congregation toward which God is leading the congregation.
It is essential that every possible program, ministry, and other actions of the congregation align with the vision God has given.
It is these three: source, casting, and ownership. The greatest of these is the source. Rather than the Star Wars-like statement of “May the source be with you,” the statement needed here is “May you be with the source.”