By George Bullard
Let’s be certain about vision. It is not easy. The vast majority of pastors, staff persons and lay leaders have a really difficult time understanding vision. It is not second nature to them. Vision may be something they can see, whereas God’s vision is unseen and we arrive at it by faith.
Leaders — even in Christian congregations — approach vision like church is an organization, a sports team or their country. It is about winning. It is about reaching tangible goals in the short-term. They cannot divide the success they see in the world around them from the success only God can offer.
This translates in everyday life for many congregations as a numerical measurement. Vision is a growing membership and attendance. Vision is program events that are wildly successful. Vision is surpassing the budget. Vision is filling the worship center. Vison is a full schedule of ministries. The source of these visions is our own pride.
With God as the source a whole different measuring standard for success is utilized. It is more about seeing God as the source and allowing God to define our success. To do this we must exhibit a deep relationship with God.
Here are some insights that speak to my perspective on congregations and God as the source of vision. They are a continuation of vision insights on various themes that were contained in previous posts. To see the prior insights go here.
Vision Insight 017: When congregations are in the best possible relationship with God and one another they can easily feel vision.
Distance from God in the spiritual walk of leaders and the congregation as a whole is a key aspect of the ease or difficulty of acquiring vision, plus the depth and passion surrounding vision. Leaders and congregations who walk close with God and who are at one with the Triune God are more easily captivated by vision and passionate about its fulfillment.
Leaders and congregations with a shallow, distant relationship with the Triune God have a more difficult time being captivated by vision and becoming passionate about its fulfillment. Relational distance from God makes vision hard to feel and hard to establish as the focus of the congregation.
Vision Insight 018: Vision is not a passing fantasy or a fleeting passion. It is a long-term view of God’s calling on a congregation.
Vision is not about quick results. Its fulfillment does not have to be fast. It is a commitment over a long period of time. Vision is not about what we will do this year. That is focusing on tactics. Vision is not about the next one to three years. That is focusing on strategies. Vision is about the long-term.
Vision is about changed behavior that develops in congregations over a period of years, and becomes hardwired in the Christ-centered, faith-based culture of the congregation. It is about being part of a congregation that is on a long distance journey with which people desire to be connected.
Vision Insight 019: Too often earthly things, preferences and tangible security blind us to the brilliance of God’s new vision.
Humankind regularly confuses the leadership of God, the culture of the congregations they have known during their lives and their patriotism toward their country. This confusion can be sufficiently strong that culture and patriotism are more intensely expressed than God’s leadership when it comes to the spiritual and strategic vision and direction of congregations.
The earthly success of congregations too often becomes more important than both the significance of the missional service of congregations and surrender to God’s vision. This leads to an opposition to change unless it is good for the culture or good for patriotism.
Vision Insight 020: God offers transformative vision. Too often our possessions, deference to other people, and pride blind us as we are only open to transactional vision.
To be captivated by God’s vision is a paradigm shift. When such a shift occurs then everything goes back to zero. The transformative vision God offers congregations requires the re-evaluation of everything congregations do in light of the new vision.
When our church buildings, our unwillingness to take a stand for where God is leading us, and the pride we feel in our heritage are in conflict with God’s transformative vision, too many congregations reject God’s vision. They want change they can see and immediately measure. That is a transactional vision. God’s transformational vision is unseen and long-term.
This is the eighth in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here. Look for the next post entitled “When it comes to congregational vision, may you be with the source.”