In thinking a bit this month about the significance of leadership in the local church I’ve been focused today on the importance of vision. I’ve noted in my transition work with churches that one of the greatest needs is for visionary leadership. Churches, organizations, and people’s lives suffer for lack of vision. All easily deteriorate into simply performing minimal expectations from Sunday to Sunday, from week to week, or from day to day. I know from personal experience how easily this can happen. We grow weary in the battle, feel overwhelmed from dealing with one crisis after another, easily becoming satisfied with mere survival in the process. Life and ministry becomes perfunctory rather than fruitfully engaging. In such a case, something has been seriously lost.
In the words of Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, “vision leaks.” It easily dissipates in the face of the many challenges that come our way in the ordinary course of our lives. The test of leadership, I think, is to maintain a clear sense of vision in the midst of the challenges. Because without vision, says Proverbs 29:13, “the people cast off restraint.” Without vision, people languish in their carnal lives. Without vision, people begin to engage in self-centered pursuits. That’s why, in the context of church ministry, vision is so important. In fact, vision is really what church ministry is all about. Vision, properly gained and communicated, gives the church its life and sense of purpose. Vision provides God’s perspective on what our lives are really all about.
In his recently published book, Master Leaders, author George Barna concludes that what great leaders do really well is communicate a clear consistent vision that everyone in the organization can rally around. He goes on to say, that …one of the main things a leader does is to share the vision and mission of an organization… Leaders are able to effectively show people what, why, and how the work they are doing is moving them toward fulfilling a bigger purpose. A good leader will help define that for people. So it is, I believe, the primary work of the pastor of a church to help it find and fulfill its God-given vision. It is the responsibility of the pastor to guard and effectively communicate that vision.
Biblically, it is clear that vision is a supernatural experience of coming to see by faith what God has in mind for His people. There are many examples of this in the story of God’s people. Leaders among God’s people were those who were given insight into God’s plan and purpose for His people and were supernaturally anointed by God to effectively communicate and rally support in His cause. Usually we find, they were people, like Abraham, Moses, Samuel, or David who spent time in God’s presence to know Him and His will for the lives of God’s people.
Likewise today, those who would seek to effectively lead God’s people into their rightful inheritance must be people who spend regular time in God’s presence and in His Word, being thus renewed in their understanding of God’s heart for His people. Rightfully understood, vision involves grasping a clear picture of God’s plan in the Gospel and adopting values that consistently move one’s own life and the lives of others toward its realization. It seems to me that vision easily fades when we get bogged down by life’s profaneness, by that which is of this world. Leaders need to continually come back into the presence of God to see His face, to hear His voice, and to be spiritually renewed.
I am convinced that vision, properly understood and acquired, is the key to effective pastoral leadership in the church. Vision is the very nature of the Christian faith that calls us to believe something that we have come to see in the very essence of Scripture and the Gospel. It is vision that inspires a people to commit great amounts of energy and resources toward the realization of a great cause. Vision guides in the establishing of values that describe the culture of what a church is all about. There is something very beautiful about seeing a people united in a vision that prevails against the forces of evil and is increasingly fruitful toward God.