Vision – Part 1

Over the last several years I’ve given much thought to the subject of vision and have written a few times of it here on Cross Connection. Verses like Proverbs 29:18 regularly come to my mind — “Where there is no vision, the people perish” — and keep me cognizant of the fact that vision is important. It is however strange to me that discussion on the topic of vision seems, for some, to cause a problem. I’m not entirely sure what the problem is, but often when I speak on the subject, people (especially pastors) will, almost aggressively respond with things like, “Well, I’m not a visionary leader,” or “I’ve never seen a vision,” or my all-time favorite, “I haven’t had any visions since I became a Christian and stopped taking psychotropic drugs.” With that in mind let me begin by saying, I too have yet to “see a vision” and have never tried psychotropic drugs. Furthermore, I’m not sure I’d account myself as a “visionary leader.” But I do recognize the importance of vision, especially from Christian leaders and for Christian churches.

I greatly appreciate that the New Living Translation translates “vision” in Proverbs 29:18 as “divine guidance.” This translation sheds light on the fact that Christian leaders need to be led. Most Christian leaders (i.e. pastors) can accord with that. They fully recognize the need to be following the Lord in their leading of others, thus we seek the Lord for His guidance. His vision.

So as I’ve contemplated the question of vision I’ve concluded that there are five important aspects of vision that pastors and leaders should be aware of. Over the next several weeks I’ll be developing them here.

1. Receiving Vision

More than a few pastors have confessed to me “I am not a visionary leader.” I don’t necessarily believe them when they say so, because I am not convinced that they’d be leading if they weren’t. One of the problems is that we tend to look at those doing extraordinarily cutting edge things in ministry as the “visionaries” of the bunch. But I’d suggest that those leading edge pioneers are not the only ones, and that if we allow ourselves to think that only they are, then we will in some way fail to lay hold of the vision for which Christ has laid hold of us for. Well then how do we lay hold of, or receive the vision that God has for us? It’s actually easier than you might think.

In considering my personal ministry experience and the observations I’ve had of other’s, I’m more convinced than ever that divinely guided vision is as easy as a wish. In other words, vision begins as a desire. Thus, if you are to receive divinely guided vision you should delight yourself in the Lord. Yes, I’m referring to Psalm 37:4, in the sense that those who delight in the Lord will find their will (read, desire) subdued to God’s will. For, it is God who works in us to desire (Philippians 2:13).

This, I believe, is one of the “signs of life” for a Christian, new desires. Just as at physical birth a newborn baby experiences new desires it has never experienced before (to breath, to eat, etc.), a newborn babe in Christ does as well. This is almost instantaneous. How many times have we encountered new believers that say things like, “I just don’t want to do the things I use to want to do”? Why is that? Because the Spirit that dwells in us yearns jealously (James 4:5). His Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are in fact newborn children of our Father in heaven. And as we delight ourselves in the Lord He imparts to us new desires (i.e. visions) to do things that we would not have other wise done.

Although it’s something of an aside, I think that it is important to highlight that there are a number of things that can aid in receiving vision. Since vision, in the context in which we’re speaking of it, is divine guidance, I believe that it is important (especially as a leader) to place yourself in the places in which God has told us that He will be. For your consideration I’ll give a few.

a. Jesus told us that He is with us when we are “going” on behalf of his name and kingdom.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

– Matthew 28:19-20

b. God has revealed that He is present when His people praise Him.

But thou are holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

– Psalm 22:3

c. Jesus revealed that He is in the midst of those gather in His name (i.e. fellowship).

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

– Matthew 18:20

Now, the problem with visionary desires at the conception stage, they’re not always entirely clear. Just as there are times when we have a [carnal] desire to eat but cannot necessarily figure out just what it is that we’d like to eat. The specifics of the desire are indistinct and the details of the vision unclear, which leads us to where we’ll be heading next time with the second aspect of vision.

6 replies
  1. Greg Danskin
    Greg Danskin says:

    Miles, If I can see clearly this morning, as my vision is a wee bit blurred, I may offer this perspective:

    To lead is to have vision.

    By this I mean that any one who is leading anything, by definition must have vision, otherwise the other two Iacoccian paths are available, those being ‘follow’ or ‘get out of the way’.

    The vision may be good, bad, ill-concieved, evil, short-sighted, or deemed crazy by the masses. but in order to lead any possible combination of humans, vision is a prerequisite.

    The second thought I had was that the term vision has been defined by the world, in seeking greatness. And therefore we have terms like ‘true visionaries’. poppycock.

    My wife is a true visionary. And though she may not be inventing the next PDA, she is guiding our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

    Just a couple of quick thoughts before I go clean my glasses. I need to see clearly today. Oh, and a proverb or two might help as well.

    Reply
  2. Miles DeBenedictis
    Miles DeBenedictis says:

    Greg,

    Agreed…

    I think it’s classic that you said “poppycock.” Very early 20th century of you.

    As I said, in the context of speaking on vision I find many leaders who would not self-identify as visionaries. In fact they’d confess “I’m not a visionary,” which of course I don’t agree with.

    As I’ll develop more fully in later posts, I think that many leaders have vision but fail to (1) recognize it as vision and (2) do simple and important things to make that vision a reality.

    Reply
  3. Jon Langley
    Jon Langley says:

    Miles — I enjoyed this first part and look forward to the rest. This is an area I’ve only given a little thought to, but in the last couple of years its been nagging in the deep dark recesses of my mind that clearly maintained vision helps to prevent distraction and depression… and therefore defeat.

    Reply
  4. Shawna Chiappara
    Shawna Chiappara says:

    Over the past few weeks, the word “meekness” has been coming up. I’d like to share with you a definition I recently came across by Elisabeth Elliot. She defined meekness as a sense of proportion. She said, “Meekness is a sane and proper estimate of one’s place in the scheme of things.”

    I believe in order to have a vision, there must be brokenness. How can we see God’s heart if our own hearts are clouded? I think of Nehemiah who heard God’s calling and fell before Him in prayer & repentance. He then got up and, in meekness, carried out God’s vision for His people. Nehemiah faced hardships and battles with the stubborn people but because he was a man who was broken before the Lord, he was able to trudge forward.

    Reply

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