Do you remember stereograms? Google it, you’ll remember. I can still recall walking through the mall and seeing people standing in groups staring at these posters and marveling. I would go and stand with them and look at the poster, and all I could see was a bunch of squiggly lines. They would keep talking about the picture that “jumps out at you” if you stare at it long enough. I still didn’t get it. Then they would give you these complicated instructions, trying to help you see it…something about relaxing your eyes and looking through the poster. That only made me feel more incompetent. After a while, the person selling the posters would console me by saying, “Well, some people just never see it.” Oh, thank you. Now I feel much better.
Apparently, it is a fact of life. Some of us have brains designed to easily see the hidden pictures in stereograms, while others of us, well, cannot. I am o.k. with that.
It is like that in the church as well. Even after we get all of the pieces to to the puzzle that is God’s will put out on the table, and after we get them all connected as they should be, there are still plenty of us who look at the picture and say, “I don’t get it…what is it?” This, I believe, is where true pastoral vision comes into play. I believe God has gifted those He calls as pastors with the ability to cast their gaze across the landscape of a congregation and see God at work in the lives of its members. Then, seeing God at work through its members, that vision enables the pastor to see the picture of what God desires and interpret it correctly. For someone with pastoral vision, the picture really does “jump out at you”.
There is a lot of talk these days about leadership vision. Some of that talk pictures the leader looking out over the horizon and dreaming new adventures. It has the leader standing with his back to his people and charting new territories to explore. For some, that is visionary leadership.
But to me, the essence of pastoral leadership, even visionary pastoral leadership, is more the ability to look into the hearts of the people he/she leads and see Christ. It is the ability to piece together the picture that is painted on the hearts of your people and understand that picture as a picture of God’s will. Pastors who want to know what God is doing, where God is going, and what He is inviting this church to join Him in doing, need to know their people and need to see the puzzle forming among them. That, it seems to me, is the essence of pastoral vision.
Don’t get me wrong. The ability to look outward from the church and dream new dreams is an important leadership quality, for sure. But those leaders are plentiful. I know hundreds of them, both lay and clergy. But genuine pastoral vision, the kind that leads a congregation to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, the kind that builds consensus around God’s perfect will for a church body, is the kind of vision that sees into the hearts of the people and understands what God is doing through the people. And in my experience…that kind of vision is much harder to come by. Thank God for pastors!
I don’t need to see the picture in the stereogram, as long as there is someone among us whom we trust and who can see the picture. I call that person Pastor. And I will gladly follow that person!
© Blake Coffee
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