Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? Mark 8:17-18
Where there is no vision, the people perish… Proverbs 29:18
I sometimes wonder if we in the church are guilty at times of confusing “leadership vision” with “ambition”?
It seems to me we place a great deal of pressure on our shepherds with regard to “vision”. We expect even our newest pastor to have a 5-year plan for where we are headed just as soon as we get him in the office. I have even heard of one pastor search team asking a prospective candidate what his “five-year vision” is for their church. Oh my! How would he know that? In fact, I would be wary of anyone who claimed to know before he had even set foot among the congregation.
Pastoral vision (i.e., leadership vision for the church), it seems to me, has much less to do with entrepreneurial foresight and ambitious goals and much more to do with actually seeing what God has been doing and what He is doing right now in the life of a congregation. It is not so much casting my eyes out on the vast horizon before us as it is casting my eyes across the lives of the people I am leading and understanding what God is doing there.
Jesus did not shame his disciples for not being smarter venture capitalists or for not having keen insights into the trends of the day. He did not rebuke them for failing to see what was coming or even for not anticipating the needs of the crowds. Jesus expressed his disappointment in his disciples for not paying attention to what he had already done…for what he had already shown them. He did not expect them to be watching the horizon for the next big social trend…rather, he held them accountable to the simple task of keeping their eyes on him, staying connected to him, and placing their faith in him. That was his expectation.
So, if your New Year’s resolution as a church leader has anything at all to do with vision or with vision casting, may I make a suggestion? Don’t stress nearly so much about the next great book or the next amazing conference or the economic trends in your community. Instead, fix your eyes on Jesus and on the work of the Spirit going on right now among the very people you have been called to lead. Sit with them in their hospital room or their living room or their office and pay attention to what’s going on in their lives right now. Listen to their stories, their triumphs and their failures, their dreams and expectations, and remember that He who is working in their lives and He in whom you place your faith are One and the same.
THAT, my friend, is leadership vision I will follow all day long.