Congregational leaders are prone to declare they have vision when they do not.
This happens, at least in part, because they know it is important for congregations to have vision plus intentionality, so they focus on a spiritual and strategic journey that allows them to thrive with vitality and vibrancy.
Who wants to be the senior or solo pastor, staff person or lay leader in a visionless congregation? Who want to drift aimlessly around the catacombs of their facilities without an intimate knowledge of the discipleship health of their membership or the spiritual, emotional and physical health of their community?
We will assume the answer is no one. Yet actions scream louder than the eloquent forcefulness of words.
It is too easy for a pastor, staff member or the full staff team, a board or a committee of a congregation, or a leadership workshop or retreat to hastily craft a vision statement, push it out to the congregation and say: “See. Here is vision. What doth keep us from moving forward as a united movement of God?”
When I see this happen, as one who has dedicated his ministry to helping congregations, denominations and other Christian ministries focus on vision plus intentionality, I do not know whether to laugh or to cry.
I do know it is almost impossible to tell a congregation they really do not have vision when they think they do. So much misunderstanding about God’s empowering vision dominates the church world. With this in mind, here is my perspective on congregations and vision, plus intentionality.
Your congregation does not have God’s empowering vision unless …
First, you understand the source of vision is the Triune God. It is not the pastor, the staff team, the lay leadership, the latest book by a Christian ministry guru or a business guru, the vision of the another congregation you are seeking to emulate, or many other sources other than the Triune God. “May you be with the Source” should be your key mantra.
Second, you understand God is not seeking to impart vision only through the pastor to the congregation. The pastor is not some Old Testament prophet, forth-telling the word of God. Our Triune God is seeking to impart vision to the body—the congregation. The pastor does have a key role in being the voice of vision within the congregational community, but this never should be confused with being the source of vision.
Third, at least 21 percent of the average number of active, attending adults present on a typical Sunday for worship are captivated by God’s empowering vision for your congregation. In fact, they also participated in discerning and crafting the vision, whether it was an informal process or a narrative future story process.
Fourth, vision in your congregation is a movement that is memorable rather than a statement that is memorized. It eventually may be written in a statement, or an initial statement may be molded over a period of time until it is obvious it is a clear and meaningful representation of God’s empowering vision. But a statement does not a vision make.
Fifth, actions to fulfill the vision are intentional and focused, and the life and ministry of the congregation is reinvented around living into the vision. Too many congregations that claim to have a vision still want to do much of what they do the same way they always have done it. When a disconnect exists between God’s empowering vision for a congregation and what they actually do, the vision becomes meaningless.
Sixth, the focus of action to fulfill the vision is on engaging people in a spiritual and strategic journey through the congregation rather than inviting them to promoted events where they can be convinced about the vision of the congregation. The goal is to come alongside people and seek to engage them in God’s journey for their lives.
Seventh, when the vision-plus-intentionality culture of the congregation is about engaging people in a disciple-making journey where they seek to become fully devoted followers of Christ as the Triune God moves and works in their lives. If the primary goal is the growth of the congregation, then the vision is institutional and inauthentic, and people are used to bring success to the congregation rather than significance to their lives.
If you claim your congregation has vision, test it with these seven characteristics. I invite you to tell me what you discover.
George Bullard is a strategic Christian leadership coach for churches and organizations with The Columbia Partnership. This article appeared on his blogsite, “George Bullard’s Journey.”