How do you define vision? If you cannot define it, you may not know what it is when you have it.
Vision is not the same as mission. The eternal mission of a congregation is the timeless understanding of the past, present and future focus as it seeks to carry out the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.
Vision is not the same as purpose. The everlasting purpose of a congregation is the past-to-present understanding of the reason this particular church came into existence. Why was it founded? What is its historic purpose?
Core values are extremely important in congregations, but they are not vision. Enduring core values are the Christian principles based on the life and teachings of Jesus primarily preserved for us in the Bible that are uniquely expressed in a congregation.
Vision is the current understanding of the spiritual and strategic journey of God for a congregation over the next seven to nine years or longer. Vision empowers the future. It is about the pulling of God rather than the pushing of humankind.
Here are seven vision insights that help answer the question, “What is vision?”
• Vision is a movement of God that is memorable rather than a statement of humankind that is memorized.
Vision is about the Holy Spirit moving among us and touching us with inspiration, opening a door for us to walk through or showing us something that helps us say, “I see it!” It is sensing and feeling the movement of the Holy Spirit that allows us to see and focus on God’s future for us with our full heart, soul, mind and strength.
• Vision is the current understanding of God’s spiritual strategic journey for a congregation.
It is not yesterday’s understanding of God’s spiritual strategic journey. It is our current understanding. As we move along our spiritual strategic journey, our understanding will mature, transition and change.
• Vision is about walking by faith in God rather than by what is in plain sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7 admonishes us to walk by faith rather than by sight. Another way to say this is we need to walk by faith in God’s sight, or what God can see that we cannot yet see, or what God understands that we do not yet understand.
• Vision is not what leaders cast and followers catch. It is something by which leaders and followers are caught.
Vision is not something where leaders say, “We’ve got to get us one of those.” Vision is something we come to realize or have a breakthrough experience on when we search for God’s direction for our congregation. We do not catch vision. We are caught by it.
• Vision is about seeing with our full heart, soul, mind and strength, rather than with eyes—even with corrective lenses.
Vision is a full body-and-soul experience. It is not a mind game. If we can see our future with our eyes, it is not God’s vision. Rather, vision is seen with spiritual imagination.
• Moses did not see vision in the burning bush. He experienced it with his whole being and was transformed by it.
Moses had a full body-and-soul experience as he encountered God in the form of the burning bush. Few have ever had such a dramatic experience through which they were captivated by God’s vision. In the spirit of Jewish theologian Martin Buber, the encounter Moses had with God on Mount Sinai was an I-Thou experience. But when he sought to recount the experience to the Israelites, it transitioned into an I-It experience because it was not their experience.
• Vision is the high-octane fuel that drives the spiritual strategic journey of a congregation.
Vision is not about regular congregational life. It is about high-octane life. It is not business as usual. It is about high-performance congregational life. It is not about seeking common ground. It takes a congregation to higher ground.
Implications for your congregation:
First, even the best-crafted vision statement does not a vision make. Vision is a memorable movement and not a memorized statement. Focus not on words, but on experiences where God’s vision is felt.
Second, look for vision with your heart, soul, mind and strength rather than your eyes. Your eyes can play tricks on you.
Third, vision transforms. It is about more than just transition and change. Be ready for a wild, prophetic ride if you truly want vision rather than just programmatic success.
George Bullard is president of The Columbia Partnership, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance’s North American Baptist Fellowship and senior editor of TCP Books. Contact him at GBullard@TheColumbiaPartnership.org or (803) 622-0923.