This is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, and we’re always told we need to have one. And the best leaders have vision. And you need to have a personal vision. And you need to get your vision checked because you’re getting old, etc. But the truth of the matter is vision is crucial to leadership (and to being able to see, so get your eyes checked too).
There are many great books on vision, and as I’ve said before, my goal with these writings is not to create something new, but direct young leaders in the right direction. So grab some books and read them. A great place to start is Visioneering by Andy Stanley. Some of these principles are from his book. What I want to do is get your thinking started on vision. Perhaps you’ve never processed any thinking on vision or even prayed that God would start to stir vision in your life. So hopefully this writing will get the wheels cranking.
At its simplest, vision is having a dream or idea of what should be. This could be in your work, in your family life, in your spiritual life or a vision for something that isn’t yet a part of your life. It’s usually motivated by personal passions, experiences and desires. When you begin to develop vision, you become dissatisfied with the status quo and begin to get motivated towards working on what should be as opposed to just sitting around griping about what is. It’s possible to have multiple visions and the reality is we should have a unique vision for each area of our lives. At the same time these “visions” should complement each other so that the vision for our family can coexist along side our vision in our work, or in our relationship with Jesus, etc. If I have a vision for Ephesus Church (which I do!) it can’t supplant what I desire to see happen with my relationship with Casey and the kids (the vision I have for our family). They must coexist in a healthy, complementary way. At the same time, vision brings significance to many areas of our life. I used to hear it from my mom all the time when I was in school, because I never really tried overly hard. I made decent grades and got into the schools I wanted to get into, but barely. It used to frustrate my mom, because she knew I really could do better. I always had the excuse that it was good enough, and way better than most folks, but I didn’t care too much. In college I slept through a lot of classes including a final exam! But I graduated with decent grades by doing just enough. Then I began to work in ministry. And I would work hard (still do I think!) and work long and discovered I was a bit of a perfectionist. I found myself thinking about ministry and what was next and what needed to be done to get to the next thing and then work at it. All these were traits I never exhibited in school! My mom saw this difference and asked me “why now?” My response: passion and vision. There was significance to what I was doing and it motivated me to do more and to do it better. I had a vision for what should be and the passion to work for it. It hasn’t been easy, still isn’t, but the vision keeps me moving forward, and keeps me passionate about what I’m doing.
In the bible, one of the greatest examples of vision with the accompanying work to see it accomplished is Nehemiah and his oversight of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He was grieved with the way things were (the ruin of Jerusalem) and desired to see it changed. Through circumstances he arrived in Jerusalem and began the rebuilding. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t just happen, he faced much opposition, but the vision was clear and he pursued it.
Andy Stanley shares 4 things that are the foundational for vision in our life:
1. Passion-at its root passion is about strong emotion. Vision is about dreaming of what should be and getting excited enough about it to start doing something about it. What are you passionate about? What should you be passionate about? When Casey and I started dating I was still in school in Florida and she was in school in Virginia. Minor detail right? But I had a vision that I was going to marry that girl, because she is smokin’ hot and she loves Jesus. That’s as good as it gets! Emotions were strong, strong enough to lead to action. One Friday after class I decided what could be, what should be, and I got in my car to drive 11 hours to Virginia. Strong emotions allowed me to push through the 11 hour, ridiculously boring drive because the payoff was worth it (11 years later, still worth it!). Passion is foundational to vision.
2. Motivation-Vision gives motivation to push through when it’s tough, boring, frustrating, seemingly stagnant, etc. Did I mention how boring that 11 hour drive to Virginia was? The last 45 minutes were okay, because at least I hit the mountains, but other than that…wow. I think God invented South Carolina and Southeastern Georgia as a place to put the leftovers. But I had a vision to marry that girl so the motivation carried me through! I think I made that drive 6 times in 4 months. Too often we don’t really have a vision for what we’re doing so we quit, give up and move on to something else. Vision-fueled motivation allows us to keep going.
3. Direction-Often times we can get focused on a lot of different things. Oprah calls it multi-tasking. But often those things keep us from moving forward on the truly important things. They could all be good, or they could all be a waste of time, but either way without clear direction we don’t focus on the important stuff. Vision gives us direction. It gives a place of assessment. Is the direction you’re moving in based on vision or not? I realized recently I was spending way too much time in the car listening to tech podcasts. I know, you’re thinking “Ben you’re such a hip, trendy guy. You can’t possibly be a geeky tech-guy too?” Shockingly, yes I am. I love that stuff. I love that stuff to a fault. I realized that listening to tech podcasts don’t really do anything to move the vision God has given for Ephesus forward. That isn’t the long-term direction I want to be moving in. So I made a decision a few weeks ago to drastically reduce the time I spend listening to tech podcasts and reading tech blogs so that I would be more focused on moving forward on the vision for Ephesus. The vision gives me clear direction.
4. Purpose-Rick Warren has seen a lot of success with his book “Purpose-Driven Life” because so many of us are looking for purpose and meaning. We’re looking for a reason to get up in the morning. A reason to be more engaged at work, or in our relationships. We’re looking for more purpose in our local church. Vision is a huge part of purpose. We have an idea of what should be, vision, and that gives us purpose to act. What we’re doing begins to matter over the long run.
These four points are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vision. But hopefully you’ve begun to think about vision in your life.
Do you have a vision of what your life should be? What your family should be? What your career should be?
Specifically, do you have a vision for what should be in your local church (Ephesus)? What are YOU doing about that vision?
Pray for a vision in regards to your place in the church. If you’re serving, I challenge you to go beyond accomplishing tasks and prayerfully seek a vision for your role at your church and in ministry. Perhaps that vision extends beyond your local church. As Nehemiah did, spend time praying and seeking God’s wisdom and direction and vision for the areas of your life.
Finally, don’t be afraid to go after it. If the vision is from God, it may be scary, it may take some supernatural happenings to bring it about, but don’t back down! Pursue your vision for what should be so that it will be…