What Does It Mean To Have Vision?


Recently, someone told me that I may not be a dynamic leader. Before you start throwing the person who said this to me under the bus (because of that large dose of frankness), keep in mind that context is critical to getting statements right. This individual was saying (in context) that I may not be the dynamic leader my church needed to help it grow, aka youth pastor. I haven’t been pursuing a pastoral position in youth ministry, so for me this is quite funny. It is interesting how people in my church love to take guesses about who could be the youth pastor (a spot vacant at the moment).

Nevertheless, I have had this question floating around in my mind since that meeting: what is a “dynamic leader” and why do churches need one? Or, do they need one at all? Secondly, how does this apply to Christians in the workplace, who feel the vision/demands of the company are straining ones devotional and church life.

So, I’m going to take a look at this from a business perspective and a church leadership point of view. I want to deduce practices, examine the Scriptures, and see how Christians can live under leadership and be Biblical leaders. Today’s post will be more philosophical in nature. I absolutely intend to examine everything discussed here under Biblical lenses. My goal for today is to introduce to you the worlds philosophy about business, tomorrow will be about seeing God’s view of it.

Vision: What is it exactly?

Business leaders love to talk about vision, and there’s a reason why: without vision, there’s no direction. Practically speaking, those who can’t see what’s ahead, don’t know where to go. If you have others following you, and you lack vision, it turns into a case of the blind leading the people with tunnel vision (they have a limited viewpoint).

Vision, according to my definition, is the ability to see what is potential from what is already there, to lead others to work efficiently towards a common goal, and to have an endgame. This can include using means that are experimental or modern to achieve this result, the restriction being obedience to the rules of this vision.

Technically speaking, leaders on the top floor (oftentimes literally) can oversee large scale operations, with a big-picture point of view. The weakness here is that they only have a small view of each operation, while those on the floor see whether what’s been decided on the top floor can work smoothly on the ground floor. What happens above affects the people below. Your people, or you the people, won’t have the same vision as those above you or below you. The question is, are you seeing things the way they should be, or how you want them to be? Leaders need large visions, because they are affecting large groups of people, who are from diverse backgrounds, to carry out multiple dimensions that exist within the same company.

Another point about vision, is that CEO’s talk about being able to not just see what their product(s) can do now, but they also ask what their companies are capable of- what they dream of doing in the future. They ask questions such as, What is the vision of the company? Do you believe in the vision we have for this product? How can we do things differently while providing a better (and familiar) experience? What they are asking, is whether you believe in the product and can see ways to implement it into every persons life.

Do you see what they see, employee? Or how about you, Mr. boss. Can you see the beauty of what this company delivers (in order to lead it), and why the world needs it? How does the product improve a persons life? How does it give them something they didn’t have before? Unless you take the product, and therefore the company, seriously, you won’t have an adequate answer. If you’re leading a company, unless you treat the product as invaluable, your company will have no value.

There are four implications with working with a vision (according to the world), or following those who have one. Today, we’ll examine these points and ask whether or not the Bible supports them. Not just in a workplace environment, we’re also going to examine (over the next few posts) whether churches are better off with applying secular business principles into church administration. Then, we’ll take a look at how to glorify God while supporting the vision of your business or church. Is vision bad? Absolutely not. But, we need to align our vision so that what we see will be seen from the right distance, from the right angles, and in the right way. The only one with perfect vision is God, so let’s ask Him what He sees. Thinking, feeling, and living, are utilized well or poorly, based on the order of their priorities.

Here are four aspects (I’ve synthesized) regarding obedience to the vision of your company:

1) The vision of the company asks the employee to set his or her sights, goals, and life’s ambitions towards this end: the expansion of the company, happiness of the customer. and the depth of the product.

2) As a consequence, ones focus and thought life must consist of thinking, meditating, and finding ways to communicate this vision or message.

3) Not just in terms of thinking, it also asks for the passion (affections) of the employee to be for this product, and aiming the passion for this product out into the world.

4) It has a goal: not just to meet temporary tasks, but to also make this vision a lifetime ambition and career choice. It asks you for your life. Therefore, some workaholics succeed by taking the company seriously, but all too occasionally in an idolatrous way.

This all sounds very evangelical in nature, doesn’t it? You spread the gospel (the product) by having a vision for it (via Scripture) and take it out into the world (evangelism) to show how it can improve everyone’s life (discipleship). Wait a second. If this model works in business, couldn’t we, theoretically, use business principles to build a local church that grows like companies can? What do they do that makes them work so effectively? Perhaps there is something to this vision thing.

Some of the principles above can overlap with ministry. However, the practices (not just philosophies) of the business model are prominent in the American church-growth methods of today. Pastors are looking for, “visionary” leaders to take the helm of different ministries. They want a dynamic skill-set: charismatic (as in, gifted speaker, perhaps theologically charismatic too), excellent communication skills, exuberant, hip or up to date, culturally savvy- someone you want to follow. Is this wrong? Is this right? Could it be improved, or should it be thrown out the window?

Over the next few days we’ll cover this subject pragmatically (results), philosophically (foundation), and scripturally (truth-source) to find out the answer. Of course, as Christians, Scripture has the final say in anything it says. As Jonathan Edwards writes, philosophy and theology are in agreement, not opposition. Proper use of philosophy will lead to Biblical conclusions.

Has any of the above struck a chord with you? Do you feel that you need to invest less in work and more in Christ? Do you feel the tension between working hard and honoring God? Most of the time, the tensions we feel are a result of us trying to serve two masters. The Christian life includes aiming all of your actions away from idolatry and above earthly results- more than the paycheck, for the boss, or to pay the bills. It’s about worshiping Jesus. There’s much more to this, but for now I encourage you to go to Christ and tell Him everything that’s on your mind. He understands your weaknesses (Heb. 4:12-16).

Today, I leave you with a passage out of 1 Timothy:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:6-12 ESV)

Grace to you,
Austin Thompson

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