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Demystifying the "vision thing"

April 16, 2016 | by Brian Thorstad

Vision is like the weather: everybody’s talking about it but nobody’s doing anything about it. If nobody’s doing anything about it, it’s because practically everybody is confused about it. 

Demystifying the “vision thing” has become a passion for me. It doesn’t have to be painfully confusing.

And a single, unifying vision really is vital, not because it’s trendy, but because multiple visions lead to gridlock.   

What is a vision anyway?

Let’s keep it simple. My vision is my dream for my church. It’s what I would love to see my church become. It’s what I think my church should change into. It’s my “dream” version of my current church.

What is our actual  church vision problem?

We like to say that the problem with most churches is that they don’t have a vision. I beg to differ. I would say that the problem is not that they don’t have a vision, it’s that they have many visions when their crying need is for one, unifying vision.

I have a recurring argument with a pastor friend.  He tells me that he’s not a leader and has no vision for his church. I tell him that he is a leader – which he is - and that he does have a vision for his church – which he does. I know this brother so well that I believe I could write down his vision for his church. It’s a good one too.

So who has a vision for their church?

Just about everybody. The board member who wants to keep everything the same has a vision: today’s church, projected into the future, unchanged. The gal who wants your church to have a big women’s ministry has her own vision. The guy who wants the church to have much louder, faster music has a vision. So does the gal who wants the church to have softer, slower music. The new guy who has told the pastor that he should preach more on Bible prophecy has a vision too.

The vision-values connection

Vision is always based on values. Real, actual, values, that is. If a church has a vision statement that genuinely reflects the church’s actual, corporate vision (most don’t), you can work backwards and discern its actual values. If a church has a values statement that accurately reflects the church’s actual, core values (most don’t) you can project it out into the future and discern the church’s vision. 

Looking back at the paragraph above, the guy who values stability and/or values the church just as it is, has a vision for an unchanged church. The gal who values women’s ministries has a vision which reflects her values. The guy who values loud, fast music has a vision which corresponds to his values, etc. Simple, isn’t it?

Here’s the “catch”

The challenge which faces us is not “how to get a vision.” The challenge is to get a vision for a church which is (1) God’s vision for that church (2) agreed upon by a critical mass of the members or at least a unified group of leaders.

That, of course, is a big challenge and it’s not something I can settle in this post. I’m guessing that we can agree, however, on three presuppositions with which to begin the process: (1) We need God’s vision, not Pastor Bill or sister Mary’s, and (2) God’s vision is going to be consistent with the Bible as well as our purpose of glorifying God and our mission of making disciples, and (3) A lot of prayer is going to be involved in downloading this vision from heaven.


Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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