Where there is no vision, the people perish: Proverbs. 29.18

   18 If people can’t see what God is doing,
  they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
  they are most blessed.  (MSG)

Webster’s 1970 edition of The New World Dictionary lists six definitions for vision, the fourth says that vision is, “the ability to foresee or perceive something not actually visible, as through mental acuteness.” Myles Munroe says, “Vision is the ability to see farther than your physical eyes can look” (Munroe 2003, 17). According to George Barna, “Vision transcends time” (Barna 2003, 15). Yet another author says vision includes optimism and faith and is venturous (Sanders 1994, 56). Jim Collins sees vision a bit differently. His “hedgehog concept” is realizing the one thing you were called to do well and focusing and filtering all other ideas through that one concept (Collins 2001).

     Biblically, a vision can be several things. Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in the temple. Samuel’s vision of the Lord in 1 Samuel 3 was auditory and apparently not even visible since Samuel responded by going to Eli three times before receiving the vision through the voice of the Lord. Paul’s vision of the Lord was both in Word and sight as he experienced the resurrected Lord on the way to Damascus. In Hebrews, faith is described in the ESV as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Let me say this right from the top: there is no single more important factor to the success of a church than a clear, crisp, shared vision.  Period.  Now let me tell you why.

I have seen a lot of projects.  Big projects involving many hundreds of people over many years and with many variables.  Small projects involving a couple of people over a couple of weeks.  And many in between.  While it is self-evident that having a clear, shared vision isn’t a magic bullet that solves all problems, it is equally clear to me that every church without one, struggles and often fails. 

There are a number of reasons why having a vision is so important:

A vision helps everyone in the church make decisions
A vision is a useful yardstick for success, and failure
A vision can form the basis for the promotion for church departments
A vision is a rallying cry, greatly improves morale

Without a vision, church members make many day-to-day decisions in a vacuum.  Most of our lives are made up of hundreds of small choices, and a few large ones.  What should I have for lunch?  Should I take I-5 or the surface streets?  Should I marry this person?  Some context for making all these decisions is vital.

In our personal lives, we make these choices based on many factors, from our experience, our research, even our faith.  Our church lives are very much the same, decisions get based on some framework. 

Without a vision, everyone from the top of the organization on down is left to make decisions without a common goal.

For example, let’s say you are constructing a new building whose vision is: create the tallest building in the world on this specific site in Tokyo for a budget of 750 million yen. 

With that vision, the architect clearly knows that anything less than the tallest building is not correct.  They also know the parameters of what they can spend on materials, because they have a budget.  The construction managers know precisely what the location is, what access to the site is like, and what they need to consider with respect to zoning laws.  And each worker knows where to report.

But it goes beyond that.  As the project progresses, questions will come up.  Should we add this flagpole to the top?  Having this vision helps make that decision — it adds to the height and furthers the vision, so “yes”, add the flagpole. 

The people working on the project know clearly the objective, so this decision doesn’t have to be discussed and debated to death.  There are thousands of other small decisions that having a clear, crisp, well-communicated vision can help you with.

It is a useful yardstick.

A vision provides often provides a clear yardstick for success.  To take the previous example, if the building is 10 meters short of the tallest building in the world, you know precisely that it was not a success.  As it progresses, and the budget is consumed, you can tell precisely how you are doing against the goal of 750 million yen.  And so on.

The vision can illuminate well down into the church as well.

If you are working on a small part of the project, and what you are doing is not in concert with, or worse, in direct opposition to the vision, you know there is a problem.  With a properly defined vision, everyone in the church can not only measure their part in the project, but also their performance against it.

Once you have a clear vision, it also can enlighten outside the church.   Again taking the above example, you know the promotional material for this building will trumpet the fact that it is the tallest building in the world.

Great visions also lead to great results.

If a vision is exciting and invigorating for the church, it can also be invigorating for the saints. 

It is a rallying cry.

Perhaps the most important thing that a great vision can do is serve as a rallying cry for the church.  Many times members of the church will be asked by friends, coworkers, family, everyone, “what are you up to these days?”  Having a crisp, snappy reply can be extremely invigorating for people.

“Building the tallest building in the world” or “I am giving outside my life!” is a quick comeback to the question and is enough to make most people extremely proud.  Not only are they proud of what they want to do, but it enables them to speak spontaneously about their part in it, and to feel like what they are doing has some meaning.

Contrast this with the typical reply: “oh, you know, same ol’, same ol’.”  Many people aren’t fortunate to go to work doing something they love to do, or can be proud to be a part of.  Use the vision for your church as a way to communicate the importance of the goal to every member of the church, and let them share in the passion you have for the goal.

Besides, if your vision is good, clear, and full of impact, you can use it at the end of every service, promote it through every department, etc.

Summary — Vision is Extremely Important!

A clear, crisp, well-communicated vision that is shared by, and used by, the whole church can be the difference between success and failure.  Work on defining the vision early in the process, and use it constantly throughout the year to aid in decision making, as a rallying cry for the troops, and as a yardstick for success. 

For 2012 our vision is “Giving outside your life”.

Cast your vision!