Let’s consider a fluid word this morning. By fluid, I mean a word whose definition often changes based upon its user. The versatility or fluidity of this word often finds its demise somewhere between the articulation and interpretation that occurs between the caster and the receiver. The word encompasses an abstract idea that has the potential, in a loose way, to be touched, to be seen, and to be heard. The word in question today is vision.
Looking back to the statement of vision’s demise, often occurring somewhere between the caster and the receiver, let me explain. For one man, vision may be a “goal.” A goal for an organization. A goal for a church. A goal for a family. A goal for finances. Thus, for this man vision is encapsulated within a meaning that focuses on the “end result of primary objectives.” However, for another man, vision may represent the present objective of a current or single task. Based on this, we have a broad visionary and a narrow visionary. However, before one casts stones, both men claim to have vision…and they do!
Yet vision, though comprising both aspects of these two men’s perceptions, is a much larger concept that cannot be trapped within a box of broad and narrow. What I mean by this, is that vision as a whole defines the central motivation, purpose, mission, and output of the subject. Bring this closer to home for the purpose of the church, and vision defines the central motivation, purpose, mission, and output of the individual (you and I) or the ministry (departmentally or personally). When it comes to the individual or the church, vision is the coalescing glue that binds. To get a proper meaning of this, consider the chair you are sitting on. Consider the table, the carpet, the walls, this lecture desk; all this stuff.
Now, consider the atom. Yes, stuff is made of atoms. And every atom is a nucleus orbited by electrons. Every nucleus is built of protons. Every proton is – but there you reach the end of the line. Inside the proton lies the deep, unsettling truth: Stuff is made of nothing, or almost nothing, held together by glue, lots of glue. Science has determined that a proton is made of three quarks (the building blocks of all matter), but the quarks are infinitesimal—just 2 % of the proton’s total mass.
These quarks are rattling around at near light speed inside the proton, but they themselves are imprisoned in flickering clouds of other quarks which materialize briefly and then vanish. However, the force that seems to hold these quarks together, which keeps one from dividing the proton, are called gluons. These gluons act as the name sounds, thus, protons are essentially nothing more than little blobs of glue which scientists are baffled as to how the universe somehow designed this glue that is responsible for coalescing all matter. This, in a technical nutshell, is the same with vision. Ultimately, it is the sustaining force that coalesces the whole.
Think of it as the operation of the human body. Every human body is distinctly different in shape and size. However, every human body in its ideal state functions the same. The heart undergoes contractions that pull in and pump out blood that is shot through a network of veins, dispersing oxygen and nutrients to the body, yet at the same time picking up waste and dumping them into other organs of the body that act as cleansers. An intricate organic network that contains heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, colon, and so much more! Each organ in the human body has a mission; a purpose.
Yet, to define the mission of each said system in the body is futile without the vision of the whole! It is impossible to clarify the mission of the heart without regarding the mission of the whole. The heart does not function in a vacuum, disregarding the objectives of neighboring organs. Instead, the human body is a seamless, integrated organism whose ultimate objective is to maintain (and maximize) LIFE. Suddenly, we come full circle back to the two men we mentioned in the beginning (Mr. Broad Vision and Mr. Narrow Vision).
The narrowed purpose of the lungs is to provide clean, usable air to the body. The narrowed purpose of the liver is to clean the blood. However, each individual organ or system of the human body ultimately sustains, maintains, and maximizes the life of the whole. Thus, for everything to work in the realm of vision, Mr. Narrow Vision must also be Mr. Broad Vision. Why? Live life as Mr. Broad Vision alone, and you kill Mr. Narrow Vision. Live as Mr. Narrow Vision alone, and you kill Mr. Broad Vision. As scripture expresses, “members comprise the whole of the body.”
Now, while this should be done in segmented sessions, for the sake of time and the fact that that option is not available, there is something else to consider. Capturing vision in the concept of the human body, the operation of parts in the whole, one must not forget that the human body undergoes stages. First, conception occurs and from conception the process of development is engaged. Before one can ever reach the potential of vision as described in the operation of the human body, vision, like the human body must first be conceived and then it must be developed. This is where we run into problems.
Vision has been conceived! The news goes out and the party begins. Plans are made, items are purchased, and the world begins to prepare for visions arrival. However, this is where the failure of vision often occurs; improper development. Something doesn’t go right and vision is not brought to a lively birth, but rather, too often it is brought to a stillbirth. Look back over each of our lives and consider the myriad of visions we began to prepare to unveil, and yet, there is nothing but the “night dreams” that dissipate in the day.
It is in that murky fog that vision seems to perish. The attempted visionary asks those he seeks to compel, “do you see it?” “See what,” they respond? Then, almost like running an ultrasound against the womb of vision, they attempt to show the family evidence of what could be! Ah, the promise of vision! The intangible stages of fetal development. However, this is very important, the promise of vision is grossly different than the realization of vision. Just liked promising technology speaks of potential, breakthrough technology speaks of realization. The only bridge that crosses one from promise to breakthrough is development.
How can one cast the mature vision of growth without the proper developmental process which brings visional conception to that point of materialization? The pregnancy is laborious, tedious, painful, and uncomfortable. Birth is no more pleasant. However, Conception to birth doesn’t end the narrative of vision, but instead, starts the true journey of development and future maturation.
Perhaps if I posit a scenario it will make more sense. In various churches I minister at across the nation, various stages of growth are occurring. As growth occurs, often times the first dynamic presented in way of vision are “Let’s build!” Absolutely…right? Well, it all depends. If I were to then ask “why are you building,” what then would the response be? More than likely, nine out of ten times, the response to that question would be, “to make room for future growth,” or “we are running out of room.”
Both are valid reasons. If I were to press further, the ultimate dynamic of future growth translates into the concept of evangelism, harvest, and revival. Now, I present the important question: “what is your vision for evangelism?” This is where, quite frankly, I see that many leaders would struggle to provide an answer because, while they may have various departments and programs, their churches have no dynamic vision as it relates to evangelism. Therefore, many leaders would cast the vision to build and fail to have a vision to evangelize. In some cases this is the cart-before-the-horse! Please understand, I am not taking away from “build” under the basis of faith and hearing from God. I am addressing a common condition in which the vision of the cart is nurtured before the vision of the horse is secured.
“Well, I got a good deal on the cart,” one exclaims! While I believe in good deals, sadly, the Kingdom of God doesn’t rise and fall on “good deals.” The Kingdom of God falls on good stewardship, wisdom, and proper investment. A dilapidating cart which was bought upon the vision of the future grand increase it would carry becomes the provoker of mistrust, faithlessness, and timidity to future vision.
Another thing to consider is that vision without development breeds investors without the same. This is the beauty of proper vision that develops; people grow as the vision is reaching it way to realization. Why? Because proper vision which is accompanied with proper development produces a degree of value which the investor receives. Vision communicates “how to get there” and thus, getting there involves taking its investors along with it. As the vision develops-so the people develop.
Herein, vision, in the context of a church, cannot be separated from the congregation. The development of vision is congruent with the development of the people. One cannot grow without the other! If the people have no vision…they perish! If the vision has no people to sustain it…vision perishes!