Church Leaders Must Cast Vision; “Where There is No Vision the People Perish” Revisited

Chris —  June 19, 2012

Church leaders seeking to establish the biblical basis for a vision statement should look to passages like Revelation 22 rather than misapplying Proverbs 29:18’s “where there is no vision the people perish.” Let’s be vivid in calling people to fix their eyes on Christ and continue forward.

How many times have you heard it? A pastor seeking to defend the biblical basis for a vision statement quotes the KJV translation of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” It reads like a perfect verse for justifying¬† vision statements, but as I pointed out in an earlier post, quoting this verse as a proof text for a vision statement misapplies the verse. The point of Proverbs 29:18 is that apart from the Word of God society loses all self-control (sound familiar?).

Having said that,¬† a biblical basis for vision statements is easily provided without misapplying Proverbs 29:18. Scripture repeatedly demonstrates that biblical leaders pointed people to a vivid picture of the future when seeking to unify and motivate. Recall what Jesus said when comforting his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions. . . .I go to prepare a place for you. . . (John 14:1-6).

One of the most compelling leadership vision statements ever written is found in Revelation 22. Writing to a suffering church, John shares a vision of where God’s people are headed: a heavenly city with a river flowing from the throne, surrounded by trees with people from every tribe and tongue.

We often tell our children at home, “I can’t promise you that I will always be around. We live in a world of cancer and accidents. But if for some reason we get separated then we’ll meet on the other side.” In fact, as a family we have a spot picked out where we plan to meet all picked out: the 5th tree on the right side, as we face the throne of Christ. Our goal is to give our children a compelling biblical picture of where we are headed.

Our children laugh when I remind them to be on the right side of the river as we face Christ. I often tease one our sons (who doesn’t always listen so well) that he is going to be on the wrong side of the river. We have fun with that. But there is a serious point to it. I want them to envision a very concrete picture of being in the presence of Christ. I’m working to be vivid. It’s really going to happen and we must all be headed there.

It was a vivid picture of the Heavenly City that sustained Abraham. He was looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10). Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, because he was fixed on a vision of his reward (Hebrews 11:24-28).

Of course, church vision statements need not focus exclusively on the New Earth. We need also to paint a compelling picture of what we are looking for in the short run. So Paul said to the Philippians, share the mind of Christ so that in being unified and serving one another our joy will be complete (Philippians 2:1-11).

Here’s the question, “Are you painting a vivid,Christ-centered picture of the future which will unify and motivate those you are leading — whether it is your church or your family?” Where are you telling your folks that you are going to meet? You’re welcome to come by the 5th tree on the right side of the river as you face the throne. We’re going to have a great party.


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4 responses to Church Leaders Must Cast Vision; “Where There is No Vision the People Perish” Revisited

  1. This is something I have been struggling with at the church I serve. I want to be able to cast the vision in such a way that the congregation takes it as their own and not just something that I come up with.

  2. Tom, thanks for the comment. It really does help to hear from readers when something connects.

    You’re right about vision – – – it has to be shared. Leaders can come up with all kinds of ideas, but it does no good if our people aren’t invested in where we are headed. Hence, the importance of God’s Word and prayer!

  3. The caveat I would issue here is this: church vision can be used to unite most of the congregation, but ultimately used to divide the congregation. When dissenters have biblical objections to the vision and its implementation, the dissenters can sometimes be ignored, mistreated or excommunicated to promote a fake “unity”. When this happens, I would be inclined to say that the implementation of the particular vision that the leadership / congregation chose is actually unbiblical. Just my $0.02.

  4. Thank you, Lynda, for stopping by. It is very possible for any given church to choose an unbiblical vision. Hence, we must ever see to be immersed in the Word.