Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vision Casting, God's Way

Vision-casting is a term that has been in vogue in much of churchdom over the last few years. In fact, if you read many blogs or articles, you get the sense that any pastor that is worth his salt now days has this at the top of his priority list; and that it is a must if you are being the kind of pastor you should be.

In a recent paper by Tim Keller on how size affects church behavior, he posited that once a church gets to a certain size then the pastor should have staff in place so that he can spend his time vision-casting. Another popular blog that I check on from time to time recently posted a list they had run across of the top 10 attributes needed in a church planter, and number one was....vision...you must have it and be able to sell it. Two years ago I watched a video of a church service from a up and coming SBC church in South Carolina and whole service was about this vision that God was birthing in the pastor for the new and improved direction for the church. What was he doing? He was selling his vision to the church. I listened to a staff member of another church talk about what his responsibilities were, and how his performing his duties were enabling the lead pastor to spend more time vision-casting, as this was so important for this pastor to be doing. I use these examples to show how vision-casting is ubiquitous in the church and no section is immune to it.

What is vision-casting you might ask? Boiled down to its essence, it is nothing more than strategic planning. It is a business model and practice that has been co opted by the church and made to sound like it is indispensable for building and pastoring a church. Now don't get me wrong, some planning and thinking through critical issues regarding his church is needed by every pastor; but it is not the most important thing he does, and I don't believe it is even near the top of the list.

As pastors, if we truly need to have a vision for our church, would it not seem logical, even important, to see if the Bible gives us information or instruction as to what God's vision for the church is, so that we can then implement that vision. Knowing, after all, that it is His church, not ours, so any vision we have for the church must be in keeping with His vision.

In looking into the Scriptures for what the Lord's vision is for His body, what we find is His vision for the body is intrinsically tied to His vision for each individual believer, as He wants the same for each and every one of us. What is God's vision for each one of His children? It is Christ! Romans 8:29 tells us "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." This is God's vision for each believer, to become like His Son. Let's look at Ephesians 4:13 and 15 to see what His vision is for the individuals who make up the church, "until we all attain to ...the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. ...we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ."

Christ likeness is the vision that God has for all of us who are His beloved children, and He will accomplish that in our lives. Philippians 1:6 says this, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." And I John 3:2 gives us this promise, "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."

What is the means through which God will accomplish His vision for us while we are here in this world? It is the teaching and preaching of His word. And reading through Ephesians 4:11-16 you see that God has given pastors and teachers as the main means to carry out His vision of Christ likeness. Let's look at some verses that show us what Paul, the ultimate pastor, has to say about his responsibility in the carrying out of this vision. I Timothy 1:6 he says this, "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." In Galatians 5:19 he puts it this way, "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you." Finally, look at his God given vision for each person in Colossians 1:28-29 "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works in me." Notice how the phrase every man is used three times here in admonishing every man, teaching every man, so that we can present every man. And what is the purpose for which Paul labors and strives in this admonishing, teaching, and presenting every man? It is so that every man may be presented complete in Christ, fully Christlike, lacking in none of the attributes of Christ. In other words, Christ fully formed in them and them fully conformed to the image of Christ. Did Paul tell Timothy to be spending his time vision-casting? No, he told him to study to show himself approved, to preach the word in season and out, to guard the treasure entrusted to him, and to entrust it to faithful men who would do the same. It is the word of God that God uses to conform us to Christ. In fact, it is the the word put to music in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs by which we are to teach and admonish one another.

My fellow pastors and teachers, is Christ likeness your vision for your church, for each and every member of your church, each and every person that the Lord has allotted to your watch care? When you spend your time vision-casting, is this vision of Christ in each of your people the vision that comes to your mind? If not, may I dare suggest that your vision is not God's vision. If you are spending time envisioning and planning for anything else other than this then you are wasting your time; and it is time that cannot be redeemed and effort that will be wood, hay, and stubble before the judgement seat of Christ. You will have labored in vain, you will have envisioned in vain if this is not your vision for your church.

In envisioning and planning, everything that the church does should be subservient to and facilitate reproducing Christ in each and every soul brought under and assigned to its care. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commissioned the church to make disciples, not build ministries. Pastoral vision casting should be concerned with accomplishing God's vision as He has laid it out in Scripture, not coming up with unique and clever concepts to build ministries or attract crowds. As pastors, God's vision should be our vision. We are not allowed to have our own vision for the church, or to make the church according to our vision. If you will make God's vision your vision you can trust Him to build His church, and you will have built for eternity and upon His word, which is the only sure and lasting foundation.

See also: A Vision of Christ

Friday, October 02, 2009

Trust and Obey

...the consequences of faithfulness
are for God to determine,
not for us to anticipate.
Ian Hamilton
Banner of Truth
October 2009
Page 18