Concerns for a Vision-Driven Church
My folks have been consistently involved in a small local church in Orange County for decades. Last year, the pastor gave notice of his retirement and so the elder board, associate pastor, and a few others came together to begin forming a “Search Committee.” As a small group they would assess the needs of the church, review candidates applying for senior pastor, and assist in the transition. However, as the project has wore on deeper questions are beginning to surface about the spiritual conditions of the church as well as what kind of personality could be applied to engage with the shortcomings and deficiencies of the body. While the leaders of the church are exercising discernment and wisdom in this decision, the questions and discussions about church leadership in the modern local setting have led me to consider more deeply the criteria by which we assess good leadership.
The trendy word tacked onto the successful preachers, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals is visionary. Usually this means that the person is creative, inventive, and approaches each task with innovative ideas to gather more people, assets, and support to fulfill an ultimate mission. All in all, its a pretty great personality gift, but I think we have done a disservice to our church leaders by understanding vision only in this forward-looking progressive mode and making this kind of “vision” a necessary and predominate criteria for successful leadership. I am not saying that the gifts of a visionary are not valuable or that visionaries ought to be disqualified from ministry. Rather, I want to offer some qualifications to how we think of a “vision.”
1. If a local church has a visionary leader, make sure they have good eyes.
In a time when the small local church is struggling to stay afloat, fellowships are willing to give into nearly anything to remain sustainably attractive. Unfortunately, this usually consists of pulling a visionary with a track-record of making church popular. Revamp worship. Reimagine children’s ministry. Reconstruct the sanctuary. While many visionaries offer rejuvenating adjustments and creative alterations, the vision must be seen with the eyes of a servant lest one echoes the pride of Babylon saying, “Is not this great youth ministry, which I have envisioned by my creativity and charisma?” I think that the vision of the humble will far exceed the vision of the one who aims to accomplish the great and glamorous for their own self-satisfaction or popular approval. It is ironic that the humble seat is too high for many of us to climb and that the humble vision is the one caught up in the divine and eternal will. The leader with a servant’s eyes will lead according to the spiritual needs of the church rather than working to satisfy the bottomless appetite of egos and cultural trends.
2. Ultimately, there is only one vision for the Church, Jesus Christ Himself.
All other goals fall short. The Christ did not come with the vision of establishing successful and flourishing ministries, non-profits, and private Christian schools. Vision is not about progress, but a person. Jesus came and did what he did because he had a vision of the Father’s love and will for men. It was out of this vision that Jesus preached the kingdom of God, the hope for sinners, and the peace of God. The ministry of Christ came to a conclusion when He ascended to Heaven to be with the Father once again.