The Supremacy of Vision (part ten)
In the Garden, Jesus modeled visionary leadership, powerfully.
As scripture reveals, Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. Wrestling with his impending crucifixion, he demonstrates the final key distinction about vision: the leader subordinates her psychology to her vision.
Here’s what I mean:
This agony, we understand, was his natural human response to the anticipation not just of a dreadfully painful execution by crucifixion, but also some kind of separation from the Father [Mt 27:46] for a period of time.
Physiologically, sweating blood is called “hematidrosis”. When capillaries around the sweat glands rupture, and blood oozes through the sweat ducts. It occurs when a person is facing death or highly stressful events, having been seen in prisoners before execution and during the London Blitz.
Hematidrosis indicates just how powerful Jesus emotions were. Bible translators describe his prayer as fervent, urgent, earnest, anguished, and intense.
Fully human, Jesus possessed all his psychology. He experienced the full range of human emotions.
Just like you do.
We see him engaging deep, intense emotion—completely authentic and appropriate in light of what he’s facing. And, he didn’t just emote. He wrestled. He cried out: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” [Lk 22:42a]
It was not for show.
Real, honest, penetrating, intense emotions.
And, he chose to subordinate his emotions to his vision: the will of the Father. He suspended his human preference for emotional resolution (apprehensions comforted, fears assuaged, aloneness addressed, hurt salved, etc.) so that his great, world-changing, eternity-impacting vision could be accomplished.
He resolved: “…yet not my will, but yours be done.”
This is visionary leadership.
Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s team’s research of 1,300 biblical, historical, and contemporary Christian leaders has revealed patters—similarities—in the ways God develop leaders. One is that all leaders experience Leadership Backlash multiple times over their lifetimes. Leadership backlash occurs when leader and followers move to fulfill the vision they’ve agreed upon. Then, when unanticipated difficulties arise, followers turn against the leader, on whom they blame the setbacks.
In backlash, the leader’s psychology is activated. Depending on the leader’s spiritual maturity, those emotions either request, demand, or tantrum to be assuaged. Often isolated, alone, the leader either abandons the vision, or subordinates her psychology to it, like Jesus in the Garden.
This it the pursuit of God-authored vision against all odds, through all resistance—even our own. We have our psychology. But, no longer driven by it, we can marshal its potency to keep us moving toward vision’s fulfillment.
Like Jesus did.
The Supremacy of Vision part ten.docx
The Precision of Vision (part nine)
As a leader, the clearer you become—about who you are and what you’re for—the clearer those around you become.
Problem is: we don’t always like what that clarity reveals.
Imagine leading a ministry which such clear focus and purpose that everyone is aligned behind the vision. Where everyone’s energy is invested in pursuit of the ministry’s goals.
Being laser-focused about your church’s purpose will drive off everyone who wants something inconsequential, self-centered, and puny.
Everyone who wants something else
Very, very good.
Focused vision will attract exactly those who want that kind of church. Who’ll give themselves to have it happen.
Who are “up” for the sacrifice to accomplish something noble and God-honoring…something great with their lives.
Just ask the founding families at Willow Creek, Saddleback, YoungLife or any ministry that’s significantly advanced God’s Kingdom in this country.
You’ll hear about the precision of vision that called them to invest deeply, passionately, wholly in it.
Take up your cross every day in pursuit of me. [Lk 9:23]
If you don’t give up everything you have, you won’t be my disciple. [Lk 14:33]
Follow me and I’ll change everything about the way you live. [Lk 5:10]
Jesus’ was not some puny, inconsequential invitation to a happy, challenge-free life.
He called women and men to greatness: to God-honoring exploits that people would marvel at [Jn 14:12] and, as a result, honor God alone. [1 Pt 2:12, Mt 5:16]
Vision—true vision, God-authored vision—calls people to live great Kingdom-advancing lives.
Most don’t want it … they’ll flee.
Glory to God!
The Precision of Vision part nine.docx
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The grounding of vision is the Word of God. Nothing else will do.
Jesus said this about religious leaders who anchored their vision in their own ideas: “They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions…You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions… Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” [Mk 7:7-9,13]
It seems it’s become popular to play fast and loose with the Word of God in our day. Whole systems within Christendom have decoupled themselves from God’s Word, promulgating views grounded in popular culture and political correctness.
Now, if you’re Apple or GE or Procter & Gamble, I get it. Flex with the times, move with the market, that sort of thing.
But a Christian leader has another calling and concern.
Jesus put it this way: “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me… I always do what pleases him.” [Jn 8:28b, 29b]
If anyone’s in a position to trust his or her own instincts it’d be the Son of God.
Yet, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the word and will of the Father.
He expects the same from us: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” [Jn 12:48-50]
A psalmist concluded: “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” [Ps 119:105]
“Just what the Father has taught me…”
Working with churches across the country, there’s often a vocal minority whose vision is for the Church to focus on the care and comfort of her members. Though it can’t be defended biblically, this view is so prevalent that it’s led to the dismissal of pastors, the diminution of budding spiritual vitality, and discontinuing fruitful ministry to many outside the Church.
See, the grounding of vision is the Word of God. And nothing else will do.
The Grounding of Vision part eight.docx
We’re seven installments into an examination of the role and nature of vision in leadership.
We’ve considered how a compelling vision has the power to call us through the difficulty and discomfort of our own transformation; transformation in you that’s essential for the vision to become reality. We evaluated the urgent need for the Church to be alive, awake, and influential in a culture that—as Edwin Friedman observed—is chronically anxious. I challenged pastors to focus vision on those outside the Church. Not on those within it. Then, we looked at the essential interplay between the vision of leaders and followers necessary for people live into change.
“Grounding” means the soil—the dirt—in which vision is planted … and from which it springs.
Only vision that emerges from the revealed will of God, via God’s inerrant Word is legitimate for the Christ follower. When leaders take it upon themselves to concoct notions of a preferable future to which they’re committed it’s doubly disastrous.They’ve deceived themselves and who follow. This is one reason why Christian leaders face harsher judgment.
Consider James’ warning: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts…” [Jas 3:1,5a]
Ever observed a religious ceremony in an arm of the Church different than yours…and been bewildered by the “peculiar-ness” (I’m being polite) of whatever it was they were doing?
Ever had a denominational executive explain why their particular denomination exists, and what prompted it to sever relations with whomever they were aligned before? Did the explanation make any sense at all in advancing the cause of Christ in the Earth?
Have you ever questioned the motivation behind sprawling mega-church complexes where up to $100 million gets poured into elaborate buildings and beautiful grounds—that, for all practical purposes only benefit believers?
Jesus’ vision was grounded in the Father’s will. Nothing else.
“…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” [Jn 5:19]
“Father…take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” [Lk 22:42]
And, if you hadn’t noticed, the Father apparently was not interested in bizarre religious rituals, political hair-splitting, and self-eggrandizing empire-building.
The grounding for vision, yours, your church’s, your ministry’s, your denomination’s can only be the Scripture. Now, I don’t mean an obscure proof-text here and there. I mean the whole counsel of God. [Act 20:27]
The grounding of vision is the Word of God. Nothing else will do.
The Grounding of Vision part seven.docx
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Effective leaders cast vision people want to get behind. It’s not because the leader is so personally powerful or so uncommonly clairvoyant that catapults people to enthusiastically carry the vision. [I Cor 2:1-4]
It’s because the vision is what they wanted.
They may not have seen a way for it to be realized. They may not have language to express the longings in their hearts. They may’ve been unaware of their yearnings for these same things. But, as they hear the articulation of the vision, it springs to life within them.
Dormant no more.
Where “doing the stuff” of ministry wasn’t a privilege reserved for the paid clergy. [Eph 4:11-12]
Where the point was not growing the size of your particular congregation but advancing Jesus’ influence outside—in the community. The works of God on display alongside the Word of God. [Mk 16:20] And where we always, always cared for the poor. [Gal 2:10, Acts 3:6]
I wanted that!
My heart leapt when I sat in Jim Bristow’s living room hearing that chubby, bearded man open scripture and talk this way for the first time.
I felt I had always wanted that.
I always believed the Church should be like that. But, I had never, ever put words to it before. John’s vision (the red) and my vision (the yellow) overlapped (the orange), and it was game on!
It happened again when a since-discredited “prophet” from Kansas City Fellowship described sports arenas teeming with people being released from oppression, illness, disease. Lk 10:19] He called the throng of anonymous healers a “faceless generation”.
These were Christians who kept pointing people to Jesus. [Jn 14:6] Never to themselves, their churches, ministries, or denominations. [Phil 2:3-4] A multitude of believers so captured by the love of Christ, and so competent in liberating captives, healing diseases, and raising the dead that the miraculous happened routinely, almost naturally, free of commercialization and aggrandizement. [Jn 14:12]
That’s exactly what I wanted to be: A Christian doing the works of Christ in the world. Nothing more or less. [Mt 10:8]
I didn’t know I wanted it until I heard it. But then, I realized that I’d always wanted to be a part of that company. That caliber of person. That effective in the furthering cause of Christ. That damaging to the powers of darkness that tyrannize so many all around us.
God, I believe, embedded that vision deep in my heart.
I wonder if it’s in yours, as well.
To access it, you may have to suspend fear, rationalism, and the limitations of what you’ve believed is and isn’t possible…[Mk 9:23]
Christian leadership should be the most exciting, compelling, world-changing enterprise on the planet. [Acts 17:6] Embracing and communicating God’s intentionfor the Church, and because of it, for the waiting world.
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You’ll only effectively lead others where your vision and theirs coincide.
Since this is true, it is incumbent upon leaders to do three things well, as it relates to vision.
1) Get clear about God’s call to you and the vision for a preferable future that will result if God has his way. Vision has a way of unfolding as you obey what God has revealed. Like Abraham leaving Ur [Gen 12:1] and Peter leaving the fishing boat [Mt 14:29], God will call you to take a step – without revealing anything more. There’s no following God without risk…trust…faith.
Christian discipleship is a life of faith. Quit trying to rid The Faith of faith. Trusting God is central to the lifestyle of a Christ-follower.
If you wait for God to make every detail clear, you’ll never move, you’ll never act, you’ll never share. Vision is the end point; a word picture describing the impact God desires to make through you and your congregation. Consider who is impacted and in what ways they benefit, because Jesus’ Kingdom has come near them.
You’ll need a handful of communication devices—analogies, stories, similes, and examples to keep the vision real, tangible, and accessible to your people.
You’ll have to share the vision so often, in so many contexts, and in so many ways that you’ll tire of saying it long before people understand it well enough to embrace it as their own.
You hear yourself repeat it every time—but nobody else does! And those who hear you share the vision are actually hearing—not you—but what they are saying in their heads about what you’re saying.
Creative repetition is essential!
3) When you share vision watch how people respond.
Ask for feedback. What did people hear? What about the vision excites them, challenges them, concerns them? Have them describe the impact they believe God wants to have in the city. Listen generously. What can you agree with?
Who’s with you? Who wants what you believe God wants?
These are the ones you get to lead.
Don’t worry about convincing others. Be content to lead those who want to go where you’re headed. Who want to see that impact occur. As you do, others will discover they want it too.
The key to leadership is “followership”—and followership is always voluntary.
And you can only lead them where they already want to go.
This is a powerful, liberating truth for pastors and Christian leaders who are willing to break with the wrongheaded cultural assumptions about leadership and, instead, practice Jesus’ kind of leadership.
- How much positional authority did Jesus use to elicit followership?
- How often did he invite disciples to choose: “in” or “out”?
- When did he coerce? Manipulate?
- When they faced an impasse, how frequently did he grasp control, disempowering whose around him?
From the calling of Andrew, to the provision he made for the care of Mary when he was on the cross, Jesus led by invitation.
And, when Jesus’ vision “overlapped” with those who heard him, they followed.
So with you.
You will only effectively lead others in the area where your vision and theirs coincide.
In the diagram below, your vision for your congregation’s impact is represented by the yellow zone. Anna, a gifted lay leader’s vision is the red zone. The area where you and Anna get to collaborate to advance the Kingdom is the orange area.
I spend the majority of my waking hours coaching and equipping ministers. They give me permission to influence them in the zone where their vision and mine overlap.
Where we’re agreed.
Want to know how to soothe, calm, and pacify an entitled, demanding church member? Don’t ask me! I have no room in my vision for Jesus’ Church for coddling the immature or appeasing the petty terrorist on your elder board.
Want to explore ways to more effectively concentrate your resources on entertaining church members? I couldn’t care less. I mean it. I have no burden for putting on excellent feel-good productions for religious consumers. None.
But, you want to lead a congregation that routinely trusts Christ and risks to demonstrate the Good News to those in the community outside? I’m all about that!
Need help to identify, equip, and mobilize more lay leaders to reflect the character of Christ as they advance the Kingdom along side your staff? You bet!
You and I get to “play” together where our visions coincide.
And, no two leaders visions completely coincide.
And that’s OK.
Each person the Holy Spirit has placed in your congregation has been singularly shaped and prepared to touch lives and to embody the “Jesus kind of life” distinctively.
When God makes a thing, he makes each unique. Consider snowflakes, evergreens, mountains. But, when humans make so many things, we labor to make them all the same.
Cults labor for uniformity, conformity. Not so in the freedom for which Christ died.
We thrive together in that space, passionately pursuing what Christ has called each of us to. Most powerfully when it aligns.
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One reason there is so little courage in American churches is there’s so little vision.
Seems that the Church has completely forgotten what business its in.
Jesus was not in the religious education and entertainment business. He was not interested in drawing ever-larger crowds to listen to what he had to say.
He was in the Kingdom business.
His Father’s business: establishing and advancing the Kingdom reign and rule of God in the lives of women and men.
And, Jesus was in the people-development business: making mature apprentices of his way of life. His principle method for making disciples was challenge.
Read the Gospels and let yourself see how many times he put his disciples in situations that—in themselves—they were powerless to remedy.
They had to trust God.
So too, in the Book of Acts. Again and again they found themselves in unprecedented crises:
There was no playbook for what to do in any of these scenarios. Trusting God, they lept into the unknown—and kept moving, kept sharing, kept advancing Christ’s mission. And it didn’t often play out perfectly, even when they had God’s mind on what to do.
“…until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” [Eph 4:13 NLT]
Into Christ-like maturity.
In blind pursuit of self-centered indulgence, American culture is galloping as fast and as far as possible away from the Savior—her Savior.
As she does, her anxiety grows. And, as Edwin Friedman pointed out in A Failure of Nerve, as America becomes increasingly anxious, the least mature in society set the agenda.
It is the Church of Jesus Christ—alive, awake, and influential—that is the only hope for a nation bent on its own destruction.
This vision has captured my heart. Jesus’ Church, alive, awake, and influential. Mobilized to advance God’s Kingdom in our neighborhoods, communities, and cities. Congregations demonstrating Good News among the unchurched—regularly, generously, personally, and unconditionally. Evidencing the hope we have until people are compelled to ask us why.
Vision part two.doc
“Have a vision that can call you through the pain of transformation.”
It’s something we take for granted…
Until we find we’re losing it, or have gone blind altogether.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology 7,000,000 people go blind every year.
That’s seven million.
Imagine being unable to see.
In my work with pastors, churches, and systems across the US, I learned that many have a vision problem.
As society presses Christianity to the edges, many raised in Church in a very different era find themselves destabilized—unsteadied by the rapid secular ascent. Ministers are not immune. The chaplaincy model seems profoundly inadequate as parishioners die off and young and middle-aged adults evacuate the Church. Neighbors seem more disinterested than ever in our religious offerings…
Now, that’s the question.
The vision question.
What are you doing? What’s the reason you’re breathing? Why is your church in this community? What’s the difference you want to see it make?
It’s not arrogant to ask—and answer—this question. It’s essential!
“Have a vision that can call you through the pain of transformation.”
If there’s no compelling reason to invest deeply, passionately, even dangerously—the courageous won’t stay. They’ll go find a cause to champion, a wrong to right, an injustice to surmount, a greater good to get done—and go after that.
Somehow between the church that Jesus founded and the mess we have today, pastors have assumed their job is to soothe, comfort, encourage, and appease religious folks.
Pastor, your job is to make mature Christ-like disciples of Jesus.
People who change the world—beginning with their hometowns and neighborhoods and workplaces and schools–like Jesus commissioned us to.
The quote: “Have a vision that can call you through the pain of transformation.” I learned at a character development training God used to change my life more than a decade ago. It acknowledges that transformation—change—induces pain.
You’ll choose to embrace that pain in pursuit of a vision so good, so important, so noble as to call you forward into that pain and through that pain to what waits on the other side.
Power of Vision 1.doc
No book has been so confounding to me and, at the same time, so powerfully influential as Martin Buber’s I and Thou. Large chunks of the book, clumsily translated from Buber’s original German, for me are indecipherable. Then, like a flash of lightning, a paragraph or a page will suddenly illuminate the sorry condition of my soul – and I’m awash in deep repentance.
One of those lightning bolts is this:
“Free is the man who wills without caprice. He believes in the actual, which is to say: he believes in the real. He believes in destiny and also that it needs him. It does not lead him, it waits for him. He must proceed toward it without knowing where it waits for him. He must go forth with his whole being… He must sacrifice his little will, which is unfree and ruled by things and drives, to his great will that moves away from being determined to find destiny. The free man has only one thing: always only his resolve to proceed toward his destiny.”
Each of us has, according to Buber, two wills. A little will and a great will. The little will is ruled by our hungers and desires and drives. It is “unfree”, ruled by emotion and our preference for comfort and ease.
It is governed by the flesh.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh … walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. [Gal 5: 13f]
Maturity is realized when we subordinate our little will to our great will. Our great will is the motivation to live influential, God-honoring lives in humble submission to Christ and reliance on His Spirit no matter how difficult.
No longer capricious—no longer bounding from one self-centered desire to another (“I need to be comforted. What will people think of me? I want to be included. I must get my way! I’m stressed and deserve to relax.)— I’m free to pursue the destiny for which Christ gave me life.
Coaching distinctions #42.doc