3 Kinds of Weak Vision That Entice Church Leaders

Warning: This post will challenge some of your assumptions about vision in the church.

Across the North American church landscape this year, many pastors will articulate a vision and compel people toward a preferred future that is weak. It’s very nature will be lacking in biblically rugged, God-saturated, deeply compelling content. Note that I said the vision will be weak; not bad and not wrong. What do I mean by this comment? The three kinds of weak vision I want to clarify are lacking potency because they are more of a means to an end that we often realize. Therefore they are missing the end-game, the bigger deal, the ultimate move. “Means” is not the meat of vision casting. For example, if General Electric wants to “Bring Good Things to Life,” they don’t show you the blueprint of the dishwasher.

Now a pastor may quickly assent to the fact that that the three kinds of vision are indeed means to a greater end. But afterwards he will practically and experientially guide his people with a lower aim. I have seen it hundreds of times. So what are the three kinds of weak vision?

  • A building is a weak vision. We intuitively get this. We know the building is a “tool” to accomplish the “bigger mission.” Yet, in the daily grind of raising money in our capital campaigns, its easy to appeal only to the consumeristic impulse of the congregation. A building is a means to something.
  • Going multisite is a weak vision. The move to multisite is the most relevant kind of weak vision today. The number of multisite churches is accelerating, and the average size of a multisite church is decreasing. It is safe to say that multisite is the new normal. And for good reasons. But ask a pastor about the vision driving the multisite, and you might be surprised how little they have to say. Multisite is a means to something.
  • More people in worship is a weak vision. The third one is connected to the first two. Indeed you may think it is the substance of the first two. We are building a building to what end? More people of course! We are going multi-site to what end? More people of course. Now don’t get me wrong. I think every church should be reaching more people and multiplying disciples. And more people, more building and more campuses are all important features of the vision. But by themselves they are weak. More people is a means to something.

Allow me to illustrate  a strong vision with my home church, Clear Creek Community Church in Houston. Our vision is what I call a “gospel saturation” vision. We have adopted a 500,000 population area that we refer to as the “4B” area. (From the beltway to the beach; from Brazoria county to the bay.) One of two people in this area are “nones;” that is they have no faith affiliation whatsoever. In the next 15 years, our vision is for each of the these 500,000 people to be one degree away, relationally speaking, from an invitation into a gospel-centered, missional community. With this summarized substance of the vision, we can now see how buildings, multisite campuses and more people are means to a full picture, high-definition vision.  We see the need for ten campuses and know that three campuses will anchor the ten with more significant buildings. But those pieces aren’t the purpose themselves. Why is it critical important to show buildings, multi-site and more people as means and not ends?

  • First, focusing on means unintentionally amplifies the self-promoting motives of church leadership. An ends-based vision, in contrast, connects the idea of “bigger” to the broader redemptive motives of God.
  • Second, highlighting the means only incurs emotional connection indirectly through the personal contact to and relationship with a church leader. In other words, I don’t get excited about a mean-based vision unless I am friends with he pastor who is casting it. Ends-based vision, on the other hand, accelerates emotional connection directly with the picture of the future, not the person talking about it.
  • Third, means-based vision is ultimately a church-centric idea. Therefore people let the “pastor and staff” be the owners of it. Ends-based vision, however, distributes the accomplishment of the vision to each one, every day in the congregation. The real vision must be a life-centric idea, not a church-centric one.

I know all this talk of “means” and “ends” sounds a little nerdy. (The engineer in me!) But I hope it connects you back to the simple leadership model of Jesus.

Want to read more about strong vision: Check out “The Church List for the Rest of Us.” It’s called the Unique 19 and it is 19 amazing stories of vision that are not based on church size.

Read more from Will here.

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Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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