I was chatting with a few ministry colleagues on one occasion about various pressures in ministry. One of them mentioned that for him, it was the expectation of some to be able to come up with a compelling and articulate picture of the ministry’s future. In short – a vision. Another of my friends immediately quipped, “Oh yes, don’t mention the “V” word!”
So what’s wrong with the “V” word? How is it that vision has become such an anathema?
Although modernity was handing the baton over to post-modernity during the 80’s, there was nonetheless quite a fixation on management and management theory. Perhaps a little surprisingly, it was the church – it seems – who couldn’t get enough of it. Bookshops dedicated entire aisles to the “Business” section. Christian authors couldn’t produce enough volumes. Leadership conferences were attended with the same fervour as revival meetings and business leaders – based on their competency – were ushered into leadership positions with open arms. In particular, churches and various ministries were busily framing their latest “Vision Statement”. Often aspirational in nature, they described a preferred future.
Now not all of these were bad and in fact, many continue to serve as a guide for various ministries today. So what’s the difference between an enduring vision statement and one that has become obsolete?
Most folk are agreed that if the vision is worth it’s salt, it must come from God, so perhaps the difference here has to do with the type of vision God desires to give?
Provers 29:18 is often quoted to support the need for a vision statement. It says,
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” (American King James Version)
Given the confusion surrounding the word vision, many translations use the words “prophetic vision” or “revelation”, for example,
“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (New Living Translation)
“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (New International Version)
The Hebrew word for “vision” here is hâzôwn. Nowhere in the Old Testament does this mean human foresight. It refers instead to a divinely given revelation or insight (a prophecy or oracle) sometimes referring to future events, but not always. Note how the context for this verse would seem to support the idea that – the vision referred to here – will impact daily conduct.
It’s easy to miss the link between vision and conduct. Simply put,
without divine revelation – we don’t know how to live.
The proverb finishes by declaring how blessed a person is when they find a vision for living through God’s word (tôrâh).
When considered this way, perhaps more than ever before we need vision! Perhaps we need to bring back the “V” word but better understand God’s purpose for it.