Read an Excerpt
El Poder de La Vision / The Power of Vision
By George Barna Vida Publishers
Copyright © 2003George Barna
All right reserved.
• Vision transcends time. True visionaries have much in common regardless of when they live.
• As people of God seek to lead their churches, grasping God's vision for their ministry requires an investment in the vision.
• Those whom God chooses to use as leaders can be effective regardless of their lack of worldly qualifications.
Is vision a new concept? Take a look at one first-century visionary.
Five times my own people gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord's followers. I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm (2 Cor. 11:24-27, CEV).
This is the story of theapostle Paul. This is not the tale of a man who had nothing better to do with his life or who had no other options. Paul was well educated, articulate, a leader. By virtue of his background, he was a man with options. Yet he was determined to serve Jesus Christ, a spiritual leader he had sought to persecute, and to endure outrageous suffering and personal sacrifice as a result of this turnabout. It was a conscious, startling, incredible decision. For what reason?
Paul was an individual driven to fulfill a vision for ministry that God had entrusted to him.
Paul gives us glimpses of his comprehension of the vision for ministry that God had prepared for him. In 2 Timothy 1:11 he indicates the nature of his calling: His work is to be "a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher" (NKJV). In other letters Paul outlines aspects of his vision for ministry. It is in the Acts of the Apostles, though, where we gain the clearest insight into God's vision for Paul's ministry.
Throughout the latter half of the book of Acts, we see Paul preaching, teaching, admonishing and planting churches with the kind of fervor not found in a person who is simply earning a wage. Paul, convinced of God's design for his life, worked tirelessly to do God's calling. Paul was compelled by God's vision to commit his life to working out that vision in his daily life.
A Precedent for
Paul's passion was not without precedent, however. Hundreds of years earlier, another young man had a similar vision of how his life could count for the glory of his God. David became the second king of Israel, described as a man after God's own heart. Or, put another way, David was a man who had grasped God's vision for his life, a man whose service and worship exemplified the spirit and commitment of a person in deep relationship with God and who was devoted to carrying out the special tasks God had ordained for him.
In time, David replaced Saul as king, albeit reluctantly. It became necessary to remove Saul from his exalted post of leadership because he lacked God's vision for ministry. Instead, he viewed his position in human terms and attempted to serve in his own strength. His conduct so disgusted God that the prophet Samuel, who had anointed Saul to be king, eventually had to break the news to Saul that his self-reliance and consequent lack of obedience had caused him to fall out of God's favor and to be replaced as king (see 1 Sam. 13:14).
David, in contrast, reflected the humility, obedience, compassion and dedication to God that marks a true visionary leader in the church. You cannot read the psalms attributed to David without being struck by his passion to know and serve God. You cannot overlook the clear sense of the future that God had instilled within him. Like all visionary leaders, David was human and, as such, made mistakes. But one of his redeeming qualities was his burning desire to remain true to the vision for the future that God had placed in his heart, which God allowed him to work toward despite the frailties of his human nature.
Other biblical figures emerge as people moved by God's vision for their lives and ministries. Nehemiah was responsible for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, risking death at the hands of King Artaxerxes and various enemy tribes. His bold speech, his courageous confrontations with his opponents and his insightful instructions to the Jews who struggled with him to rebuild the holy city were a testimony to the vision for ministry he had received from God. After an intense period of mourning, weeping, fasting and prayer, Nehemiah received from God a clear vision of how he was to direct his life in the service of God. Far from succumbing to the fear of abdicating his comfortable life in the king's court and reconstructing the centerpiece of the Jewish community in the heartland of their enemies, Nehemiah stood firm on the basis of the vision-the very work that "my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem" (Neh. 2:12).
Moses, a most unlikely candidate for greatness, received a clear call from God to serve Him in a special way. Like all true visions imparted by God, the vision entrusted to Moses did not focus upon satisfying people's selfish desires but upon a selfless quest to reconcile the world to its Creator. Even though Moses had been abandoned by his parents, was guilty of murder and was living in exile, God designated Moses to lead Israel to the Promised Land in order to spare His people from oppression at the hands of Egyptians. In that process, Moses lived a nomadic, uncomfortable life for four decades, leading an unruly, disrespectful, unhappy, whining band of people through times of sacrifice, doubt, pain and discomfort. But driven by God's vision for leading those people, Moses remained a faithful servant of God.
Vision has flourished even beyond the lives of biblical characters. In our own century, there are numerous examples of people who, by human standards, showed little promise for greatness and little hope of being able to change the lives of people around the world. But these people, having captured God's vision for ministry, have lived with power and energy that undeniably transcend their natural capacities and with an intensity of commitment that far exceeds anything they had previously demonstrated in their lives. The results of their efforts further expose the power of God at work within them.
An Undeniable Transformation
The diminutive Albanian woman we remember today as Mother Teresa was nothing more than average early in her life. Her colleagues in the convent have remarked that she was nothing special as a student, as a leader or as a woman seeking to please God. However, after years of prayer and a spirit broken by Him, she emerged as a figure to be reckoned with; she moved beyond complacency to a deep compassion for the poorest of the poor. Summoning courage unfamiliar to her, she requested that her religious order permit her to initiate a ministry in India to care for those who were so sick that no other people or organizations bothered to care for them.
Why risk her life and the few human comforts she knew to begin a life of even greater sacrifice and ignominy? Because she felt a special calling from God to reach out to love the unlovable. She could very easily have continued her ministry as a nun, teaching in schools, leading young women to consider a relationship with Christ, even directing some special students toward a vocational ministry. Nobody would have questioned her love for God, her commitment to His kingdom or her selflessness as a nun.
Yet, she knew that God had reached out to her with a special vision for what she could do to impact people's lives for His glory. And what an impact she had, one that exceeded her innate intellect, courage and physical strength. She felt compelled to change the lives of people because God gave her a special vision for outreach.
A Dream, a Vision
Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist preacher in the South. While he was regarded as a powerful orator, nothing in his background-academic prowess, family connections, political skills, church growth statistics-indicated that he was an emerging leader, a crusader to be reckoned with. However, God worked through King to convert him into a servant with a larger calling: to erase the injuries and injustice of race-based hatred and prejudice.
Much like the apostle Paul, King endured beatings, time in jail, slander, hunger, financial loss and other inequities solely because of his quest to serve God. Driven by God's vision for his ministry, King encountered unbelievable hardships but stayed true to his calling until he was killed by an assassin's bullet. Sociologists and historians concur that of the many changes that redefined America during the turbulent 1960s, one of the most significant and far reaching was the civil rights movement that King headed.
Vision for Growth
Donald McGavran was a missionary to India. In the early 1950s he returned to the United States for further study of missions with a keen interest in discovering what types of outreach did and did not work effectively. He began to see ways in which the insights he had gained in the mission field could be applied to the American church. He detailed his ideas in a series of writings that eventually became the basis for what is now known as the church growth movement. Many church leaders today accept these principles as a matter of course.
During the 1950s, however, McGavran was ridiculed for his ideas and occasionally was asked to leave the fraternity of career ministers. Undaunted, he continued to teach and to write about his ideas, convinced that God had placed him in these circumstances to enhance the spiritual life of the American church. What was the strength that supported him during these years of travail? Vision for ministry was his motivation and his source of strength in the face of controversy and rejection by colleagues.
Vision for Reaching Harry and Mary
One of the best-known church leaders in America today is Bill Hybels. Thousands of pastors and lay leaders travel to Willow Creek Community Church every year to witness the miracle that meets every weekend in South Barrington, Illinois. With a church body that exceeds 16,000 people, Willow Creek is a unique and inspiring example of a church that can be relevant without compromising the gospel.
In its early days, though, what is commonly referred to today as the Willow Creek model represented a radically different vision for the development of a church-based ministry. In spite of the acclaim the church receives today, don't assume that fellow ministers and observers of the church scene stood by passively and applauded what Hybels and his team of young leaders were seeking to do. Through efforts to reach Unchurched Harry and Unchurched Mary, the fictional characters described as the target audience, Hybels has been God's chosen instrument to instill a passion in the hearts of thousands of believers to reach out to the unchurched and unsaved people in the area. Without grasping God's vision for the unique ministry reflected in Willow Creek's services and structure, however, that model for contemporary ministry might never have seen the light of day. And thousands of people may never have come to know Christ as a result of that ministry.
We could, of course, examine countless examples of leaders driven by God's vision for ministry. In each case, we would discover that God supplies the vision.
The Underlying Basics
In every case I have studied, the vision entrusted to the leader was not a simple matter of God paving the way to do what came naturally or easily to the leader. Invariably, as true people of God seek to lead their churches, grasping God's vision for their ministry requires them to invest in the vision by attaining the vision itself as well as by implementing the vision.
Finally, it seems apparent to me that not every person is called to be a leader. However, those whom God chooses to use as leaders can be effective, regardless of their lack of worldly qualifications. If you are like most full-time ministers of the gospel, you occasionally have doubts as to whether God made a mistake allowing you to be in a position of leadership. Those doubts are valuable, for they keep you asking the types of questions that sharpen your skills and soften your heart. It is that kind of self-examination that prevents us from becoming megalomaniacs, convinced of our own self-sufficiency and always ready to take credit for progress made in relation to ministry. As long as the doubt does not become paralyzing, it performs a useful function in the development process.
But the best response to any self-doubt is to determine the source of the vision for your ministry. Was it a vision you developed with the gifts and talents God gave you, or was it a vision that you sought, prayed and waited for and then received from Him? Chances are that if you do not yet have His vision for your ministry, either you have not made the investment required to capture that vision, or you are not gifted as a leader. Both cases mandate immediate and decisive action on your part. Without vision, the last place you ought to be is in a leadership post, regardless of the underlying reason. Only you can deal with that condition.
What is Vision?
• Vision is clear.
• Vision is preferable to the current state.
• Vision concentrates on the future.
• Vision is from God.
• Vision is a gift to leaders that is tailored to their circumstances.
• Vision reflects a realistic perspective.
• Vision is dreaming the most possible dream.
• Vision is built on reality.
• A visionary pastor is a successful pastor.
Duke Ellington, the late jazz musician, composer and renowned bandleader, was once asked to provide a definition of rhythm. "If you got it," he replied, "you don't need no definition. And if you don't have it, ain't no definition gonna help."
Vision, thankfully, is not quite as elusive. However, I believe Ellington's definition can be adapted slightly to help us understand one reality regarding vision: Once you have it, you know it; but when you don't have it, you aren't sure what it will be like.
You might define vision as foresight with insight based on hindsight.
Excerpted from El Poder de La Vision / The Power of Vision by George Barna Copyright © 2003 by George Barna. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.