Read an Excerpt
Preparing For Vision
In my family, we grew up with a standard vacation plan. Every year we would drive from whatever part of Texas or Oklahoma we were living in at the time to the same lake in Arkansas where we would go tent camping. And we would spend every waking moment skiing, swimming, fishing, and motorcycling.
Taking a family of six on a two week out-in-the-woods style vacation was not a small venture. Although the journey to our destination was not long (five--six hours), it took weeks of getting ready. It was such a major change in lifestyle to transition from the suburbs to the lake shore that it took some very deliberate preparation to pull it off.
Vision is not just a destination; it is a journey
Preparation is a major part of vision. The reason lies in the essence of vision itself. Vision is not just a destination; it is a journey. Vision is not just a product; it is a process. Vision is not just the finish line; it is the whole race.
Any business guru can tell you that research and development is a major part of producing a winning product. Any athlete knows that winning the competition begins with training. Any seasoned traveler can testify that front end preparation is vital to a successful trip.
Paul captured the essence of vision when he wrote these words:
'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.'
1 Corinthians 2:9
For our eyes to see God's vision, for our ears to hear God's voice, and for our minds to conceive of God's plan, we must spend time in major preparation. Before we can receive God's vision for His church we must prepare for vision. God's vision for your church is big stuff so the preparation for that vision must be big stuff as well.
Our plans versus God's vision
I love this verse about vision:
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
This verse was written with today's church in mind. Today,
our churches tend to have many plans. They have numerous programs and multifaceted ministries. Never before in history has the church tried to offer so much.
Yet I wonder if most of our churches have discovered God's vision. Have they found the 'purpose that prevails'---which is
God's purpose? I believe that the numerous plans that we come up with won't get the job done. Only God's plan will prevail.
What is vision?
Henry Blackaby's study, Experiencing God, is nothing short of life changing for those who have been through it. The essence of Blackaby's work can be boiled down to one idea: see what
God is doing and join Him. Rather than asking God to bless our plan and our vision, we must see what God is doing around us and join God in His plan and His vision.
What is vision? Vision is a picture of what God wants to do.
Vision is a picture of what God will do in His church if we get out of His way and turn Him loose to do it. So the process of vision is the process of joining God in what He is doing and wants to do in His church.
As a junior in high school, I was part of a youth mission trip to a small church in
Idaho. When we arrived, the girls were taken to homes for lodging while the boys set up quarters in the church building. The only problem with this arrangement was the lack of a place for the boys to shower and clean up.
After a few days this problem was becoming apparent to anyone within several hundred yards of the boys. So our youth pastor asked the pastor of the host church where the boys could clean up. He informed us that just beyond the tree line at the edge of the church property was a beautiful, crystal clear river that flowed straight down from the mountains and that we were welcome to bathe there.
That discovery changed the entire trip. Every day thereafter the boys would spend a few minutes of much needed fun and refreshment (and odor improvement) in that river.
I have thought often about that river over the years. I am convinced of this truth: the river of what God wants to do is flowing nearby every one of our churches if we will just discover it and get immersed in it. God has a river of vision for each of His churches---and most of us are not even aware it is there.
Vision is an active process, an ongoing process. It is a continual search for what God is doing and wants to do.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJ)
Unfortunately, in many of our churches, we have changed that verse to read like this:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is an old creation; new things have passed away; behold, all things have become old.
(Modern Church Perversion)
This translation would be especially liked in those churches who cling to the seven last words of a dying church: 'We never did it that way before.' But churches who are vision driven are more attached to a present tense version of this verse:
Therefore, if anyone stays in Christ, he is a renewed creation;
old things keep passing away, and all things keep becoming new.
That is vision. Vision is the active process of following a dynamic God---which means we must keep dreaming and keep visioning to keep our churches, ministries, and personal lives from perishing.
The art of spiritual surfing
One of the finest books ever written about vision and purpose is Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Church. Rick opens his book with an analogy about spiritual surfing. Spiritual surfing has three parts:
* See the wave of what God is doing. God is at work in the world today in major ways. You must first see what God is up to and wants to do in your community.
Have you seen those pictures within a picture? The kind you must stare at for a while before you can see the real but hidden image? Vision is the same idea. Anyone can see the obvious stuff. But what is God doing behind the scenes?
* Catch the wave of what God is doing. After you spot the wave you must catch it. That in itself is no small feat. It takes timing, courage, and skill. It also requires risk taking
---because you must leave the safety of the shore to catch the biggest waves.
* Ride the wave of what God is doing. A lot of surfers can get up on a wave. The goal is to stay up and surf the wave as far and as long as you can. You don't want to abandon the wave; you want to ride it out all the way.
The importance of preparation
Follow this logic with me for a moment:
* If vision is a picture of what God wants to do in His church
* And if the key to vision is joining God in what He wants to do in His church
* And if God wants to give us His vision
* Then when we are prepared for vision, God gives it to us!
So the question is 'What are the steps of preparation?' That is a great question.