I was 28 years old, sitting at a table with a half-eaten plate of food in front of me. I was on one end of the table, my wife was sitting next to me, and surrounding us were the members of the search committee for the church I was interviewing with. From across the table came this question, “As the pastor, what would your vision for our church be?”
What would my vision be? Even though I was hired and I am the pastor that question still baffles me to some degree. It’s not that I don’t have a vision, I have a vision. I have a vision for a lot of things. Having a vision is not the problem. The pressing question is obviously, “Is it my vision or God’s vision?”
Since that time three years ago I can honestly say I have a vision. I have a vision for the church, the local expression of the body of Christ. I have a vision for how a community of believers live and move and express themselves in the world. I am willing to say I believe it is a God inspired, Biblically rooted vision. I just don’t think the vision is for a specific church. The picture God is painting on my heart is one less about a specific context than ever before. This isn’t to say that context isn’t important or impactful on the vision itself, but the vision is more about the values and way of being shared by the community than it is about the contextual out workings of those values. In other words, the vision I am being taken by is more universal than it is particular.
I am finding this to be extremely freeing. I can live this vision for the rest of my life. This does not need to be something that I give my life to for the next 3-5 years and then have to go through another period of discerning what God is calling me to while feeling uncertain about what I should be doing. Vision does not have to be momentary. Jesus knew what his life was to be about from the beginning. Paul pursued one thing, “Christ and him crucified”, for his entire life. Life doesn’t have to be lived from moment to moment, or even vision to vision, but can be lived with vision from expression to expression.
It is also freeing to discover that vision does not need to be completely contextual. I always thought it did. In fact, I think my answer to the search committee was something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t know how well I can answer that question because I believe vision to be very contextual.” No more. Yes, context plays a role. But that role is not formative to the vision, but rather the context informs the expression of that vision. For example, part of my vision is to be a part of a community whose love for each other spills out to those around us. That vision does not need to change based on context, but rather how we love each other and to whom it spills out to will be determined by context.
I haven’t been completely freed by all my newer thoughts concerning vision. Particularly how it affects those I lead. I was sharing my vision with some friends and one of them said to me, “Do those you lead realize that as you seek to live into this, THEY will end up being profoundly affected?” No, I did not. I just took it at face value that, yes, I would in fact have to change to live into this vision, but I did not consider that OTHERS would have to change as well. But they will. For example, I believe God is calling me to be a part of a church, a community, that sees it as their responsibility to follow the lead of Jesus in washing the feet of other brothers and sisters, and the world around. If this is to happen, then in whatever community I am part of I need to live into this, and those around me need to live into this. This affects their lives. This may require transformation on their part. We will have to learn to be different.
And that’s probably the point.