Visionary church leaders are not bad guys, they are just obsessed with their vision. Unless you’ve been in the position of leading and rallying a large group of people around a grand vision, it’s hard to understand the pressure involved in ensuring it is always moving forward. A vision requires momentum. Always momentum. And this momentum comes not by rest, but by work – and lots of it.
My grand vision had so much machinery attached to it, and so much hype, that if it was not constantly moving forward, then it was moving backwards. This, I can assure you, was a terrifying possibility for me, for if my vision went backwards, the hype would lose its shine, the people would see it wasn’t working, and then what? They might look for a better vision. They might look for a better leader. They might—
No, there was no room for ‘they might’ . . . it needed to remain ‘I know’. If I didn’t remain in control, the whole thing was in danger of falling in on itself. So I was always determined to present myself as the leader who knew. Yes, I knew everything. I knew what God wanted, I knew what God didn’t want, and I knew my vision was God’s will. Anything that went against my vision was not of God. Even, as I realize upon reflection, if it was God himself who was against it.
Why was this bad? Because often God is not interested in momentum. Often he wants the opposite. He wants his children to stop, to rest, to relax in his presence. He wants his children to know they don’t have to slave for him, working tirelessly. The voice of God, I now realize, was often going against my vision, calling my church members to slow down, to stop with all the tireless ministry, to listen to his calm voice calling them into rest.
Here is the biggest problem with trying to lead a church community with a grand vision: If any voice, even the voice of the Spirit, endangers the forward momentum of that vision, those voices are treated like an enemy. I remember one of my main reoccurring sermons was called, in one variation or another: “Don’t give up!” It when something like this:
“ . . . the voice of the enemy, the voice of the world, the voice of your flesh, will be trying to get you to give up, to stop with your ministry, to stop attending so many church services, to stop giving to the work we are doing here . . . but when you hear that voice, you say ‘get behind me! I will continue, for I have faith, and will continue to work for the glory of God’. . .”
Sounds pretty powerful, right. I was a great speaker, so you can imagine that it even got the crowd quite worked up . . . so what is the problem? The problem is, without realizing, I most likely had preached that message against the leading of the Holy Spirit.
How many times was God comforting someone in my church, telling them to let go of all their ministry service and come back to a quiet place with him to be refreshed with his Father’s love . . . only for me to say that God would never says that. Only to condemn them for daring to believe God would say anything opposed to the momentum of my vision. Sad. So sad. What God said to Pharaoh in Egypt, rang true for me too:
“Let my people go!”
But for the longest time, like Pharaoh, I refused. Like Pharaoh, there was just too much to do, too much to build, too much to accomplish. And to do all that, I needed workers.
So am I against vision for the church community? No, I’m not. But if we want to come around a vision, I believe it has to be the vision of Christ’s finished work, it has to be a vision of rest in him. I think if we want a vision, it needs to be a decentralized vision, not a single man’s vision, that only the Holy Spirit is in control of leading. I think it can work if the vision revolves around the desire to love, for love is something Scripture says we can build each other up in. And that to me is the only thing really worth building.