Vision Leadership

Vision Leadership Theology provides a framework for the direction of everything from large churches and ministries to the single Christian.

1) Prov 29:18

There are two possible readings of this verse:

Where there is no vision the people perish
Where there is no vision the people are unrestrained.

I prefer the second reading. The role of vision in this verse is to define the context of the activity of the people of God. It defines what they are to do, what they are not to do and who they are to be.The role of vision is both positive and negative - it tells people what to do and what not to do. It defines direction by defining that framework. The verse doesn't define the source of the vision explicitly but implicitly the vision comes from God.

2) Mt 28:18-20 - The Great Commission

The term breadth in this context indicates that the vision impacts many people i.e. little breadth is few people, great breadth is many people. The term depth indicates how greatly individual people were affected i.e. to what extent were the people aligned with the vision after it was stated - a little indicates little depth, life change to the extent of martyrdom to achieve it is great depth.

The terms calling, vision, commission, ordination/ordained, mission and ministry are all to a greater or lesser extent related and can be interchanged on occasion depending on the context and the specific nuances that are being stressed. They all talk about how God is stating a plan or direction, handing the plan to the people and them running with it.

Vision take up is always patchy. Those who best take up the vision become leaders by definition because they get excited and begin pushing or even just acting as though the vision is the defining direction. Others don't take up the vision.

Jesus made the statement reflected in the commission. Being the vision leader par extraordinaire, the vision gained both depth and breadth and still does today. As soon as the vision leader speaks the vision, they lose control of it. Hopefully it gets internalized by the hearers according to their imperatives and understanding and thus changed in many subtle ways. It then becomes their vision and is equally valid. I believe that this passage is a statement of what the New Testament church believed their calling to be as they journeyed the original words in God. I don't believe that the pretty poetry came from Jesus' mouth all of which in no way invalidates the passage.

3) 2Chr 30:1-11 - Reinstatement of Temple Worship under Hezekiah

Hezekiah puts forth the visionary call to return to the temple worship at passover. How effective was this vision leadership? According to the text it was markably effective in that any of the members of the nation of Israel heard and acted.

The vision gained depth in that it caused some of the members of the northern kingdom to drop everything and come. There were significant barriers to people coming. Would you drop everything at short notice to travel to another country to attend worship?

In addition to the difficulty of actually travelling, there were barriers to the vision itself. There were long standing cultural and religious differences between the two nations in addition to patriotic differences. The equivalent would be for the Israelis to call the Palestinians in to celebrate passover today.

And yet some Israelites came. They must have seen something of God in the visionary call they they wanted. It is clear from Vs 18 that they really didn't understand the full depth of what was being said. They saw it, it was wonderful, they responded and the details would sort themselves out.

4) 1Chr 28:2-6,11-18,29:1-9 - David's Preparation to Build the Temple

This vision leadership was extremely effective. 29:7ff shows a huge response to the vision of building the temple. The vision gained both Depth and Breadth. Breadth as all the leaders were involved down to the leaders of hundreds, and depth as people gave beyond reason. As a result of the stated vision of building "God's House", there was provision made sufficient for Solomon to build the temple.

5) Joshua 1 (cf Num 13:25ff, Ex 23:20-26 also) - Advance into the Promised Land

All legitimate christian vision arises from God. In this passage, God speaks directly to Joshua, commisioning him to lead the Children of  Israel.

Vision has a tendency to develop and gain texture over time. This statement to Joshua is not the first time this vision has been stated, however it is more developed than previously. You can trace the development of this visionary understanding from the time of Abraham onwards. The very first statement to Abraham (Gen 12:1ff) included the understanding that the house of Abraham would dwell and own this land.

The barriers to vision would have been in terms of fear and uncertainty. Fear of the nations and stepping into their territory. fear of actually beginning to achieve this thing they had lived with for many years, and fear of failure. Over against that fear was the long history in the wilderness of seeing God at work and experiencing both blessing and judgement. The response was an orderly advance into the land ( Josh 3).

Due to the long preparation, the vision gained great depth. Unlike 40 years previously, they were now prepared to achieve the vision. The vision also gained breadth. It spread to the edges of the culture group that was the Israelite people. Because of the ghetto factor, the vision found fertile ground in that group.

6) Acts 13:1-5 - Commisioning of Paul (Saul) and Barnabas

One of the fascinating things about this passage is the context. Usually the making of ministers is by a church organisation. Here we find a very small group of christians - say a home group in our terms - commissioning a couple of ministers. The legitimisation of that action was because the Holy Spirit directed them. In that position, I would expect Paul and Barnabas' response to be "Who me?".

Both men instead left on a life that was guaranteed to be hard, dangerous and often unrewarding (consider the sentiments in the Epistle to the Galatians). And yet both men left pretty well immediately to carry out the vision. This indicates good depth. The breadth of the vision take up was largely in that group. Some of the concerns that Paul later related and caused him to check back with the Jerusalem church  (Gal 2:1,2) could well indicate a lack of breadth beyond that small group..

Paul and Barnabas' initial ministry was in the Synagogues of the Diaspora. They travelled through various towns and initially they preached to the Jews (13:5). This could indicate that the initial vision was one to the Jews rather than the Gentiles. Soon they found that their ministry and thus the vision was more to the Jewish proselytes and the Gentiles.

7) Acts 6:1-6 then Acts 6:8, 8:5,6 - The appointing of the Seven

This passage is very important for an understanding of vision leadership. The vision here is about the continued ministry of teaching and prayer and thus the life of the church. The seven were chosen to enable that vision i.e. they were there to release the apostles to fulfill the vision and calling of the ministry of word and prayer. Rather than having a relatively minor role in a support ministry, the seven themselves become key in achieving the vision. Their activity was also very different to the Apostles initial understanding of the vision and their activity. This shows some of the dilemmas of vision leadership: once spoken the vision becomes the property of the hearers and is changed subtly by their personal imperatives. In addition the control of the ministry resulting from the vision is controlled by the vision and not the initial vision leader. It can result in outcomes that are very different from the outcomes expected by the initial vision leader. Only Stephen and Philip rate another mention, the other five are only mentioned in this passage. Does this demonstrate some of the issue of depth and breadth?


1) Vision should come from God

2) Vision should be lived with, restated, internalised, applied until we get it.

3) As soon as a vision is stated, the vision leader loses control of the vision as others take ownership of the vision.

4) Vision defines:

  • Who we are
  • What we are to do
  • How we are to do it

5) Vision develops, gains texture and changes over time.

6) Successful vision leadership will result in Depth and Breadth of vision takeup.