bits from bob....

Visionary Leadership

posted by Bob Young*
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Scripture tells us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). This passage most likely refers to receiving a word from God rather than to imagination or modern "vision statements." This possibility is reflected by the fact that other translations use the word "revelation" (NIV) or "prophecy" (RSV) instead of vision. Regardless, the idea of seeking and seeing direction for the future remains. Vision starts with God. Vision is most often communicated through leaders.

On a human level, vision can be described by the relationship between the architect and the construction workers. Before the actual construction can begin, there must be a blueprint. Stephen Covey refers to having a vision as the first creation. Covey says that it is the leader's primary task to nurture the first creation-the vision. Others might put the vision into practice, but leaders give birth to the vision.

Vision does not come from the leader's own human abilities and wisdom, but from connection with God and his will. God communicates his vision for the world in his Word. God's vision is consistent with his purpose and eternal plan. Bill Beckham writes: "Vision is not something I catch but something that catches me. I do not act upon this vision, it acts upon me.... A vision is something working in our lives, not something we are working on." (Second Reformation, p. 223) Visionary leadership is essential for moving the church forward and for preventing discouragement in the face of obstacles.

Think about your experience. Have you ever known a visionary leader? What characteristics or qualities cause you to identify a certain person as a visionary leader? Consider the following possibilities.

  • Visionary leaders can clearly state what the vision is and why the vision matters. Without a clear vision, the congregation or organization will become discouraged. Visionary leaders guide others to keep on in spite of difficulties.
  • Visionary leaders clearly communicate the vision and connect the vision with God's purpose. Visionary leaders use God's Word to fuel the vision. Because God's Word is the only basis for long-term, fruitful ministry, Christian ministers in whatever endeavor must constantly go back to the foundations of Scripture.
  • Visionary leaders balance commitment to the vision and personal transparency. Leaders sometimes struggle with continuing to pursue the vision in the face of difficulties and challenges. Visionary leaders know how to communicate a balanced perspective on the possibilities of the vision, human hurts and struggles, and unwavering commitment to the vision and God's direction.
  • Visionary leaders know how to refuel the vision. In times of discouragement, the leader knows how to find renewal in God's Word, feeding the heart through reading, conferences, and supportive relationships.

    May God develop among us visionary leaders who will help the church move forward aggressively in response to God's will.

    *adapted from Joel Comiskey

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    Last updated January 30, 2012