Vision, a Bible verse, and Spanish marble

If you are a church leader someone, sometime, has told you about the importance of vision. You need to paint a picture of the future. Make it compelling. Get your people on board.

You’ve even been given a Bible verse.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

There you have it. Your church/organisation will flounder and fail if you don’t manage to articulate a vision.

The Bible tells you so.

So you’d better have one.

Actually I have to confess that the way this verse gets bandied about in these conversations grates with me. I don’t think it has anything to do with churches writing  vision statements. It has to do with God speaking. The ESV helpfully adds that the verse is talking about a prophetic vision. In other words, when God is not speaking to his people, they are in trouble. They will start to ‘cast off restraint’.

Dare I suggest that we’d be better applying the verse to preaching and allow ourselves to be challenged about the importance of clarity in pulpit ministry?


That doesn’t mean that a leader should not have a clear (God-given!) sense of direction or that there is no value in painting a compelling picture of what the future could look like.

About 30 years ago Ricardo Sanchez was given the task of dealing with economic stagnation in a particular region in Spain. In this particular mountainous area of the country there were significant deposits of white marble. There were dozens of small businesses in the area, but they did little marketing and were much less successful than their competitors. The owners of these small businesses valued their independence: it meant more to them even than profit and growth. How would Sanchez change their mindset?

In their book, Leadership on the Line, Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky describe how Sanchez realised that he could encourage change by showing the people a better future. So he took them on a bus trip to a marble region in Italy, where they toured production facilities and had the opportunity to talk with their counterparts.

The group returned with a different attitude, a greater willingness to entertain the possibility that their lives could be both different and better…. They had seen for themselves a future that might be theirs.

The point is not that you get all the members of your church/organisation into a bus for a tour of ‘the world’s most successful churches’ or some such! (Though getting yourself and your fellow-leaders out and about beyond what they have always known would be a good thing.)

However, if, as a leader, you are seeking to bring about change, painting a vivid, positive picture of what – by the grace of God – could be may help you along the way.

QUESTION: how much time should a leader give to imagining the future? How should he/she go about it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.