One of the most important things a pastor can do is cast vision to a church. Without a vision, the pastor may too easily drift into complacency. This will be like a poison that infiltrates the church, leading to mediocracy. This is a close cousin to temptation, sin, church splits, ineffectiveness, and other ills that plague churches. A vision requires looking at something or someone. It requires understanding. Many visions will invite decisions and actions. Pastors must have different types of visions.
First, a pastor must have a vision of God. There are many things to look at in this world. Many of them please the sight and bring a temporary sense of happiness. For pastors, these things may include job security, the rush after a well-spoken sermon, the opportunity and ability to lead an organization, or the praises of parishioners. Some sense of fulfillment is helpful in pastoral ministry, because the opposite brings defeat and deflation. But these things and others can be quickly taken away. It only takes one person criticizing a pastor and gloom and depression can set in. Our vision must be security fixed on God, as Hebrews 12:1-2 states, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” This vision will bring and require deeper understanding of God and God’s nature of holiness and love and how this reflects in this world as compassion and justice. Our number one pursuit in this life must be, like Paul, “to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10). If we allow our vision to be clouded by anything else, we will find ourselves wandering a lonely, empty, and futile path.
Second, a pastor must have a vision of God’s mission in the world. As we come to know God more by our pursuit of God, we come to understand and seek God’s mission in this world. This has been a challenging lesson for me as a pastor. I know a lot of the theory, after studying for many years, being a pastor, missionary, chaplain, teacher. But to come to the point of participating in God’s mission and not thinking of it as my own mission has been a life-long journey that is not finished. For, I like to assume my mission is God’s mission, when it only is my own selfish dreams that bring disappointment when they are not fulfilled. To join in God’s mission requires that we set aside our own agendas and learn to listen. Listening is difficult, especially to the quiet voice and prodding of the Holy Spirit.
Third, a pastor must have a vision for how the church can pursue God’s mission in the world. This flows out of and is consequential to having a vision of God and God’s mission. This obviously requires faith that grows in relationship with God and knowledge that grows through study of God’s Word. We must become close to God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Drawing closer to God will lead us to develop the mind of Christ. This new mindset will result in eyes that see the world like Christ, and hands that want to serve the world like Christ.
Fourth, a pastor must participate in this mission and vision personally. I have been sharing with churches the past three months about the importance of character formation in ministry. The “being” is far more important than the “knowing” and “doing.” The challenge is that “being” is difficult to measure and often receives little praise from people. In fact, our being in Christ may actually bring suffering and persecution from the world. The effectiveness of ministry should not be measured by the number of people in Sunday morning worship or the size of the budget. Sadly, this is what we are asked to report. When I hear pastors telling about the numbers and budget at District Assemblies, I am saddened and think that they are dealing with the trivial and not the important. To thrive in God’s mission and vision will require submission to God and saturation in God’s Word.
Finally, when a pastor is in tuned to the above mission and vision, such a pastor will be open to specific applications in his or her ministry context. This is the step we often begin with, but it really should be the last in the process. We replace this as the central goal of our ministry. This may be because this is the expectation of the people around us: our leaders, church people, and the world. This is often how “success” is measured. But making this the first step in the process is like trying to run a car without gas. It will bring defeat and discouragement. We as pastors must be filled up with God’s presence and purposes before attempting to lead others into the mission in this world.
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