Shortly after the completion of Disney World, someone said to Mike Vance, the Director of Disney Studios, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this!” To which the director replied, “He did see it–that’s why it’s here.” That’s vision in its purest sense!

George Barna writes of pastors that, “only 2% could articulate the vision for their churches.” Is it any wonder that the Christian church in the United States is in decline today? Aubrey Malphurs, from Dallas Seminary, observes that “currently 80-85% of American churches are either plateaued or dying with no revival in sight.” Could vision be the missing ingredient? I think it is. As someone jokingly misquoted Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people look for another parish.” Due to visionless ministry and churches, people are looking around. What will they find if they show up on your church’s doorstep?

 A vision is a clear, challenging picture of the future of ministry as it can and must be. Can be because God has given it, and must be because he has laid the dream and the burden on the heart of a leader. I believe that people today are looking for a cause, a mountain to climb and a leader to follow into new and exciting territory. The key in motivating people to a cause is having a vision that is strong and compelling. There are many churches and organizations that have vision on paper but no vision in practice. Leaders with a vision possess a picture of what they see as they peer into the future. They carry, as it were, a visual snapshot in their mental wallets.

A little girl was sailing with her father from Long Beach (California) to Catalina Island. It was an unusually clear day and, in her excitement, she exclaimed, “Daddy, I can look further than I can see!” Leaders with vision look beyond what is apparent to human eyes. They often see further than others see and before others see. Some leaders are more managers than visionaries. But even if you are not a dreamer and visionary by nature and gifting, you can develop skill in crafting a vision and leading people into the future. Retired baseball manager Sparky Anderson said, “I’ve got my faults, but living in the past isn’t one of them. There ain’t no future in it!” Vision is about the future.

There is a step-by-step process in having a “vision-based and vision-oriented” ministry.

1)     Developing the vision

2)     Communicating the vision

3)     Implementing the vision

4)     Maintaining the vision

There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a great hospital. Quite a small room, it had one window looking out on the world.  One of the men, as part of his treatment, was allowed to sit up in bed for an hour in the afternoon (something to do with draining the fluid from his lungs). His bed was next to the window. But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

Every afternoon when the man next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside.  The window apparently overlooked a park where there was a lake. There were ducks and swans in the lake, and children came to throw them bread and sail model boats. Young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees. Behind the fringe of trees was a fine view of the city skyline. The man on his back would listen to the other man describe all of this, enjoying every minute.  He heard how a child nearly fell into the lake, and how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses. His roommate’s descriptions eventually made him feel he could almost see what was happening outside. Then one fine afternoon, the thought struck him. Why should the man next to the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn’t he get the chance? He felt ashamed, but the more he tried not to think like that, the worse he wanted a change. He’d do anything!

One night as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up, coughing and choking, his hands groping for the button that would bring the nurse running. But the man watched without moving–even when the sound of breathing stopped. In the morning, the nurse found the other man dead and quietly took his body away. As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be switched to the bed next to the window.  So they moved him, tucked him in and made him quite comfortable. The minute they left, he propped himself up on one elbow, painfully and laboriously, and looked out the window.It faced a blank wall!