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The View from 10,000 feet


Visionaries, dreamers, people who can see the big picture, those who can give you the view from 10,000 feet are the legends of commercial life. In most instances their products and innovations are handed off to the nuts and bolts people who bring them to the market. It's the same in church life too. Except God is the visionary of church life and we're all the nuts...and bolts too.

Want to send me into a frenzy then talk about pastor's having a vision for their church. Just about every pastor search committee I ever trained or advised would include the vision component on their questionnaire for prospective pastors. If the candidate stumbled around the answer their resume would usually be shuffled to the bottom of the stack. Most churches want a pastor with vision. You know, if the spiritual leader doesn't have vision, the people will just perish. Shame.

Of course, in Scripture genuine vision was never of human origin. Yes, people dreamed and saw angels and were mortified by heavenly insights brought to them through divine intervention. Vision in a biblical context, therefore, was really revelation, God showing humans heavenly things. So, the vision of Proverbs 29:18 didn't include the musings of the big picture, the imagination of someone with view from 10,000 feet. No, the revelation of Scripture is what God imagines for his people and reveals to them.

It's just another instance of the hybrid church/business model that predominates so much of church life today. Some spiritual leaders, teachers, and servants in Christ's church are keen ideators (see Strength Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, Gallup Press, 2007). Every time I've taken the Clifton Strength Inventory Ideation has been my number one personal strength. When coupled with a strong future theme or several other talents, these ideators are typically the people who see the forest in spite of the trees. These leaders can usually zoom out to see the larger context of most issues and can provide strategic guidance in mission design and scope.

This ability, however, is not biblical vision and cannot provide the spiritual depth for mission that is always the stuff of authentic revelation. And, this is a trip wire for many congregations desiring to be on mission. Sure, it's okay for the ideators and strategists and futurists to participate in mission planning and futuring events. The person to bring vision, however, is the one who has been in touch with God and knows what God wants to happen in that church.

So, the question for pastoral candidates or potential church staff positions isn't "Do you have a vision for the church?". It is, "How do you sense God leading the church?', or "How can we discover God's vision for our church?" It's another of those instances when asking the right questions may be the actual genesis of mission in a local congregation.

While having the view from 10,000 feet is an admirable and strategic trait in spiritual leaders, it cannot trump a sensitive, receptive spirit before God as a guiding principle. Over the years I've known dedicated, hard working, detail oriented leaders whose communion with Christ provided the vision to guide local congregations. Nuts and bolts leaders aren't exempted from receiving revelation from God. It's a regrettable miscalculation to believe that only the visionaries and dreamers can receive the view from heaven.

The Apostle Paul was a doer. He was imprisoned, beaten, harassed, and opposed during his many years of hard labor for the Lord. But, he was a man who received revelation and guided many churches and colleagues as a result. Over and over he wrote about what he had received from the Lord. He didn't spend a lot of time in the board room, at planning retreats, or in strategy sessions. He wrote---

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you---

1 Corinthians 11:23, ESV

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received---

1 Corinthians 15:3, ESV

For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through

a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:12, ESV

The view from 10,000 feet is a great enhancement to mission. But, mission isn't possible without the view from heaven, genuine revelation.


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