How To Feast Your Vision
When Your Vision Doesn’t Reflect Your Reality
I once visited a church plant in metro Atlanta. Great church plant in terms of theology and teaching. However, I quickly noticed an incongruence that unsettled me. It came up when they were talking about their vision as a church plant. For the sake of discretion, I won’t word it the way they did, but basically, they said they had a vision to have a church defined by diversity.
In other words, diversity was a big part of their vision.
What disturbed me, however, was the church’s complete lack of diversity.
Looking at the couple hundred filled seats was like staring out over a blanket of Vermont snow.
To put it bluntly, the church was less ethnically diverse than the state of Vermont - which is saying something.
Not only that, but I immediately recognized that the specific neighborhood the church plant was situated in was anything but economically diverse - very affluent - and the folks gathered reflected the uniformity of their community.
To me, it looked like a bunch of rich white people celebrating diversity and inclusion in church, without having to live the experience of diversity and inclusion.
“What Are You Saying?”
Am I disparaging that body of believers? Certainly not. I actually met one of the most caring couples I’ve ever met there afterward. They had purposefully lived in what is considered the “gay district” of Atlanta, simply to reach that demographic with the love and truth of Christ. What an example of love! As for the church plant, for all I know, they’ve accomplished their vision and are finally as diverse as they talk about being - may the Lord make it so.
Am I suggesting that churches that are uniform in ethnicity or economic status are somehow unbiblical? Not necessarily. But as far as this particular church plant’s vision was concerned, there was a clear (and nearly comical) disconnect between what they mouthed as their vision and what they lived as their reality.
So, what am I saying? Allow me put it more clearly:
I’m saying that vision matters.
I’m saying that the scope of your vision matters.
I’m saying that feeding your vision matters.
I’m saying that living your vision matters.
We have neat little statements to define it. We labor over crafting one. Church planters often talk about “casting it.” Pastors talk about “keeping it before the people.”
We know it matters. The Proverbs say, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)
So, what does it truly mean to “have vision”?
Well, I like to think that to “have vision” is to see, not only the problem but to see with the eyes of the heart what it would be like if the problem were solved. Then, if that vision is one with your heart, you won’t just mouth it - you will start to live it out.
In other words, it doesn’t really matter how well you craft your vision statement if your vision statement doesn't work. If a vision statement "works," it will do a couple of things. It will first arrest your heart. And it will then begin to take shape in reality. Vision matters.
“The Scope Of Your Vision Matters”
The question I want to pose here for your consideration is, “Just how big is the scope of my church’s vision?” And, “Is it big enough?”
Certainly, the scope of our vision should be defined by the scope of Christ’s vision, so let’s consider that.
The Beginning Of Christ’s Vision For Missions
Before ascending into heaven, Christ gave us the scope of His vision. He said, “Make disciples of all nations.”
Take a moment to chew on that. That scope is awesome.
Put yourself in the shoes of the eleven disciples who heard Him. Jesus is asking you to make disciples of each and every individual on the planet earth - regardless of race, language, social status, geographic location, manners, interest, and on and on. No exclusions.
Experts estimate that, all in all, there may have been 200 million people alive at the time.
Would the weight of that have crushed your team? Eleven of you to reach 200 million of them.
But that is the scope of Christ’s vision. He is Lord. And now, all must submit, confess, repent, believe and obey.
The End of Christ’s Vision
There’s the starting point of Christ’s vision for His missional philosophy. Its endpoint is just as incredible, but far more wondrous, for we get a glimpse of glory with it.
From the Revelation of the Apostle John, 7:9-10:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
All nations, all tribes, all peoples, all tongues - before Christ, worshipping Him.
That’s the end of missions.
That’s the end of everything.
As John Piper puts it, worship is the goal of missions (he also says it’s the fuel, but we’re focusing on missions as the goal in this article).
Christ, The Perfect Vision-Caster
All of this is a picture of the end and purpose of the Great Commission and of missions. Truly, there is no better vision-caster than Jesus Himself!
But what’s the purpose of painting us that picture? Casting that vision to us?
So that we might trust and obey. So that in seeing the end, we might begin obediently walking the path, trusting that the vision will most assuredly come to its fruition. Yes, He will use our church to bring about the obedience of the nations (Romans 1:5).
Yes, every knee will bow and every tongue confess. And so, we must teach them to obey. We must preach the Gospel to every man, woman and child so they might confess with their mouths the lordship of Jesus. We must teach them how to fall on their knees before the Living God in humble adoration. We must teach them to walk by faith, trusting in all His promises invisible but sure. We must teach them all to obey the command to love their God with their everything. We must teach them to obey the command to love their neighbor, so that they may worship the Lamb side-by-side the brethren whom they learned to delight in. We must invite everyone to the feet of Jesus, and there to cry, to die and to live. Praise God for this glorious stewardship He has given us!
“Feeding Your Vision Matters”
Now the problem arises that a lot of people know this. This isn’t exactly new information I’m communicating. So the question arises, “Why doesn’t the vision of our churches line up better with Christ’s?”
In other words, just because you get this idea doesn’t mean your vision is healthy. You can know all these facts, and your vision still be anemic.
That’s why it matters that you feed your vision.
How can you expect Christ’s vision for the nations to be fulfilled in you if you don’t love His vision? If you don’t delight in it? If you don’t feast on it?
The best thing you can do is feed your vision the meat of Christ’s vision for the nations. That’s how you fatten it up and make it as big as Christ’s. Get those skinny bones out of here (this is coming from a skinny guy)!
Feast. Immerse yourself in the Scriptures painting that picture. Let Christ cast the vision to you.
Take passages like Revelation 7:9-10 and keep them before you - write those words on your walls, discuss them while you're sitting down, think about them while you're sleeping, bind them on your body, whatever you can do to keep them before you (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
If you don’t let Christ keep the meal before you, if you don’t partake of the vision continually, if you don’t feast, your vision is going to starve. And it’s going to show up in the way you live.
“Living Your Vision Matters”
Now, if more Christians feasted on Christ’s vision, I think we’d have less of a problem with the “living it out” part. My hypothesis is that when your heart is unified and your affections stirred by the Holy Spirit of God, then living it out will (super-)naturally occur.
You’ll be empowered, energized and equipped by the Spirit of God, by the food of God, by the armor of God - to live it.
But if we stuff our faces with the meat of God’s Word without doing anything, do you know what will happen? I think you do. Most Americans are very familiar with what happens next. You’ll get fat. I’m not talking about the “good kind” of fat - like a well-bred, healthy boer goat - I’m talking obese, unable to pick oneself up out of bed, unfit to do the work of reaching the world in the scope of Christ’s vision.
You want that "good kind of fat." Maybe you're thinking, "What kind of good fat?" I'm talking the "Proverbs 13:4 good kind of fat"!
“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” (Proverbs 13:4)
So what's the difference? Diligence. That's the difference between the fattened sluggard and the fattened wise one.
If your vision causes you to crave (or "desireth" as the good ol' KJV puts it), but never to do, then it doesn't matter how good your vision sounds! You have to do the vision.
It's like my old Chinese super-Christian mentor used to say: "See the vision. Do the dream." (Or something like that, I could never get it straight)
It's the difference between obese, lazy, undisciplined Christianity and healthy, powerful, active Christianity. To paraphrase the Apostle James, faith must be active with works - otherwise, it's as dead as the body without the spirit.
The craving of your heart should lead you to what Malcolm Gladwell calls a tipping point, where you no longer can stand what’s happening, and you just decide to do something about it. You do what it takes - by the power of the Spirit and the grace of God - to live out that vision, to see it get done, to be a part of bringing it to fruition.
In Conclusion, Dream With Me
Vision matters. Vision must be your guide.
The scope of your vision matters. If your vision matches the breadth of Christ’s, the potential lies open to see something incredible happen.
Feeding your vision matters. If you don’t feed your vision, it’s going to be anemic. Feast it regularly with the meat of Christ’s vision.
Living your vision matters. Imagine if you actually did whatever you could, by the Spirit’s power, to live out Christ’s vision on earth? What would change? Would your life look differently? Would you have to move? Would you have to change jobs? Give your “yes” to God, and see what He calls you to do to live out His vision.