Notes as delivered to ALJC World Missions University at Whitestone Inn – Kingston, TN (February 2017)
Everyone ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision. – Andy Stanley
Personally, I believe to be a missionary, you must be a visionary!
But, do you ever feel like you’re driven more by maintenance than you are mission?
- You’re having to maintain your family responsibilities…
- Your church and ministry responsibilities…
- Your responsibility to your supporters…
And, really, if we’re being completely honest, we have a huge responsibility to God for ensuring we live humbly and righteously before Him.
But a man with a vision, and a man on a mission, is virtually unstoppable!
Five dedicated and committed Christian Missionaries headed to the deep dark recesses of the Ecuadorian Rainforest in search of the Huaoroni Tribe. It was purported this tribe had never heard of the name of Jesus, and for these five missionaries that was reason enough to launch out.
After several successful supply drops to the area that included food, clothing, and even toys for the children, Nate Saint, their pilot felt confident he could land his bi-plane on a narrow sandbar along the Curaray River.
On January 8, 1956, the team set up camp at “Palm Beach” and awaited contact with the tribe. To their delight a curious Huarononi Family showed up and seemed receptive to the kind gestures of the team.
After several hours, the family retreated back into the heart of the jungle and the missionary team was thrilled beyond words. They radioed back to base reporting their success.
Shortly thereafter their radio fell eerily silent. Hoping against hope the radio was simply out of range or had somehow failed, a search party was sent to check on the team.
Their worst fears were realized. Huarononi warriors had returned after the initial encounter and ran all five missionaries through with spears, leaving their lifeless bodies bleeding in the very river they had only hours before been playfully interacting with the tribe.
Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian, all paid the supreme price for a vision they felt was worth giving their lives for.
News of their untimely and horrific deaths was broadcast across the globe and a photo essay was published in Life Magazine.
The deaths of the men galvanized missionary efforts in the United States, sparking an outpouring of funding for evangelization efforts around the world.
Elisabeth, Jim Elliot’s widow, and Rachel, Nick Saint’s sister, returned to Ecuador years later to live among the very people who had slain their family. Great in-roads were made, and even the very warrior who had slain the brave missionaries came to know the Lord.
The heroic story was further documented and made into a book and movie entitled, End of the Spear.
Despite the dangers and uncertainty, these brave missionaries had such a strong and compelling vision they were willing to lay down their lives to share the Gospel with every living creature.
A God without Limits
We serve a God that can do anything and everything. The Bible states and restates, there is nothing too hard for God. God has no limits other than the ones He chooses to impose upon Himself. One of those limits is He refuses to work where faith is not present.
In fact, Hebrews tells us without faith it is impossible to please God.
So, if God has no limits, wherein lies the challenge for us? Where do our own spiritual limits come from? We’re only limited by the size of our vision men.
Write this down: Vision is believing what COULD be SHOULD be.
It is the deep-seated conviction that things can no longer continue the way they are.
Typically, we see vision as only being necessary in the context of leadership, running a company, and definitely in pastoring a church.
But, I submit to you today, we must have a vision for every area of our lives but especially in each of the key roles we are assigned along life’s journey.
We are multi-faceted people, and therefore our vision must be multi-faceted. We should have a vision for not only our church, our ministry, and those we lead, but a vision for our marriage, our relationships, and our personal lives.
Visionless Dead People
I would be remiss if I did not reference this vital scripture in the discussion of vision: Proverbs 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
I get that the portion that states, the people perish, is better translated to mean, the people cast off restraint, or, the people run wild.
But let’s not get too sophisticated in our original Hebrew and maintain for a moment the inspired King James translators’ original statement.
I mean, if the King James Version was good enough for Peter, James, and John, it’s good enough for me! (Just kidding)
It says, Where there is no vision, the people perish…
I submit to you, visionless people die.
If you rewind in scripture for a moment to Numbers 19:13, Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
The Old Testament Law was very explicit on the handling of the dead. If you touched dead things, or dead things touched you, you were defiled, and ran the risk of being cut off from God’s people. You were unclean!
See, if you hang around visionless people long enough, if you allow yourself to become contaminated by visionless, dead people, you’re going to defile the vision God has gifted to you.
Don’t allow dead people to defile your vision. It’s a gift from God!
See, this holds true with our influence as well. Hanging around the wrong people can defile your testimony, it can contaminate your calling, it can desecrate your God given vision.
Psalm 1:1-2 says, Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Brothers, we need to be careful about the company we keep! Don’t let your good be evil spoken of! You need to protect the vision God has given you, your family, and your ministry at all costs!
We can’t afford to be numbered amongst those who are being cut off from God’s great plan in this last day.
Adding Meaning to the Mundane
Your vision is critical to the success of not only your family and ministry, but to the people God has called and ordained you to reach!
Write this down: It takes courage to cast vision. It takes clarity to carry out the vision. And, it takes consistency to continue to the vision.
One of the beautiful things about vision is it will add meaning to the mundane. Vision adds significance to an otherwise meaningless existence.
Let’s be honest; vision takes work. And much of the work we do can seem mundane and meaningless.
2 Strikes and You’re Out
I just completed a read through the first 5 books of the Bible. As I read through the seemingly monotonous details of the law that God gave Moses to give to Israel, it becomes abundantly clear, God is as interested in the details as He is in the Big Picture.
Details that many seem inconsequential to us, have far-reaching effects in God’s eyes. If you think God isn’t concerned with details, just ask Moses what disqualified him from entering the Promised Land after contending with the most stiff-necked and stubborn people of that day.
We think it’s 3 strikes and you’re out. For Moses, it was 2 strikes. Why? Because God commanded him to strike the rock one time, not twice.
God stated it this way in Numbers 20:12, “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”
It’s not just another church service, it’s the opportunity to restore families, lead people to Christ, and to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of His people!
You may think it’s just another Bible study, another sermon, or another visit to the hospital, but it’s another opportunity to sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people.
The Birth of YOUR Vision
As with any birth, the birth of a vision is to be celebrated and even highly anticipated.
I can still remember the announcement that I would be a father. I celebrated that. And, just as importantly, I remember the day I found out we were going to have a grandson, a granddaughter, and yet another granddaughter is due this June 2017!
The joy, the anticipation, the excitement is wonderful.
To me, the birth of vision is much the same way. When God gives it to you, it’s something that brings such joy and anticipation.
You may not have all the details right away, but at that particular moment all you can focus on is, “I’m going to be a daddy…or granddaddy!”
As the vision begins to take shape, the maturing process is critical, as are each of the other phases of the birthing and development process of vision.
Deliver too soon, and your vision could be premature. When God first gives you a vision, allow it to incubate in your spirit, heart, and mind. Allow it to mature, develop, and come to life in God’s perfect timing.
I know when we were expecting our children, the toughest part, so we thought, was the waiting, but waiting is not wasted time.
As young parents, as inexperienced as we were, we took the time to prepare.
See, you don’t wait until the baby arrives before you prepare the nursery. You buy the crib, you paint and decorate. You buy clothes, diapers, and the essentials.
We took classes in preparation of the birth of our children. They even taught us how to breath during the delivery process. That sounds crazy now, but hey, we were getting ready to give birth, and we were willing to do anything to get ready!
If you’re a person of vision, you typically will have characteristics of a person of action. You’re NOT content with the way things are, and you’re so impassioned that you believe things must change, and they must change now!
The birthing of your vision is critical to the long-term success of your vision. To hurry the developmental process of the vision is to potentially shorten its lifespan.
If you’re serious about your vision, never look at the waiting period, the incubation period, as a waste of time. Use the waiting time to prepare, gather materials, take classes, read, study, and plan on being the best parent of your vision possible!
Abraham and Sarah were given a vision of being the father of many nations, yet they lacked the one thing that would make that vision a reality; a son.
In her haste to rush the process, Sarah gave Abraham her hand maiden to fast-forward the process. It resulted in thousands of years of conflict!
Moses spent 40 years waiting on the vision to come to pass that he would be the future liberator of his people. When he tried to rush the process, he committed felony murder and was exiled from the people he knew God had called him to rescue.
But David on the other hand. Despite being anointed King at a very young age, he didn’t pack his bags and start making a trek to the Palace. Nor did his father and brothers who could have easily allowed themselves to hurry the developmental process.
Christ as well set the supreme example of preparedness. He used His wilderness experience as the catalyst for His future ministry. And, even when it came time to perform His first miracle, at the urging of His mother Mary, He took her lead on whether or not He was ready.
Just as a mother’s body begins to take on the hormonal changes, and physiological changes, in preparation of the birth, so too must our spirit, mind, soul, and even at times our body, be in preparation for the birth of our vision.
Your incubation period is critical to the long-term success of your God given vision!
H3 Approach to Vision
In his bestselling powerful book on leadership called H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry, and Always Hustle, Brad Lomenick details components of a successful vision statement:
Optimistic: Our vision should be a message of hope. They answer the “why” an organization exists. It must motivate, inspire, and be a call to action.
Lastly, it should devote more words to the solution than to the problem.
Simple: Hab. 2:2, “Write down the vision, make it plain, so he who reads it may run with it.”
If it takes more than five minutes to memorize, your vision statement is too complicated. If it has bullet points, it needs refinement. It should contain words that are simple, direct, and to the point. And, never use words people will need a dictionary to understand. Never load it down with churchy “christianese.” K.I.S.S. Keep it Super Simple.
Personal: People will work for other people in a way they will not work for anything else. Dan Rockwell wrote, “Vision always centers on people, never projects, programs, properties, or profits.”
Flexible: While it is important to have a certain level of specifics to your vision, allowing your vision to adapt to the inevitable changing tide of culture is imperative. When your vision statement is flexible, it will be liberating instead of limiting.
Pastor Rick Warren said, “Pastors are some of the most underrated change agents in the world.”
That’s absolutely true. As pastors and leaders, we help people navigate much needed change in their lives. Our job is to get them from here to heaven, and the transformation process isn’t always easy. Build your vision around being able to help people navigate change, and your organization, your ministry, or your church will be seen as an essential element of their daily lives.
According to Todd Smith, CEO and Founder of KINEO Resources, “Too many are waiting on God to grow the church. But, growing a church involves both God and man. We can never do what God can ONLY do and He will never do what He has ASKED us to do.”
He goes on to say, “Growing a church requires man doing his part, and letting God do His. Jesus said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers…” God is going to use workers.”
This is work! Harvest takes work.
Some want God to do it all…that’s not how harvest works.
What is Vision?
- Vision is what you see, and what you want to see. Vision has to do with sight.
- Vision is a portrait of your preferred future. What kind of future do you want? Have pictures, artist renderings, blueprints, etc. that will inspire people’s interest, support, and generosity.
- Vision answers the “why” question. Why we are where we are. Why did we choose this location? Why did we plant this church? Everyone must comprehend why we are where we are. NOTE: When we lose our “why” we lose our way!
- Vision is the dream in your heart…it is the God Dream. God loves dreamers. It would do you good to take a stroll down memory lane. Remember how God led you to that community. You were inescapably drawn to it by God’s call connecting you to your dream.
Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
God has gifted you with a unique vision. It’s been said that when your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near.
I would encourage you to keep dreaming that God-sized dream. Don’t give into your critics. Don’t be paralyzed by your own fears or self-doubt.
That’s not to say your vision won’t be scary. In fact, one of the best indicators your vision is a God-sized vision is that it is too scary to do by yourself.
A true God-sized vision is a partnership between the Divine and the human.
But be warned, we must be willing to look foolish when it comes to vision.
See, the heroes in the Bible we admire most are those that fought behind enemy lines. They entered into impossible situations and came out victorious; not just because of their faith, but because of their crazy faith; crazy faith in God!
You have to be willing to look foolish; operate outside of your comfort zone; do something you’ve never done before; that’s where your growth takes place!
Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from doing what you absolutely know you MUST do! In fact, The willingness to fail is a prerequisite to success.
But here’s the deal, if you’re NOT willing to look foolish, you’re foolish. In fact, faith is the willingness to look foolish!
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Noah looked foolish building an ark in the middle of dry land!
Sarah looked foolish shopping for maternity clothes at 90 years old.
Joshua and the Israelites looked foolish marching around Jericho and blowing trumpets!
David looked foolish attacking Goliath with slingshot and a stone.
The Wiseman looked foolish chasing a star.
Peter looked foolish stepping out of the boat onto the stormy seas.
And sadly, Jesus looked foolish hanging on a cross, naked, beaten, and tortured.
But that’s the essence of faith, and the results speak for themselves.
Noah and his family were saved from the flood.
Sarah gave birth to a baby boy.
The walls of Jericho came crashing down for Israel.
David defeated Goliath.
The Wiseman found the Messiah.
Peter was the only disciple to join Jesus walking on the water.
And, Jesus resurrected from the dead!
You know why some people never kill a giant, walk on water, or see walls come crashing down in their lives?
Because they weren’t willing to look foolish!
Visionaries can be branded fools because they call things that are not yet existent, as though they have already appeared.
See Romans 4:17, …God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were.
Your vision is a direct result of your burden, your passion, your desire. It’s what keeps you up at night, and what gets you up early in the morning. Tap into that constantly.
Our vision is quite literally the ignition point between a God in Heaven, and a man on earth, which can set on fire the passions of man to accomplish God’s Divine purpose.
- Visioneering by Andy Stanley
- H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick
- Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley
- QBQ by John G. Miller
- If by Mark Batterson
- Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
- The Indigenous Church by Melvin Hodges
- Living Forward by Michael Hyatt
- All In by Mark Batterson
- Lasting Impact by Cary Nieuwhof
- 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley
- Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson
Rodger Mangold is the pastor and founder of Turning Point Ministries in Rochester, MI. He also serves as the World Missions Director of the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ and is the ALJC World Missions European Field Supervisor to 6 Countries and 7 Missionary Teams.