Amidst the rock n roll revolution of the free-love sixties was a dream, pushed forward by Martin Luther King Jr. A few years later the seventies greeted world leaders with public threats of nuclear war set against the back drop of a simple and very hopeful message to millions through the prophetic voice of Billy Graham. As the eighties and nineties saw the dreamers trade in their Guitar-packed Vanagons for Costco-bound Volvos, consumerism ruled the day. The only dream that seemed to collectively capture our attention was the American Dream. With its lure of wealthy comfort and in the untimely absence of a worthy dream the fire was already burning, we just didn’t see yet that it was us that were being consumed.
So here we sit in 2012. A generation of Church Leaders grasping, searching, seeking to find a cause to rally our people around. Each church and in turn its leaders, at least the exceptional ones, have clearly heard from God and know their God-given cause. God has again been gracious to us revealing what we are best equipped to rally our people to and how to live out this Jesus stuff. But around each hopeful Kingdom corner lies an obstacle that at least can delay and at worst derail the clear vision and direction we have been inspired to pursue from God.
In today’s leading thoughts I want to explore a few of the obstacles I have hit as a leader as it relates to the vision piece. A few things I have heard my people say OF me or ABOUT me that, while true, are devastating to their faith in “The Vision” and my faith as well. The reality is, most people live lives, as my friend Ted puts it, of “Quiet Desperation” for fear of taking the risk. For fear of success, really. So many of us have been burnt by someone else’s big ideas, lofty vision or God-given dreams. And in the process some of us just plain tapped out. So here are a few things I am learning about myself, maybe they transfer to you too. My prayer is that with a few slight course corrections you will find your leadership void of the “burn factor”.
SOUR VISION IS WORSE THAN NO VISION
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
Most of us have heard the concept that vision leaks. I typically give Bill Hybels credit for this, but it’s probably better attributed to Moses. The idea simply is this: on a journey, even one as important as Walking with Jesus, we get lost and confused. As a leader I need to keep the end goal always in the forefront for the people who follow my lead. This truism is a clear and present force in our leading cultures, but it’s not the only way vision is lost. The sad reality is that vision does not just leak, sometimes it also SOURS.
Like Milk that has sat in the fridge too many days without being moved around, poured out and used. It goes bad. As a leader, those dreams I keep talking about, that initiative I keep saying is, “in development” but never gets anywhere. Well, it goes bad and then when the day comes that I put it out there for people to taste, it’s sour milk. A waste, almost a more frustrating experience than no milk at all.
VISION STARTS, BUT ONLY STRATEGY FINISHES
So often as a leader I get ideas, some of them are even from God. I share these ideas with my team and test the waters. Those that hold some water and seem doable gain traction, but that’s about the spot where vision needs to hand the baton off for a while and let Strategy run. The people around me have unfortunately been burned a time or two when they were left waiting for the baton. People with a heart to implement, to finish. Meanwhile I’m off in some self-edifying dream world basking in the sun of my great ideas while the race passes by.
To combat this tendency I have to be careful to ask myself some important questions before I even give voice to the next idea…
Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.
- Where can I float this idea to get some encouraging but honest feedback?
- Who is the key leader or coordinator that will take this from dream to reality?
- What other respected leaders have tried this in the past and might be willing to tell me about their experience?
VISION IS NOT JUST EXPENSIVE, IT COSTS A LOT TOO
But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. -Luke 14:28-29
Ironically enough, Jesus was not speaking about building things. He was talking about the cost of following himself. So while most leaders are well aware of the resource challenge they face when tackling a vision, we often forget the deeper, bigger and more potentially destructive miscalculation. What is the human cost, the emotional strain on your people to pursue this vision? What will following Jesus cost this brand new believer? What attacks from the enemy should this minister expect after submitting to God’s call? How this willingness to share a testimony in church set a person up for difficulty later?
One of the most painful things for me as a leader is to see the painful affects of “my vision” on the lives of my team. It should serve me well to enter cautiously into God’s next dream for my church, my team, my family. Like a great fire it warms a room and sets an irreplaceable mood and culture. But that same fire can leave life-long burns when touched with bare hands or left untended.
Be a visionary, yes. But be a wise and gentle visionary, always.
To read from Pastor Stu’s Leading Thoughts click here