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The Vision Thing

June 27, 2006

A coupla quotes:

“Most evangelicals overestimate what they can accomplish in five years and underestimate what they can accomplish in twenty.” -James Montgomery Boice

“The only things worth doing take longer than a lifetime.” – Augustine

And a sermon excerpt:

Where did we get the idea that leadership in the church means mapping out measurable objectives for ministry and a blueprint for church growth? Why can’t our vision just be to pray for his kingdom to come, to pray for boldness to preach the gospel, to make the most of every opportunity, to keep in step with the Spirit, to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh? Last week we read in Paul’s conclusion to 2 Corinthians, “Aim for restoration” or aim for perfection, aim for maturity. Is that an acceptable vision?

Those who would argue for the critical importance of a clearly defined vision for the ministry of the church often bring forth one verse as their rallying cry to form focus groups. It’s the verse on the front of your bulletin, Proverbs 29:18 which in the KJV says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I have long suspected that this word vision in Proverbs 29:18 surely can’t mean what Dilbert’s pointy haired boss means when he says the word vision, but this week I looked at the verse in Hebrew for the first time and confirmed my suspicions.

It turns out the Hebrew word for vision in this verse is the word used for the visions of the Old Testament prophets. In fact, the ESV translates the verse “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint.” The point is not that people need carefully crafted vision statements. The point is that people need a word from God. Where there is no word from God, society crumbles. When there is a famine for hearing the word of the Lord, the people fall apart. This word vision is the same word used in Isaiah 1:1 “The vision of Isaiah” That’s the title of the book. The vision of Isaiah. God says to the church through Isaiah “Get you up on a high mountain…O herald of good news…say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” That’s the vision we need. A vision of God.

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?… He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing…Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing…Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

That’s the vision without which we perish. That’s the vision we need, that’s the vision for which the people truly hunger, that’s the vision for which the people should be clamoring.

And so just before he dies Paul writes to Timothy, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

Paul’s vision is for the church is to preach the word, to proclaim the vision of God, even when such preaching goes out of season. And we live in a time when preaching is out of season. Most people don’t want a vision of God so much as they want a purpose driven life.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2006 2:21 pm

    Odd. I have no recollection of that text.

  2. June 27, 2006 2:22 pm

    Oops. I meant to add:

    I’m glad you posted it! Three cheers for sermon excerpts!

  3. June 27, 2006 2:31 pm

    …so you’re telling me we aren’t going to start the 40 days of purpose? Whatever happened to elder Nielsen’s “Purpose Driven(TM) Drive Through?”

    can’t our vision just be to pray for his kingdom to come, to pray for boldness to preach the gospel, to make the most of every opportunity, to keep in step with the Spirit, to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh?

  4. June 27, 2006 3:44 pm

    >Can’t our vision just be to pray for his kingdom to
    > come, to pray for boldness to preach the gospel,
    > to make the most of every opportunity, to keep in
    > step with the Spirit, to put to death the misdeeds
    > of the flesh?

    What’s next, telling us the application of scripture is to “stop sinning”!? And then, the next week telling us that the last weeks application was big enough that we didn’t need a new application!?

  5. June 28, 2006 9:37 am

    Reminds me of an article I read a few months ago found here.

    The first quote of the article:

    “What is distinctly spiritual about the kind of leadership you do?” I asked Andy Stanley. Nothing, he said. “There’s nothing distinctly spiritual. I think a big problem in the church has been the dichotomy between spirituality and leadership.”

  6. June 28, 2006 4:20 pm

    yikes. I read that article as well. I emailed it to my sister. yikes.

  7. June 28, 2006 10:33 pm


    Thank you thank you thank you for being a pastor that preaches this kind of sermon. We need more like you preaching it more like this. It is like cool refreshing water to my blogged-out soul.

    I am going to print out the italicized portion and use it in my prayer walk tomorrow. What a sweetly delicious time that will be.

    Anyone else want to do the same? I will be walking between 7-8 am. We can come before the throne together in the Spirit (not necessarily walking together, just at the same time) and feed our souls a power breakfast for a day of praise and worship and adulation.


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