Over the past 20 years, I have been a participant in countless events focused on teaching pastors to “create” and “cast” vision.  The most quoted verse has got to be Provebers 29:18a:

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…” (KJV or NASB)

But does the first half of this single verse ripped from the Proverbs really provide a “biblical” foundation for all the “vision-casting” seminars, conferences and books on the market?

Two Interpretations

Vision by One Man

In most every case, this passage is used by pastors and other leaders to show why everyone needs to get on-board with their vision.

“If we don’t follow this new vision, then our church will get out of control and die.”

And by “vision”, most folks mean a 21st century styled business plan borrowed from either secular business leaders or mega-church pastors.

But the idea that there is one “senior” pastor or “lead” elder in charge of directing every move for the entire church is simply not in the Bible. As we have seen throughout this series, there is only one kind of Biblical Elder and the rest is a fiction invented by men seeking power.

Vision by One God

Alternatively, we can take this passage from Proverbs in its full context and allow God to direct our path.  First, the translation from the NIV.

Proverbs 29:18 (NIV11)

18 Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

And another from the ESV

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

“Vision” then is not the dreams of one man at the helm to build a church, but a prayerful consent by the Elders to follow the revelation of God.  When we abandon God’s vision for man’s business plans, we will perish.. and we are…

One Vision

1. Grow in Holiness: God’s vision (revelation) is that we proclaim the Gospel to the lost, that we, the church, love one another and lead one another to grow in holiness.  My friend Alan Knox summarizes it this way.

 [T] he idea that God presents his vision for a group’s service through a single individual (i.e., a pastor) is not found in the New Testament. There is no indication by the NT writers that a pastor or elder or other leader is responsible for telling a group of people how to serve God and others.

Even when Paul presented his own life and service to the gospel as an example to others, he did not tell them exactly how to serve God for themselves. Instead, Paul clearly tells his readers that through God’s grace each of his readers are given gifts, opportunities, and ability to serve God through serving one another and others in different ways. As Paul followed the Holy Spirit in serving others, he expected others to follow the Spirit as well.

2. Live For Eternity: We grow in holiness in anticipation of Christ’s return and that one day we will be in eternity with Him.  Chris Brauns writes this:

One of the most compelling leadership vision statements ever written is found in Revelation 22. Writing to a suffering church, John shares a vision of where God’s people are headed: a heavenly city with a river flowing from the throne, surrounded by trees with people from every tribe and tongue.

We often tell our children at home, “I can’t promise you that I will always be around. We live in a world of cancer and accidents. But if for some reason we get separated then we’ll meet on the other side.”

We, the church, can no longer accept the “follow one man’s vision” distortion of the Scripture!!!!  There are not many “visions” for different churches. There is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, and One Vision for the One Church.

In the final post in this series, we will look at the Future of Eldership in the church.

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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