I have said, and have often heard others exclaim those words when looking skyward or toward the horizon to observe an object.  I have also heard them when one is looking at a page in a magazine or book, hoping to capture a fleeting thought or concept.  In both cases, there is a desire to transfer what is “external” through our eyes and into our mind.  Aristotle is quoted as saying “the soul never thinks without a picture.”  We long to visualize in our minds what it is being discussed.  A lack of clear vision — both individually and corporately — will always result in hesitancy, misunderstanding, and will impede decisive action and cooperation.  So, what is vision, really, and why is it so important to all of us?

Vision is a description of the preferred future that one believes God desires for their church, their family, their organization or their personal life.  It is always aimed at the future and is different from the mission.  The mission is a description of what the group is and why it exists – it is present and intellectual.  The vision identifies where the group is headed and what their mission looks like when wonderfully fulfilled in the future.  The vision isn’t purely intellectual — it is emotional and motivational, based on prayer as well as seeking the leading of God about His will and desired progress.  Vision gets people excited, and expresses a moral obligation to change, move, and address a critical issue or problem within society, or the organization itself.

I like to describe the vision as the “destination” that the organization commits to arrive at in a specified time period, and how that will look at the time — if God has His way with a group.  It should be an image which everyone can picture and desire.   It is vitally important, because people naturally want to move forward and progress.  People want to know where they’re going.  They desire to join in on the journey!  If an organization does not point to a destination, they resort to “survival” and trying to hold it as is—which inherently never happens—and leads to organizational demise.  A group which fails to give vision ends up in division, as each leader is left to create their own conflicting vision and pursue short-term success over the longer term vision.  Not having a vision becomes a sentence of division, argumentation, and fragmentation.  Having a vision, on the other hand, does the opposite.

Vision unites people toward a cause which makes them move.  Vision motivates leaders of all levels to step up and help move forward.  Vision prompts resources.  If your group has no vision, the resources will be reallocated to where the vision moves the heart to give.  Vision clarifies direction and calls for participation.  When the vision is clear, all the people in the boat put their paddle in the water and begin to row in one direction!  What a picture of partnership – all on the ship, straining together against the elements to move the vessel toward the lighthouse in the distance!  Sadly, many churches and organizations without vision paint an entirely different picture – that of a boat, adrift in the currents, with people frantically paddling in all different directions, or not rowing at all!  We have all experienced this reality at some time, and realize the frustration as well as the wasted energy and resources of dealing with the disagreement rather than addressing the problems with clear vision.  Vision creates energy to move and even initiates some strong faith, regardless of risk.  Vision gives assurance and confidence to members of a group to keep moving and stop their nearsighted self-focus.

The Bible is filled with examples of leaders prompted by God to move, transforming the people they led toward a desired picture of the future.  Think about Abram—he moved his entire household from the land of Ur to Canaan—a place he never actually visited!  He obeyed God and moved his family forward.  Then we remember David the shepherd boy.   He was anointed the next King of Israel, yet waited patiently under the rule of Saul, holding his 600 plus men “in check” because of the vision of God, bringing about his eventual rise to the throne.  These men were visionary leaders who motivated others to see the future destination God planted in their hearts and minds.  They were greatly admired, and followed by very loyal people even amid trials and difficulties.  Their lives showed faith in God and their dedication to a greater vision which held promise for the future beyond their present circumstances.

In the New Testament, Jesus comes to fulfill a clearly articulated vision of ministry to the twelve disciples, the nation of Israel, as well as the world — which was prophesied from ages past. (Genesis 3:15 – to crush the serpent’s head; Mark 10:45 – to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many; Luke 19:10 – to seek and to save the lost; John 1:17 – to bring grace and truth; John 15:16 – to choose the disciples to bear fruit that will last; John 17:4 – complete His work in disciple-making and bring God glory; John 19:30 – to pay “in full”  the penalty for sin; Phil. 2:5-11 – to humble Himself and be exalted by God for redemption and example for man.)  He daily did the Father’s will and refused to be distracted from going village to village and town to town to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven.  The twelve disciples and others followed Jesus, hanging on his words and believing He truthfully told of a future house of his Father (John 14:1-7).  He was the greatest leader of all time and He daily created pictures in the minds of others which they could visualize and believe.

Vision which is inspired by God can be recognized as that which will bring about great glory to God, progress of His Church, and eternal results.  These are also great measurements we can use to consider what we have for overall goals for our lives and for the churches, and organizations which we serve. Anything which falls short of these may simply be our personal ambition or selfish desires.  I greatly fear superimposing my desire for the world’s “success” as a godly vision for my life, my family, and Grace Bible College.  We prayerfully, and many time patiently wait upon the Lord and talk with others to discern and seek God’s voice as He leads.  This can be refined and vetted by other godly people whom God has put into our lives.  Nevertheless, sometimes God desires a boldness which demands the power of God to be actualized for a God-sized vision to be a reality.  We certainly have experienced this at Grace Bible College and give all glory to Him!   May God bless you as move in response to His leading and for His glory.

Ken B. Kemper