My first pastorate was in a town of 300 people. It was a very special church. Each Sunday I would go to lunch at a different member’s home. We will never forget those days. It was a great place for me to learn.
One of the greatest lessons about vision I learned in the simplest manner while I was at that church. Some of the church’s leadership determined we needed to air-condition the building. This led to a business meeting. We were discussing the situation as the ping-pong match began. One of the men felt strongly we did not need to do it because “times were hard.” A godly woman in the church had heard about all she wanted to hear. She stood up and said to them, “God will take care of this. Let’s help the church move forward to the future for our younger families.” In her passionate speech and plea, she nailed the hard time’s issue by telling them she would give the first $1,000. Needless to say, within minutes the whole issue was solved. The church was getting its own central heat and air unit.
In the middle of the match, I had resolved that the deal was over. However, I learned that night I was not thinking big enough! I had forgotten the power of vision and how people love to rally to a better future. The lady had called people to a better future, even demonstrating sacrifice toward it.
What God etched in my heart that night I will never forget. A godly lady had a vision and was not going to let anyone torpedo it. She painted a vision, and people ran toward it.
The Lord has used the lessons I learned that night and built upon them church by church and situation by situation. God wanted to build me into a man of vision and faith.
When I came to my present church in 1986 and preached for the church to vote on me becoming their pastor, I was grilled with questions for a long time. That night, I began to cast a vision in many areas.
I remember saying to them, “Surely he wants to use our church to place Jesus and his Gospel all over the world from Northwest Arkansas.” That was a strong statement of vision and faith. On that night, I rallied people to a better future.
Through the years, I felt there was no way that would happen, but I continued on in the vision. With the limited population in this region, I lost my vision and faith periodically. Sometimes I would believe we had peaked and there was no way for growth to continue. Yet it continued to happen. Every time I felt the lid was on, God would blow the lid off the church. I was not thinking big enough! Each time I would look back and say to myself, “I should have known God better than that.” Each time, vision and faith were contributing factors. Each time, people were rallying to a better future for their lives and our church.
Vision is rallying people to a better future. Vision is helping people see what you see already. Vision is calling the invisible into visibility. Vision is usually determined by your burden and by your faith.
Jesus Thinks Big
When Jesus was about to ascend to be with his Father in Heaven, he demonstrated the big idea. It all fit into his extraordinary plan. He had died for our sins. He had been raised from the dead supernaturally. Moments before his ascension, he laid some major visionary plans upon his faithful followers. He stated, as recorded by Luke in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NKJV).
This was a big idea. Jesus was thinking big! He was calling his followers to expand their belief in him and his Good News. He wanted his followers to begin sharing where they lived, then stretch to their own country, and eventually go into the entire world. This plan for reaching the world with news about his gift of eternal life became the marching orders to the church from our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ. Any vision we have needs to be a vision that is tied to the vision of Jesus. He pulls for your vision to be fulfilled when you join him in fulfilling his vision for the entire world, beginning with your own world.
When we do this, we experience a better future. We see things happen that do not logically make sense. We begin to realize that when God factors into our lives and churches, he creates something that is powerful! The supernatural power of God is unleashed upon you and your church when you have the heart for and begin to step toward reaching your region with the Good News of Jesus with great intentionality. The power escalates along with the vision.
Whether you are trusting God for central heat and air to be placed in your building, or something else, ensure the vision somehow connects with reaching others for Jesus. When you connect what you desire to do with his vision, you send your vision to an entirely different level. The commitment from the divine toward you and your church begins to escalate.
Are you thinking big enough? Is your church thinking big enough?
It all begins with our vision. Do you have one?
A Personal Account
Pastors and church leaders, Great Commission strategizing ignites my spirit like nothing else. I long to exhaust all approaches, and all resources, in telling every person in the world about Jesus Christ and making disciples of all the nations. This has been my heart’s vision for many years.
There is no way I could share a word about vision without mentioning an experience that changed me forever. Johnny Hunt, then president of our convention, appointed me to serve as chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2009-10. I led a task force team of 22 diverse leaders in bringing a report and recommendations to our convention of more than 40,000 churches and congregations, on the question of how we might better work together to fulfill the Great Commission.
I led this gifted team for one year through long, exhausting, and exhilarating hours. I knew this was the most wonderful, significant opportunity I would ever undertake in my earthly life. At times I felt overwhelmed with our task.
The Lord taught me many things during my time with the task force. Through my interactions with these 22 leaders, he ultimately matured my vision for the Great Commission. I concluded that time in my life still holding a deep passion and vision to see the every person in the world hear the great name of Jesus Christ, but with a matured vision to encourage the next generation of pastors and church leaders to join me in this passion.
As part of my Great Commission vision, today I diligently make time to engage the next generation and encourage them in every way possible. I see tremendous value and importance in pouring into the lives of the next generation of church leaders. I encourage you to come alongside and invest in your developing leaders and share your vision with them — and may the Lord ignite your vision in them as well.