The topics of vision and strategy have been front-and-center in leadership circles for many years now.  More books and journal articles have been written on these topics than I can even count.  Yet, many churches and leaders continue to struggle to cast clear vision and implement effective strategic plans.  So, let’s talk about it.

Vision answers the big question, “Where are we going?”  It’s about destination.   Every church and church leader needs to have a clear mental picture of what that destination looks like.  For Moses it was a picture of “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).  Imagine the exodus journey without a clear vision.  It was challenging enough for Moses to lead a people who were bent on looking back from where they came, but imagine what it would have been like without a picture of the promised land etched in Moses’ heart and mind.  Vision propels God’s people toward His assigned destination.

Vision also speaks to the BIG picture or panoramic view.  This is a struggle for all of us, as we have real limitations.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of this struggle:  “Now we see but a poor reflection . . .Now I know in part” (13:12).  Our knowledge and spiritual sight is limited.  I remember one summer when I was just a little boy, our family was visiting friends for the fourth of July.  The highlight of the day was the annual parade.  It was a big event in this little community, and I was ready to take in all the action.  I remember playing in the backyard by myself when suddenly I heard the sirens and what sounded like a marching band.  The problem was, the backyard was surrounded by a tall wooden fence and I was way too little.  I noticed a knot hole in the fence and before you knew it, I was on my tiptoes with my face pressed tightly against the fence.  With one eye I could see the red flashing light and what appeared to be a tuba.  I tried my best but all I could see were bits and pieces as the parade made its way down our street.  I was excited but worried that I was going to miss out on the big parade.  It was at that moment I felt two strong arms wrapped around my waist as my dad hoisted me onto his broad shoulders.  There it was, the big parade – clowns, floats, marching bands and Shriners on little bikes.  I could see it – the panoramic view!

Do you see it?  Do you possess a clear picture of the destination, the big picture of what God wants to do in your life, in your church, and in your region?  If we don’t see it, we won’t pursue it.  This is important.  In fact, it is a matter of life or death (see Proverbs 29:18).

The kind of vision I am speaking of is not some mystical experience, but rather the missional objectives that God has set out in His Word for His Church.  When God challenges us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), He is casting a vision in our hearts – He is painting a picture of a church reaching a lost world.  Do you see it?  Although the vision originates with God and is communicated through His Word, it must take root in the heart of the leader if it is ever to impact the church.  Moses could see it – he could probably taste it in his mouth and feel it in the depths of his soul.  Vision propelled him toward the missional objective.  Do you see it?  Can you taste it and feel it?

So vision is a destination, a big picture missional objective.  In developing a vision statement for your church, make sure the statement . . .

  • captures what Scripture reveals to be the BIG missional objective for the church
  • is clear and concise
  • is compelling enough to merit all the time, energy, money and passion you will invest in it
  • is communicated often through preaching, teaching, printed materials and daily conversations

When a big biblical vision permeates a church, God shows up in amazing ways.  I believe our God is a God of BIG objectives.  Lord, give us eyes to see what you see and faith to fulfill that vision!

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to get there?”  With a destination etched in our mind, it’s time to break out the map and plan the trip.  Strategy is “the process that determines how your ministry will accomplish its mission” (Advanced Strategic Planning by Aubrey Malphurs, 1999).  What steps will we take to get to our destination?  What methods will we employ?  How will we realize our dream?  These are strategic questions.

Nehemiah was a man with a big vision.  He could see in his minds eye the walls of Jerusalem being restored.  He took that vision which God had given him and he cast it before the people (Nehemiah 1-2).  Then, he became very strategic (Nehemiah 3-6).  Assignments were given and people went to work rebuilding the walls and the gages of the city.  When the enemy plotted against him, Nehemiah developed strategic initiatives to address the threat.  When the people faced famine and mistreatment by their own countrymen, Nehemiah responded in a strategic way.  The dream of walls restored was realized (6:15) because of the strategic initiatives of a man who trusted in a big God.  Nehemiah said, “The God of heaven will give us success” (2:20).

Do you have a plan?  Do you know how you are going to accomplish the big missional objective that God has revealed to you?  Some church leaders simply fly by the seat of their pants.  If my destination is Phoenix but I don’t take the time to plot the route using GPS or Rand McNally, I should not be surprised if I end up in Salt Lake City with no resources left for the journey.  Discouragement in ministry often comes as a result of a dream without a plan.

A word of caution about strategy.  Keep it flexible and adaptable, because God has a way of trumping our plans.  It didn’t take long for the Apostle Paul to learn that doors open and close all along the way.  Be ready to change directions and adjust the itinerary when God so directs.  But, this does not mean we should not plan.  God’s Word places value on preparation and strategy.   This value is seen in the account of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  It is seen in the ministry of Jesus as he prepared twelve men to impact the world.

Church leaders, I encourage you to give great attention to the development of strategic plans for your church.  These plans should include an overall church plan as well as individual ministry team plans which cover the key areas of your church ministry.  Each of these plans should be in alignment with the overall church plan and directly linked to fulfillment of the missional objective (vision).  Be sure you spend much time in God’s Word and much time on your knees.  If you and your leadership team could benefit from some practical training in this regard, please let me know and I would be happy to schedule a visit.

God bless you as you capture His vision for your church and implement a plan to see that vision fulfilled!