|Vision, by Terry Chen, CC BY-ND 2.0|
There is still a vision for the appointed time; it testifies to the end; it does not deceive. If it delays, wait for it; for it is surely coming; it will not be late. -Habakkuk 2:3
Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known. -Jeremiah 33:3
I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
When I was a teen, I had a poster on my wall of a movie I never saw, called Vision Quest. Deep inside me, there was a cry in my heart to have a vision for my life. I now know that the Spirit of God was wooing me to Christ. "He is your life, He is your vision, follow Christ, be enamored with Him." Seven years after my high school graduation, I found Christ again and was baptized in God's Spirit. The seemingly impossible dream of being in love with Jesus again, as I was in childhood, came true for me. God gives us impossible dreams, impossible visions, impossible ideas; so that He can fulfill them.
If you have only had experience in churches that do have community, discipleship, mission, and an organic family-like atmosphere where Jesus governs the whole group in love and through the elders of the group who are loving and not perfect; then this post might not be for you. I've met many Christians who have never been a part of a corporate modeled church, but a portion of Christendom today is very corporate and I was a part of that, so that is where my reflections come from.
A gentle giant of a man cornered me at a church gathering and asked me, "what's your vision?" A friend of mine finally got a date or meeting with a woman he was interested in and her big question for him was, "what is your vision?"
I got the idea that both of these people had bought into a corporate mindset for church that says that a leader should have a vision from God for their ministry that they will be calling others to follow. They were both interviewing us. I don't know when it started, but at some point, the church in the west took on a "corporate mindset" that says that leadership is hierarchical and very top down. In the corporate model, the top leader is like a CEO of a company. Another way to describe the top leader in the corporate model is a benevolent dictator. I was shocked the first time I read this, but it made sense when I looked at the leadership ways and means in the corporate church model.
Jesus actually taught and modeled bottom up leadership, leading by example, and leading from beside.
In the corporate church model, the leader leads by dictate. He is the Moses and he gets orders or vision from God and he presents it to the people and they follow, or stop following, and sometimes rebel against him and get punished. Discipleship is given lip service too, but not really not done. It is disciplinary to follow someones orders, but authentic discipleship is learning to follow Christ together and being cared for by and submitting to and loving one another.
We need to rediscover discipleship.
When the goal of our commands are not love, our labors become vain. In a corporate environment, there is not much nurturing. In a corporate environment, you do work and you get paid. If you don't do the work, you get shamed or fired. In the corporate environment, there isn't much discipleship and that is why the corporate model can grow a church in size, but not grow the people.
Much of the growth of the corporate style churches is in transfer growth. People transfer in and people eventually transfer out.
What if we have the vision thing backwards. Instead of asking someone that we see as a potential leader in our lives, "what is your vision?", why don't leaders ask followers, "what is your vision and how can I help you fulfill it?" What if real leadership is about lifting others up, rather than rising above and being over others?
What if "vision casting" is ok for the leader of a group, but we need to add to that having the people in that group responding to him or her and then sharing their own visions? Why not mutually affirm and empower one another in communion?
What if, instead of seeing the church as a classroom for lectures, or a theater for sanctified performances and individual (called corporate) worship, that we saw the church as a table, even the communion table?
Jesus last words, where he had his last chance before the cross, to be the church with the disciples; were given over a meal, around a table. After Jesus rose from the dead and spent time and appeared to his followers, he had bar-b-ques, walks on the beach, and spent time with people in small gatherings where he could have eye contact (face time) and people could ask him questions. Have you ever considered that Jesus is the model for the church and he said he would build his church which would probably look like him and do things in his style?
What if church meetings became places where we would really meet one another actively, rather than passively consume? What if the leader's job was to get the community conversation started and keep it going and be a referee, in case someone gets "out of bounds"?
In New testament Christianity. Every person gets to have there own vision. Our visions harmonize and work together like all the parts of a body. No man or woman is the head. Jesus is the head.