Seeing Things Clearly

Cath Tallack - Arrow 10 (2011/12)

In 1789 William Wilberforce stood before the British parliament and eloquently cried out for the day when men, women and children would no longer be bought and sold like farm animals. Each year for the next eighteen years his bill was defeated, but he continued his tireless campaign against slavery. Finally, in 1833, four days before his death, Parliament passed a bill completely abolishing slavery.

A compelling vision is at the very core of leadership. In a recent survey by McKinsey and Company, more than 70% of senior executives said that innovation would be one of the top drivers of growth for their companies.1 If as leaders we want to see change happen through innovation, we must cast a vision to the people that we lead. Inspired leaders can change the world.

A Christian leader must be a visionary by character to lead and shape the local church. The clearer the vision the more effective the individual is at leading. The leader must have a mental image of where the church or organisation should go and how to get there.2 A Godly leader’s task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be. This is influence. Once spiritual leaders understand God’s will, they make every effort to move their followers from following their own agendas to pursuing God’s purposes. Influencing people is not the same as driving people or forcing people to do something. It is a process of persuasion and example by which leaders cause their people to change their attitudes and

behaviours and to move forward to achieve God’s purposes. When Godly leaders use vision to influence others, their followers will encounter God and obey his will.3

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” The vision that Solomon speaks of is the actual contact between God and the human spirit. With no vision leaders have no focus, no dream and no goal. Jesus told the church what to do. He ordered people around, told them what to do with their lives and how they were to do it. From one perspective His motivational style looks like a command post, from another it’s permission to begin a revolution in His name. He says, “Follow me” and “go into all the world”. He directs His followers toward the vision of God for them and influences them by doing it Himself. The followers of Jesus discover that this task is not only important for it’s own sake but that it matters personally to their leader. Jesus is not only vulnerable to rejection if the disciples are rejected; He is also open to great joy if things go well. Jesus is overjoyed because of the audacity of His Father to reveal truth and this is seen in the lives of the disciples for which Jesus cannot contain His joy.4 Jesus uses vision to influence and lead His disciples into reaching their potential and walking in the light of the Lord. This enables them to go out after Jesus had ascended into Heaven and to build, shape and bless the local church.

In Acts 20:24 Paul says, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” The moment Paul received his vision from God, fulfilling that vision became the pressing priority of his life. There was no space for personal agenda, only the orders from God to influence and shape the local church. Paul took his vision as far as any leader can, to his death. He gave the current church an example of the power of vision and influence in a leader and how when God asks leaders to subordinate their own personal agendas to fulfil the visions He has given them they have the power to shape and change their followers and their churches.

In a time of great change and innovation, people are looking for direction. Discerning God’s vision for a church or organisation is vital, but that is not enough. Leaders themselves are often at a loss as to how to invest their time and energy given the many opportunities and demands around them. It is easy, in all of this to lose our primary focus, which should always stay on God Himself. What has God asked us, personally to do with our lives on earth? There is already a large piece of our personal vision from God outlined in the Bible; it’s figuring out the remaining portion that we need to focus on.

As a leader, discerning your personal vision from God is imperative to being motivational, inspirational and visionary in your ministry. We need to find, understand and fulfil God’s particular calling for our lives and use it to give direction to how we use our time, talents and treasure. 

Looking back on my own leadership journey, I can see in my life what I could not see at the time — how the job I lost helped me find the work I needed to do, how the “road closed” sign turned me toward the terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to understand. On the surface, it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly, the seeds of new life were always being sown. When I first started as the children’s pastor at Gateway Baptist I quickly felt out of my depth in how I was going to lead this ministry. I had no choice but to give the ministry to God and ask Him to guide me as I answered his call to simply lead.

Six months in, I was on holiday in an outback town called Kununurra, sitting on a rock, watching the sun go down, revelling in God’s creation and beauty, when God broke into my thoughts and gave me a great vision for the children and families of Gateway. It was big, it was challenging, and it would bring me to the brink of my potential and teach me to rely fully on the strength of my Heavenly Father. It was a vision that would not be achieved without innovation. I got down off that rock and by torchlight wrote down everything God had revealed to me in that moment. That vision guided my leadership for the next six years. The ministry tripled in size, flourished and enriched our church family entirely because I listened to God and courageously stepped into the vision that He had given me.

Having a vision steers me toward what God has laid out for me in life, striving toward extending His kingdom and glorifying His name, which I will only succeed in if I keep my eyes firmly planted on Him.

In 1789 William Wilberforce had a vision for innovation. A compelling vision is at the very core of leadership. Inspired leaders can change the world. Innovation is change. As leaders we strive to move people from here to there. To do that effectively and to pass the baton of leadership to those coming along behind us we must have a clear vision. Leaders must find the connection between God and the human spirit that inspires vision. It is there, that innovation will be found. 

1. Bash, J, McKinsey Quarterly, Mckinsey & Co, Jan 2008
2. Nelson. A, “Leading Your Ministry”, Nashvile, 1196, pp52

3. Blackaby, H, Blackaby R, “Spiritual Leadership”, Nashville, 2001, pp21
4. Thomas, V, “Future Leader”, Carlisle, 1999, pp48