As I drove home from church the other night the question hit me, "what is my vision for my worship ministry?" As I pondered I realized my vision was too nebulous and incoherent to write down even though I previously thought I was clear and concise. I am writing this article because I assume that some of you, like myself, are equally challenged in gaining, casting and executing worship vision in tangible ways.
Here are some examples of tangible vision:
1. 25% of the people in the congregation will be arriving early to assure they don't miss worship.
2. During worship, Christ will be revealed with such clarity that 25 people this year will make decisions for Christ by the witness of the worship alone.
3. As a worship leader, I will create a mature congregation of worshippers so that there will be 5 less notes to the pastor regarding the musical genre.
4. Our worship ministry will write original music for the congregation and produce a CD of the 10 most influential original songs.
Here is a test to see if you should keep reading this article:
Write down your vision in its tangible expressions, how you will get there and what help you will need in less than one or two paragraphs.
OK then, if you are still reading, we are alike; both needing to sharpen our spiritual leadership.
Let's define Godly vision as a compelling image of a better future that goes beyond our abilities and available resources that is empowered and directed by God. There are two important principles in this statement.
First, vision compels.
The difference between a slogan and vision is that while a slogan states something in a catchy phrase or a slogan it lacks the power to compel people to strive toward a goal. Vision does just that. Martin Luther King's statement is rather unimpressive but when he said "I have a dream today..." people thrust themselves behind his vision. Today, nearly 30 years later, people still do. His vision is empowered by people wishing to see civil reform in the United States of America. How much more powerful and compelling is vision when God empowers it?
The second important principle of vision is it goes beyond our current abilities and resources. A good example is Joseph. He was the least in his family yet had big dreams that exceeded all expectations and certainly his resources and abilities.
When we consider vision, we must remember we serve God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above what we ask or think in accordance to the power that works within us. There are limitless possibilities with God but we tend to limit what we are willing to commit to when it come to vision.
Have you ever downplayed your expectations to guard against possible failure? Most of us have. What does this say about us? When we downplay a God given goal, we should realize that we are revealing our fear that God won't come through or our fear we will be considered unspiritual if it does not happen like we expect. If we learn anything from David it is spiritual maturity and leadership is not the lack of mistakes but the commitment to believe God and reveal what He promises to do through us.
Risky – Yes.
Faith building – You bet! Scriptural? Absolutely. We can have confidence in what God promises as Ez. 12:25 says, "For I am the Lord: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged for in your days... I will say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God" (KJV). Let's ask ourselves if our confession of the future magnifies (a Greek origin word for worship) God.
Getting started -
Worship leaders must first accept the responsibility to lead. We know that God's people perish without vision. If Ps 29:18 is true, "where there is no vision, the people perish", then we must take the responsibility to gain vision for our ministries. Since most of us do not have revelatory gifts where vision comes quickly, we must be strategically purposeful with our vision seeking time. Do what ever it takes to get alone with God and put yourself in the spiritual environment and attitude to receive vision for your ministry. There is probably little need to warn you of an over active imagination yet you must consider thoughts that are much bigger than yourself. Gaining vision can take a long time as Hab 2:3 suggests, "Though it (God's vision) tarries, wait for it."
Let me emphasize that gaining vision may be the single most important part of your ministry if it is to flourish and bear fruit. Write down your vision for your ministry - Hab 2:2 " Then the Lord answered me and said: 'White the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it'". As you receive the vision, write it down. Few people are gifted or graced with a complete revelation at one time. Therefore, write down as many details as you can. Some times visions comes in spurts and we must allow it to unfold over time. Don't be surprised if you gain more vision while writing... write that revelation/inspiration down too. If God's hand can appear and write on the wall at Belshazzar's feast (Dan. 5), then we should allow Him the opportunity to use our hand to write on paper. Don't worry about forming complete sentences or good grammar; simply take notes of what is revealed. Sometimes it is useful to make special notations of what is revealed prior and during writing.
Communicate your vision compellingly?
If people can see what God revealed to you, they will be likewise compelled. In his article "You've got to speak your vision" Rick Warren says, "Leadership is knowing where you're going and being able to persuade people to come along with you." Therefore, we must help people to imagine the future God revealed. Understanding Ps 29:18, gives the burden of and the responsibility to instill the vision you saw in (not to) the people you lead. Give this process time; just as it took some time for you to receive the vision, it will take time for your people to catch it too... in fact, some may never catch the vision but they can be really good followers. Be persistent and consistent in communicating your vision. People have a tendency to forget why they do certain things and frequently need to be reminded. We do too. That is why writing the vision down is so important.
Enemies of vision –
"A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness" according to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Spiritual vision, like our physical vision can be obscured or blocked too.
Let's consider the personalities that act as spiritual cataracts:
1. Goliath - Those who mock and curse God's vision for His people.
2. The Philistines - Those who continually fight against God's promises.
3. Sandbalat – Those who try to distract you from God's call and your work in Christ (Neh. 6:3). Have you ever heard, "That is a wonderful idea but let's finish this other thing first"?
4. Pharaoh – Those who are blind to and oppose God's call. This could be the elder that says, "If you don't sing my favorite songs I will go to a church that does and take my tithe and some of the church with me." Encourage them to find the place where God is calling them and support that church with everything they have.
5. Job's wife – Those who criticize you for holding on to your integrity because they don't understand the movements of the life of faith nor the faith of life. They might say, "We've done it this way for three generations, why change now?"
6. Herod – Those who undermine God's call and view spiritual matters as amusement, philosophy, intellectual stimuli or propositional but never something that governs your life. They will tell you, "This is an interesting idea" but will never support you.
7. Deliah (and the serpent in the garden) – Those who manipulate God's promises and direction for purposes other than what God has destined. They might say to you, "I know you are a Godly leader but let's face it, nobody has the corner-on-the-market on hearing God. If you back down from such an extreme position (compromise), it will be a lot easier for you."
8. The rich young ruler - Those who love the things of this world more than what and who they are created for.
9. The Pharisees who cannot see nor allow anything beyond their own observance of their religion. They don't understand that God speaks to you also.
10. Jacob's brothers – Those who don't see the relevance or importance of your dream and are blinded with envy. They may say, "Why are you always asking for more people to be in the choir, you have most of the volunteers in the church already."
11. The disciples of Jesus – Those who were bogged down on "the how" vs. "the what." When Jesus asked them to feed the 5000 and the 3000 they forgotten they were with God and God was with them. They focused more on what they didn't have that the opportunity that comes from being in God's presence.
12. The nations that lived around Israel – Those who criticize you because your history. To be sure, some of these personalities are in our ministries. Keep your eyes clearly fixed on your vision (Heb. 12:2). Do not let people, no matter how good they are or how much you love them, to distract you from proceeding to your vision. Is the vision greater than your worship resources today? Be sure that people will criticize your for having a big vision. But our God is a BIG GOD and He has BIG visions for our lives.
We are creatures of destiny. Eph. 2:10 says God prepared plans for us before we were born. Ps. 33:11 says the plans are eternal. Phil. 1:5b says God will perform His plans in you. Prov. 19:21 says that God's purposes will prevail. Eph. 1:11 says we are predestined for His plan. Finally Jer. 29:11 says that God's plans to prosper us and He does not forget about what He promised. Why should we circum to such criticism? Nehemiah sets a good example; he continued in doing the work of his vision amidst his critics (Neh. 6). Like Nehemiah we have the choice to get distracted or continue to pursue God's vision in faith.
Planning for Vision -
Vision is a partnership with God for our future by wisely investing our talents, gifts, time and resources for the greatest profit to the Kingdom of God (Mat 25:14-30). Some may be contemplating transition from hymns to contemporary worship. To continue a course that does not lead to contemporary worship is to bury your resources in the ground until the master returns. To be developing your contemporary praise team and inserting them with more and more frequency and giving instructions about the nature and responsibility of worshipping with all our heart, mind and strength regardless of the musical genre is like investing the your talents to produce more talents. Everyday you must strategically apply your resources toward your vision. Ask yourself everyday if you can do anything to bring you closer to your vision. Having your vision written in a place you see it every day makes this job a lot easier.
Ignore obstacles –
I guarantee that you will face vision obstacles. Obstacles are resources users; the like tares in a wheat field (Mat. 13:24-30). Not only is investing in obstacles unwise, it undermines your vision and then kills it. You cannot serve two visions. You will be tempted to spend time and resources in non-vision activities and programs to satisfy certain constituents because they are the safe and easy path. This temptation to return to the old way increases during the transition because neither the old nor the new way of ministry, in its uncompleted form, is very satisfying. Don't deviate, not even for a quick fix of temporary satisfaction. Stay focused and continue applying your resources to your vision. Your future in Christ is the only means of ministry satisfaction because once God reveals new vision, the old way of doing ministry is dead – like returning to Egypt.
Continually cast vision –
Nehemiah learned that people often and regularly forget why they embark on a given path. Rick Warren calls this the Nehemiah principle and suggests that people should be reminded monthly about the vision and why it is worth pursuing.
Get help -
Identify the necessary or critical steps needed to attain your vision and try to set a schedule for their completion. Realize that some steps can be worked on at the same time while others can only begin when others are completed. Consider how scheduling these steps will play a role in completing your vision. If you need help, identify where that help can come from and when it is needed.
Give all your available resources –
I enjoy restoring cars but they are expensive. At the end of the week, I put the few dollars I have left over into a car fund bucket. Although my weekly saving does not seem like much, week after week it adds up. It's the same with vision. Your ability to reach toward your vision probably is inhibited by insufficient resources. Don't let the fact that you have only partial resources keep you from moving toward your vision. Take what you have and invest it into your vision even if it won't complete your vision. This gives God the opportunity to multiply what you have invested.
The key points to remember are:
1) patiently seek vision and write it down,
2) proclaim the full and undiluted vision,
3) don't get distracted from moving toward your vision,
4) Continually give your resources toward fulfilling your vision.
5) The last thing to do is to periodically evaluate your progress toward your vision. If your vision is to have 5 new bass and 3 new alto singers in the choir, then count how many you have. If you haven't met the extent of your vision, ask if you are on the way? If not, how can you plan differently to achieve the desired result. Maybe you could go to the local high school choir leader or vocal instructors and ask for volunteers that need some practical experience.
Vision is a key ingredient to ministry. I hope that this article inspires you to enter a partnership with God for your future through a compelling tangible vision of your own ministry.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (KJV, Eph. 3:20). May God empower to excel in the work He has commissioned to you.
Copyright © 2001-2003 by John White, C. M. Press, LLC. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For more information, please visit www.experiencingworship.com