Who Casts the Vision?

Notice how Jesus never said to his disciples:                                                                     “So how should we do this whole “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven‘ thing?

world view eye frymire As I meet with Pastor Nominating Committees, there is the conversation about when the vision should be cast (before the new pastor comes or after?) and who should cast it (the “Vision Team” that works before the new pastor arrives or the new pastor?) It’s got to be the pastor.  The new pastor needs a sense of the congregation before she/he begins, of course.

  • Is it clear that the congregation has No Idea how to be a 21st Century Church?
  • Is it – sadly – clear that they do not want to be a 21st Century Church?
  • Or do the people really want to grow/change/follow the way of Jesus but they need a fearless leader to shepherd the way?

These scenarios make a HUGE difference in terms of how things will go with said new pastor. Surefire way to guarantee disaster:  Church leaders who have their own ideas about the church’s vision, especially when their vision focuses on:

  • The congregation’s historic past.
  • The church building.
  • What a successful church looked like in the 1950s-1970s.
  • Bullying other leaders.
  • Character assassination of the pastor who challenges the elders’ own vision/power in the congregation.

I remember sitting through a challenging church meeting as the pastor shared his vision (sadly in a demanding & defensive way) and an elder who had worked as a “professional church consultant” shared her vision (saying that the pastor “worked for them” and served the vision of the lay leaders.)  It was ugly. The elder/’professional church consultant’ chalked up the conflict to denominational differences.  It was a union church comprised of several denominations.  But actually the conflict was about Who Casts the Vision? It’s got to be the pastor, whose eye is on:

  • what Jesus taught
  • what love looks like in God’s reign
  • what breaks God’s heart in the neighborhood and world
  • the context (i.e. where this church lives)

And then – the congregation works together toward this vision. And what if your pastor’s vision is self-serving/reckless/nuts?  Then maybe you need a new pastor.  Although keep in mind that Jesus’ disciples thought he was nuts from time to time.  Your pastor is not Jesus, but you can tell if you pastor is trying to follow Jesus.


6 responses to “Who Casts the Vision?

  1. AMEN

  2. Proverbs 29:18 “Without a vision, the people will perish.”

    I think both the new pastor and congregation both have to do discernment together to have one unifying vision. For the reasons you mentioned. But also because there is a danger in the vision rising and falling with only the pastor, regardless if he/she is new or old. The vision for the church has to be forward-thinking, kingdom-shaping, etc. but go beyond any one church leader so that when a pastor leaves (for whatever reason) the church can keep on being the church and move forward. Not always completely reliant on the pastor’s vision to the point that they remain stagnant until a new person comes along.

  3. So often I love what you say but I really agree with Prespreacher above. I read what you are saying is that the preacher has “the vision” and all the rest of the folks just need to be “good” congregants and follow along without feeling like they can help shape it. To me this model is stuck in not just the 1970s but the 1910s. I indeed left one very creative, diverse, forwardward looking church (where I was very involved and a deacon) because of the “my way or the highway” new minister (as did over 95% of the church, this wasn’t the only issue). It’s a very thin line between “I have THE vision” and “my way only”

  4. I totally agree that “my way or the highway” is a disaster. Vision casting is about equipping the people to see God’s way for a particular context and for a particular people after the Spirit has informed us. It can’t be about the pastor. It’s about God, and the pastor is simply the one who shepherd’s us toward that vision that helps expand God’s reign through that particular church.

  5. I have been mulling over this post for days and finally came back to say…what has already been said by others. Upon rereading, I hear you saying the Pastor is to be the Shepherd of the vision formation, casting and implementation. I can get behind that. Getting off my soapbox now. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  6. I’ve been on study leave and vacation and so I’m coming to this conversation late, but here’s my $.02.

    I think the pastor will need to be the driving force behind the vision in most congregations. Most likely she will be determining and leading the process, choosing which questions to ask, suggesting books and blogs to be read, pointing towards scriptural and theological resources to be used. In other words, she will be casting a general or more specific vision, and then leading the Session and congregation in seeking affirmation and buy-in for that vision.

    I’ve gotten a fair amount of resistance from other Presbyterian colleagues when suggesting that the pastor casts the vision. It makes me curious why we have such pastor-as-leader-phobia. I understand our polity and agree with it and the theological basis for clergy/lay joint leadership. But we also need to acknowledge (especially in the 21st century) that the pastor brings gifts and skills to the table that no member can because of her experience and education.

    The pastor has an overall perspective of the church that no other member has. Usually the pastor knows more of the ministries/programs/congregation than anyone else, he spends more time thinking (obsessing?) about the church then anyone else, and he often has more invested in the health of the church than anyone else (what member has to move his family to another city/state if the church isn’t doing well?).

    The image that I find helpful is the pastor as symphony conductor. The pastor doesn’t play the music, but she is responsible for directing others in a way that they play beautifully together.

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