The Church Needs Elders With Vision: Part 2
God uses men of vision to lead his people. Last week we saw that visionary leadership requires humility and passion. This article concludes with four additional attributes.
3. Godly Vision Requires Perseverance
“… I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews … I know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” (Acts 20:19, 23). This requires “staying power”, the ability to keep on going in the face of roadblocks.
Vision doesn’t come easy, for it is rooted in that which is eternal, not temporary. There is a false notion that when you discover a vision from God, things will just fall into place. Yet, Jesus implied that the gates of Hell will make valiant attempts at breaking down the kingdom of God (Matt 16:8). This means war!
Visionary plans at times will be frustrated. Discouragement knocks continually at the door. Many things will work against you and the vision God gives. One missionary who worked among an unreached people was asked why he continued on when so few people were responding to the Gospel. His answer was simply that “God sent me here and He has not directed me otherwise.”
God has called us to be faithful. He is responsible for the results.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:16-18).
4. Godly Vision Requires Conviction
“… I have not hesitated …” People of conviction are “trigger-happy” people. They are ready at the drop of the puck to serve the Lord. They really do believe God is at work and this belief is normative for their entire life. They are ready in season and out. Not careless, but sensing the urgency.
I know a believer who has a black belt in karate. One Sunday a friend playfully came up behind and poked him on the sides of his waist. Being taken by surprise, my friend, like lightening, brought his elbows in tight, trapping the prankster’s hands while reflexively snapping his head back in a reverse “head-butt.” Swiftly he spun around almost “chopping” his surprised friend on the neck! Our convictions are revealed by our spiritual reflexes. There is an urgency in the kingdom of God, and vision is not wasted on the double-minded.
5. Godly Vision Requires Relevancy and Adaptability
“ … publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20). Paul was not hung up on the form of his ministry—he was willing to sacrifice personal preferences. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (I Cor 9:22). Sometimes vision is hindered by our “comfort zone” or “used-to zones”. We have all heard someone say, “That is not what we are used to.” To be sure, some forms are more comfortable to us than others.
But, that is not the issue. Vision can die for lack of innovation, when a person is unwilling to let go of preferences. We should be ready to use whatever means are most effective (assuming these means do not violate clear teaching of Scripture).
One church, in wanting to effectively reach young adults, started a “Saturday Night Live” outreach in the church basement, complete with drama, up-beat music, and a gospel presentation. Others have effectively used a home Bible study. Some methods are time tested and very effective, others are innovative and can be equally effective. Some use summer camps to attract children to the Gospel, others use sports clinics. Like Paul, who adapted his methods to gain a hearing, we too must be flexible.
Whether donning a coat and tie to meet a businessman for lunch or putting on an old pair of jeans to go talk to a street kid, we must be willing to adapt to the need of the moment.
6. Godly Vision Requires the Message of Repentance and Faith
“I have declared … that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). The primary message of any godly vision must include the Good News of restoration to God. This was central to Paul’s ministry, for it is the whole point of the kingdom program. But, this also means repentance and faith must be the heart of our daily walk with God.
We constantly fail as Christians and must therefore repeatedly turn to God. To do otherwise earns us the title “hypocrite”. The infamous communist leader of China, Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, spoke of “continual revolution” as the key to his political philosophy. As members of God’s kingdom, we need to be in continual revolt against the natural bent of our hearts. This is revitalizing in the Christian life. Daily confessing our sins to the Vision-Giver, daily offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin (Rom 6:11).
Why do we need this continuous revolution in our lives? Because our message can become stagnant, old. Our testimonies easily degenerate into historical background, rather than a living, dynamic story that attracts people to the Savior.
These reflections are certainly not the definitive list of required characteristics for a man of vision. But, certainly, the man who wants to be gripped by a vision from God must cultivate these Christ-like characteristics.
The Apostle Paul left his standard of character with the young Ephesian elders. If they aspired to the same, God would provide them the vision for His work among them. We need men who are becoming a people of godly character. It is to these kind of people that God gives a vision.
Editorial Note: This article was first published in Elder’s Shop Notes in June 2002. It is used here with permission of the author.