Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pastor as a Transforming Leader (Pt 3) – Vision


I sincerely believe that all transforming leaders are led by a vision and the vision has to be a God-given one. This is because as a spiritual leader, the pastor’s people are God’s people and his duty is to steer them towards God’s purposes. Whatever dreams and visions the pastor may have will have to be subordinated towards God’s will in the ministry he has been entrusted with.

Basically, having a vision means forming a picture of a future reality and being willing to work in the present towards the reality of that future. I personally think this should form part of a pastor’s theology – being future-oriented. God himself desires change. After all, He looked at the formless chaos and decided to form the universe and man, bringing beauty and excellence out of nothing. Even when man sinned, God did not maintain the status quo but gave us a hope-filled future through the work of Jesus on the cross. Much of the Old Testament prophets, as well as New Testament writers maintained an eschatological outlook (Isa 4:2-6, Ezek 34:24-31, Joel 3:16-21, Zeph 3:11-20, Matt 25:31-34, Mk 13:26, 1 Thess 4:13-17, Rev 21:1-5,). Thus, as God’s obedient servants, we too should envision how we can qualitatively work towards redeeming the future for God’s purposes. Most important of all, to be a leader, we have to look at and to our Supreme Lord for the vision.

Nevertheless, I would like to qualify the word ‘vision’ here. This should not be understood here as a ’The Word of the Lord came to…” variety of commissioning of the pastor to go forth as God did with the prophets in the Old Testament. Rather, vision may be properly interchanged with dream, mission, purpose, direction, plan, objective, long-term goal, etc. Therefore, a vision projects a future condition, presenting a picture of a changed organization and compels action. Thus, a vision may emerge as the pastor reflects on God and His designs for the church. This vision will undoubtedly be influenced by factors such as values, characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, etc as well as communication and feedback from leading members of the church. Although I refer to the pastor only, I think it is also important to note that the pastor should not seek a vision for the church in isolation. Rather he should do this in concert with a team of leaders and matured Christian members of the church, through fasting, prayer and fellowship.

Having defined the vision, the pastor will have to communicate it to his congregation. This is because the church is not an autocracy where the leader speaks and people obey but a community called to serve God’s purposes for this world. Therefore, it is important for the church to be co-partners in the vision. Transforming Christian leadership requires this shared sense of destiny. Hobgood (The Once and Future Pastor) tells us that “there is no point in a pastor’s giving voice to a vision of the church’s future direction if there’s no one to hear and no one to get excited by it.” The wise pastor will not pitch his vision over the heads of his congregation but at their hearts to gain acceptance. Therefore, getting the church people to buy into the vision requires loving patience with warm, open communication. The Bible describes God’s people as royal priests, a holy nation, precious, etc. That means they are equally important to God as the pastor is and he should never lose sight of this truth.

What the pastor needs to keep in mind is that the vision is God’s vision and that change is God’s work. The pastor’s job is to just faithfully communicate this vision to the people. Perhaps a better way to articulate this is to say that the pastor is to be the channel through which God’s vision is imparted to the people. I believe that the key is to encourage followers to grow in their relationship with God. As God’s channel, that means the pastor has to maintain the following:

  1. Be faithful to his prophetic office. This office is sometimes described as “an extraordinary ministry of special inspiration, of discernment of the meaning of events already revealed, or in some cases, yet to be revealed (Blackaby in ‘Spiritual Leadership’). Preaching seeks to “inspire, devotion dedication, loyalty and discipleship to Christ.” Through the preached word, we encounter Jesus, the revealed word. With the help of the Spirit, it results in changed lives.
  2. Be faithful to Christ in his own life. The pastor also has to give a good witness of God’s work in his own life lest he cause members to stumble resulting in a negative reaction to any vision by him.
When these two components are adhered to, it will allow for Spirit-inspired communication of God’s vision and result in the Holy Spirit affirming the vision’s authenticity in people’s hearts. Perhaps, this is why we can see Paul as a great biblical example of an effective communicator of God’s word. His life (2 Cor 4:8-12) and his message (1 Cor 2:4-5) was a demonstration of God’s power at work in a Spirit-inspired leader and resulted in much fruit in his life in inspiring others into expanding the Kingdom of God.

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