Major-league pitcher Steve Trout, to show off, recently attempted to throw a strike while blindfolded. He succeeded. The novelty of that exhibition, however, simply points out how unusual is such an accomplishment without being able to see.

Whether throwing baseballs, driving a car, or reading a map, we need well-focused vision. And in leading a church, vision of a different kind is equally vital.

Virtually all thriving churches have at least one visionary, a person who sees the possibilities, knows where the church can go, and excites others about getting there.

Wooddale Church, in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, has its share of visionaries, including Leith Anderson and Austin Chapman.

Leith Anderson has, since 1977, been senior pastor at Wooddale. During his pastorate the church has relocated, changed its name, and nearly doubled in size.

Austin Chapman is president of The Northland Company, a financial services company, and is a key lay leader at Wooddale. He has served as church chairman, deacon, Sunday school teacher, member of the building committee, and chairman of the pastoral search committee. Together, they have been instrumental in helping the church more clearly define its focus of ministry. LAY LEADERSHIP asked them about the process necessary for well-focused vision.

An interview with Leith Anderson and Austin Chapman

Lay Leadership: For those who've been in church awhile, the word vision means one of two things: a building project or relocation. Is that a legitimate image?

Chapman: Vision is a picture of what can be in the future. In a dynamic church, that can be of growth, and growth suggests you need facilities. Certainly building programs or relocation can be part of a church's vision, but they're not really central.

Anderson: The essence of vision is what you imagine and intend should be. I like Robert Kennedy's quote: "Some people see things the way they are and ask why; I see things the way they could be and ask why not."

Persons of vision are those who imagine what could be, and should be, and say, "Why not? Let's go for it."

Lay Leadership: How would you state the vision of Wooddale Church?

Chapman: We have a purpose statement: "The purpose of Wooddale Church is to honor God by bringing lives into harmony with him and one another through fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism, based upon the Bible as a standard."

Lay Leadership: How many people in the church could quote that?

Chapman: If you allow for paraphrasing, I would hope the majority. All of them are familiar with it.

Anderson: We put it in our literature several times a year, and I welcome people to the church with it. Everything we do is described in terms of our three operative words: fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism. We have three special weeks of the year: Fellowship Week, Discipleship Week, and Evangelism Week. Our youth program has fellowship activities, discipleship activities, and evangelism activities. This threefold approach permeates everything in the church.

Chapman: Each year at the annual meeting, the church votes on our statement of purpose, our strategies, and our current objectives. These aren't changed every year, but they are ratified every year.

I should say, though, that vision is much broader than just our formal statement of purpose. Vision is deeper, wider, longer range; it has to do with conceptual things, intangibles. We want to be God-centered; we want to be a church that's open to new people; we want to reach people who are not churched. That's not part of our statement of purpose, but it's part of our vision.

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