In my previous post, I listed three ways to develop a vision when you're not a visionary. Here are three more:
4. Listen to the people you want to help. You don't have to be great at coming up with vision, if you're willing to listen to the people you want to help. If you listen well, people will tell you what they really need. In other words, the people you want to serve help set your vision.
Twenty-five years ago, a guy at Christianity Today named Keith did research among pastors who were getting our Leadership Journal and asked them, "What do you need?" One big answer: "Trained lay leaders."
We tried an annual 130-page journal for lay leaders, and it lasted only 3 years before it died. We prototyped a 4-page print newsletter in 50 churches, but those churches collectively yawned. One day I was talking to two pastors and I said, "I don't understand. You say you want trained lay leaders. So we published a long journal, and you said it was too long. We published a short newsletter, and it didn't wow you. What do you REALLY want?"
They said, in essence, "Choice, customization, convenience." So we launched a loose-leaf notebook (pull out just the page you want and photocopy it to train your leaders) and then a website, www.BuildingChurchLeaders.com. Today, Building Church Leaders is one of Christianity Today's most successful websites, reaching 75,000 church leaders through its newsletter and many others through the site.
The point: Where did the vision for that come from? Not from us. It came from the people we wanted to help.
5. Stay in your gifts and let them guide you. The idea here is that God has already shown you much of what He wants you to do in life by the way he made you. So ask yourself, "What has God given me? What passions? What skills? What opportunities? What concerns?"
My wife, Karen, who's on staff at our church, was talking with a young woman named Laura. Laura said, "I couldn't lead the college ministry. I'm not a visionary." So Karen told her, "Well, you recently graduated from college, and you like college students. So if you did work with college students, what would you do?" Laura talked nonstop for 15 minutes. She had more vision than she thought she did, because she already had the suitable gifts for college ministry. As Laura talked about "Here's what I care about and what I would do," her gifts began to express themselves in a solid vision.
6. Solve some problem right in front of you. Often vision is born by passing through the narrow and dark birth canal of problems. You see the problem, and you start to work on it. You don't necessarily feel inspired or see lights. All you are doing is trying to solve some problem right in front of you. But later, everyone else says, "What a great vision!"
The Bible's classic example is Nehemiah. He hears a terrible report about the few remaining Jews living in Jerusalem: "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." The news makes him cry. Nehemiah fasts, prays, and begins to ask for help and to assemble the people and materials. Today we hold up Nehemiah as an example of a visionary leader: he conceived and launched a staggering city-rebuilding project. Nehemiah was simply trying to solve one problem right in front of him.
Bringing your vision to fulfillment. Once you've got your vision, through one or more of the 6 ways listed above, do something with it. Some people don't like the word "vision" because they've seen it stand for "lots of hype and nothing happens." My sister-in-law worked for a huge credit-card-processing company. She told me, "The execs would come down and say, ?You're all leaders.' They'd say, ?We're going to be world-class.' But then they'd go back to their offices, and nothing would really change."
To avoid hype, dedicate yourself to fulfilling your vision. In Acts 20:24, the apostle Paul says, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me." Bill Hybels comments on this verse: "What is Paul saying? I think he's saying, ?The moment I received my vision from God, fulfilling that vision became the pressing priority of my life.' "