Spring 2015


Vision Conversation

Join us in talking about what vision looks like for you and your church.

Jim Thulson and Jim Watson, senior pastor and elder, EFC of Canon City, Colorado

Are you a visionary?

Jim T: Vision has always been a challenge for me—the most stretching in my role as pastor. In His kindness, the Lord surrounded me with elders in our church who do understand vision and act as true leaders. Their shared wisdom has certainly deepened the sense of corporate ownership as we wrestled with what God wants for us. The strength of our EFCA polity is the priesthood of all believers. Wrestling with vision as a group of elders enhances the likelihood of hearing what the Lord wants for His church in such a way that the congregation can hear it and say, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15.28), then actively embrace that vision as their own.

Define the difference between mission and vision.

Jim W: I would define mission as static and timeless. And I would define vision as the unique way that we approach or fulfill mission. Vision is not static. It will change over time as the dynamics of our church family changes. It will also change over time in response to changes in the community and culture in which we are planted. Vision is recognizing whom to partner with—other evangelical movements in our community or parachurch organizations—to support mission.

Jua Robinson, senior pastor, Heart Change (EFCA), Boston, Massachusetts

Do you have a personal vision for your life?

Ironically, I don’t have a personal vision statement, but I see myself similar to a point guard on a basketball team. The purpose of the point guard is not to score the most points or grab the most rebounds on the team. His role is to set up his teammates so they can be successful on the court. I know I will not discover the cure for cancer, write the next great American novel or preside over legal cases that shape a community, but my passion is to influence individuals who will—influence them to build God’s kingdom through their spheres of influence.

Have you ever been in a church that didn’t have a vision?

Yes, it was very frustrating. There was great energy placed upon insignificant issues instead of placing energy upon being and making disciples of Christ.

Brandon Early, student ministries director, Valley Church (EFCA), West Des Moines, Iowa

What does vision mean to you?

In my masters program at Bethel Theological Seminary, I was taught that vision should be “Appropriate, Bold, Clear, Desirable, Energizing and Feasible.” This is a good framework for vision. In addition I would add Narrow (I wish there was a “G” word that meant narrow). I have seen far too many churches not achieving their “preferred future” because their vision was too broad. Let me give you an example: If your church’s vision is to “Love God and love the world,” that is too broad. That is a great mission statement, but that is not vision. In a church with that vision, ministers can do just about anything they want and still hit the mark, because I cannot think of a godly task that does not fit under “Love God” or “Love the World.”

Have you ever been vision-less?

Yes, it feels like you are on a treadmill trying to get somewhere … but less productive.

I can close my eyes and see a vivid picture of what my church looks like when it is changing the world.

Tom Nelson, senior pastor, Christ Community Church (EFCA), Leawood, Kansas

What does vision mean to you?

We often hear about the compelling need for a leader to have vision. But what do we mean? Dietrich Bonhoeffer warns spiritual leaders of the perilous danger of envisioning a preferred community or a future made in our own image or sanctified in our own culturally bound imagination. I believe that a plurality of church leadership does need to seek the Lord for future direction. Yet I often wonder if our churches would flourish more if we spent more time casting the vision of the gospel-centered life that the Bible so compelling presents to us, rather than our often-impoverished visions of a preferred future. Leaders need to have vision—vision of the integral life Jesus makes possible for us to live in a badly broken and bruised world. Let’s cast this vision.

Rollo Casiple, senior pastor, La Vina del Senor/True Vine Christian Church (EFCA), Miami, Florida

Have you ever been vision-less?

Vision-less? Yes. Passion-less? No. I have always had a passion for the gospel, God’s kingdom and for the people I influence. But I have not always had the clarity in knowing exactly how God has wanted me to do so in ministry. The result? It was a struggle. Always doing but not really quite sure what to do or how to do it. Ministry without vision has always been more about experimenting rather than being strategic and calculated. It was determined by tradition and/or activity rather than passion, principle and/or a future God-given picture. As a result, despite the busyness of ministry, I was always left questioning the effectiveness and development of even the best of activities.

It has taken many years to get here, but now more than ever before, all things are measured against and inspired by a clear picture of who God called us to be and what He intends for us to do. I can close my eyes and see a vivid picture of what my church looks like when it is changing the world. Still, I may not fully realize that vision in my lifetime. The picture that God has given me may be about things that will occur long after I have left this earth.

Join the conversation

Are you a visionary? Do you have a personal vision for your life? Have you ever been in a church that didn’t have vision? Add your comments below.