If you could point to one characteristic visionary leaders have that gives them the unique ability to cast vision, what would it be?
My pick would be that visionary leaders tend to use word pictures in their vision statements to paint a picture in people’s minds. Visionary leaders have a tenacious desire to inspire people to pour themselves into causes that they believe must happen. They know that vision is not just about sharing good ideas. Vision casting states reality and boldly asserts what must be done, now.
LIKE A COMPASS
In the early 1900s, Francis Clark saw the need for the church to put some strategic effort into targeting adolescents with the Gospel. He used word pictures to inspire people to commit to his vision for prioritizing young people. Here is an example of a word picture that casts vision from his book, Christ and the Young People:
Just as the magnet naturally draws the iron, and the needle points to the north or south pole, it is inevitable that young should be attracted to Christ if introduced to Him accurately. It is only because of the tainted, dulled, or distracted nature that is in young people that they resist this attraction to Jesus Christ.
Do compass needles ever fail to point to north if they are working properly? No, compasses ALWAYS point north. This is vision casting at its best. Using word pictures or creation analogies in your vision statements like Clark did will make your teaching stick in people’s minds. Clark believed that prioritizing young people was a MUST, so he came up with this word picture to inspire others to join him in doing something about it. He believed it was imperative for the church to not just settle for warm bodies, but to really take youth ministry seriously. And then he backed up and justified his call for volunteers by teaching on the way Jesus Christ specifically engaged the young.
ADD COLOR TO YOUR VISION STATEMENTS
One of my friends, Duane Major is a gifted visionary leader. He regularly paints pictures with his words to motivate people to action. One time he shared with me a dream he had as he was seeking the Lord’s guidance for how to introduce more young people to Jesus in the town where he was a youth pastor, Christchurch, New Zealand. One time while he was praying, he felt that the Lord gave him a vision for his city.
The picture he painted was of a bird’s eye view of the city of Christchurch. The whole landscape was black and white. Jesus was looking over this beloved city, frozen in black and white. All of a sudden a tear formed in Jesus’ eye and dropped from his face onto the middle of the city. As his tear hit the city center, a splash of color pulsated through the city like the ripples from a stone landing in the middle of a placid pond. Then from that one powerful tear, color flooded through the city and began to restore “LIFE, COLOR, and HOPE” to the families and young people of the city.
From my travels among many of the world’s great cities, I believe this is an accurate way to describe the way Jesus sees the hopelessness that plagues many of our world’s cities. May we be the ones who weep for our cities and be the hands and feet of Jesus… that our presence and proclamation of the Gospel would be like a stone causing ripples of LIFE, COLOR, and HOPE to spread throughout our city. I have never forgotten that word picture Duane shared. And many others were inspired as well. To date, many people have caught this vision. In Christchurch, it has led to a city-wide movement of youth pastors and leaders coming together to pray for all of the young people of the city. As leaders were unified, they have stacked hands on a vision called “33K”, which stands for a shared commitment to pursue the 33,000 adolescents in Canterbury with the Gospel.
TEACHING: ONE OF THE BEST CONDUITS TO CAST VISION
So how can we get better at casting vision? Vision casting is like electricity—it needs a good conduit to become useful. The best forum for me to cast vision is often in the context of teaching. Whether that is through preaching, one-on-one mentoring, teaching, leading a seminar, or writing a blog… if you are going to effectively cast vision you need to be regularly teaching the people who you desire to lead. Why is this the case? In a ministry context, visionary leaders serve people by being an electrical outlet that others can plug into to be encouraged and empowered “for the work of ministry.” So you need to find ways to help others get plugged into your vision. The Apostle Paul states it this way in regard to how leaders are called to be a conduit for building up the Body of Christ:
…and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
- How are you currently casting vision to those who look to you for leadership? Is it working? How do you know if it’s working?
- If you have a sense of calling or vision that God has given you, how would you say it in one sentence?
- Prayerfully brainstorm several potential word pictures from creation or every day life that will effectively paint a picture of what you believe God has called your team to do to get glory for Christ.