I was asked an interesting question today at the end of 3-hour "futures forum" for a church starting the Vision Pathway. One the wall in front of the group was the work of 30 different subgroups that all presented the "Best of" stories of the church. The retelling of these stories obviously created a sense of enthusiasm among the group. But the last question of the day was, "Will, can you comment on the health of the church from these stories you see?" The question presented the opportunity to shift the tone of our meeting from pure celebration to challenge.
The most notable common thread through the "Best of" stories was the presence of crisis. The church has done a wonderful job responding to urgent needs of the past years including hurricanes Katrina and Ike in the coastal regions of Texas. While any great church is going to meet needs and respond to crisis, the prevalence of such warrants a caution.
Finding ones identity or sense of strength in a crisis can be one of the clearest indications of a living in a vision vacuum. Why? Because when a church doesn't have a clear sense of calling, people only work together in the urgency of a crisis. When there is no clear vision, peoples' agendas and pet projects splinter the organization until wham! The terrible crisis aligns people afresh by providing an obvious trump card to personal preferences and pursuits. The problem is that the clarity and alignment last only as long as the dire situation.
What then is the real problem? The problem is that without a vision, the crisis chooses us. But with a vision, we choose the "crisis." In other words, a good vision is always a solution to some prior problem. A good vision discerns the call of God to meet some need that is truly important and truly present (although not as apparent as the destruction of a hurricane, for example.) The real problem is that churches have not walked a Vision Pathway to discern and live from a unique sense of calling that can drive their passion 24/7. In the end a leader must choose the crisis to solve with an enduring vision or wait for calamity for the organization to work together.