Leadership conversations these days are laced with a common thread: We are rethinking the “vision” word we use so often in ministry. Like a burr under a saddle, something is irritating the collective soul of church leadership. What is it? Look closely at the introduction of current leadership books, and you will see it. Listen carefully to the passion of today’s emerging leaders, and you’ll hear it. The key word is “unique.”
From within the conferencing era of church equipping, leaders are diagnosing more and more the epidemic of photocopied vision and are repenting of unoriginal sin. Why? Unintentionally, leaders have traded out a lion for a pussycat, by taming the unique call of God for their church by a preoccupation with what is working down the street.
In the opening of their book, The Intangible Kingdom, church planters Hugh Halter and Matt Smay tell the story of starting the Addulam community. What motivated them? “We no longer could deny God’s unique work among us.”
Recently Anthony Coppedge, a church media consultant posted this comment on his blog: “There are more churches contacting me who have lost their own identity in the race to implement the Fellowbackgrangepoint Church model. What model is that, you say? Why it’s the mash-up of all of the best practices of each of those churches distilled into an un-reproducible, unauthentic version of their own church.”
At the first Whiteboard Sessions, Perry Noble told a humorous story of refusing to walk up a gigantic hill to get his mail as a kid. One day he decided to simply walk across the street and returned to his mom with the neighbor’s mail instead. It’s just mail right? Why not take the shorter path? That day Perry breathed fire when he passionately urged church leaders to take the harder path of getting their own mail from God, rather than reading another leader’s mail. Perry called us to find our unique vision.
What’s the cost of such practices? In the church leader’s version of keeping up with the Jones’ we render vision impotent. When we duplicate a model rather than incarnating our own, passion becomes derivative and conviction lives second hand. Vision is not simple, clear and powerful but simplistic. Remember Dolly, the first cloned sheep? She died at one-third life expectancy after developing arthritis and progressive lung disease.
The good news for the church leader is that God wants to do something cosmically significant and locally specific through you. I believe that Jesus wants to release a redemptive movement with your local church as an epicenter. When that happens, your vision will be original, organic, bold and extravagant. It will be unique. Since God never mass-produces snowflakes, sunsets or saints, why would we believe he is mass-producing churches?
It’s time for church leaders to uncage their vision.