Remember the TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Each episode featured a family that had faced some hardship in life and was in need of renewed hope. The show’s producers coordinated with a local contractor who, in turn, coordinated with several other companies in various building trades for a complete makeover of the family’s home. This included interior and exterior remodeling, landscaping, and furnishings. All the work was done in seven days while the family went on a paid vacation. When they returned from their vacation, Ty Pennington revealed their new home to them, complete with unique surprises custom designed specifically for the family.
The designers of these custom-built Extreme Makeover homes were visionaries. They were able to look beyond the run-down interior and exterior of the home, beyond he overgrown yard and unkempt landscaping, beyond the chipped paint and torn wallpaper, beyond the junk and messiness, to see what the house could look like with a little creativity and hard work. They were able to envision in their mind’s eye what it could become.
Many churches today need an Extreme Makeover, too. They need a renewed vision. They need someone who can look beyond the tired and worn-out ministries, beyond the buildings and the grounds, beyond the traditional way of doing church, to see what could be.
In my study of turnaround churches, I found that vision and leadership go hand-in-hand. Lack of vision and inadequate leadership were the two leading causes of plateau and decline in churches. Likewise, new or renewed vision and new or renewed leadership were also the two leading incentives that led to church revitalization.
So, what is vision? Vision looks ahead. Vision is a clear image of what could be. To put it in a nutshell, vision is a God-given picture of a preferable future. Several implications arise from that definition. First, vision is God-given. Secondly vision is a picture – a visual image in one’s mind of the way things could be. Third, vision is futuristic. It does not dwell in the past. It does not settle for the status quo. Vision always focuses on the future.
I’d like to suggest seven “S-factors” of a compelling vision.
1. Scriptural – A compelling vision must be biblical. It must be rooted in the biblical purposes of the church. The church cannot take its clues from the corporate world. We must be biblical. Jesus promised to build His church; He will also rebuild His church.
2. Strategic – There are two key factors of vision: purpose and strategy. Purpose answers the what and strategy answers the how of vision. Renewed vision clarifies both what God has called a church to accomplish and how it is going to do so in its unique setting. Together, purpose and strategy comprise a church’s vision; but strategy is what makes each church unique.
3. Singular - Many churches pride themselves on offering a vast array of programs. They boast that they have something for everyone. Unfortunately, the plethora of programs often leads to confusion of direction and lack of a unified purpose. A compelling vision offers singularity rather than multiplicity, one vision rather than multiple visions, and unity rather than diversity, which often leads to divisiveness.
4. Sequential – A compelling vision is both strategic and sequential. It employs movement or sequential steps toward greater commitment and maturity. Sequential movement keeps people growing as they move from one level of commitment to the next. Sequence translates vision into a process for growth.
5. Systemic – The word, systemic, simply means “system-wide.” With reference to a church, systemic means “church-wide.” A compelling vision must be shared and implemented throughout the entire church. This implies that all staff and all ministries of the church utilize the same overarching vision and process of growth. Without a systemic vision, the church quickly degenerates into a disjointed array of subgroups and mini-churches rather than standing as a unified body. Systemic vision assures that the church is united and moving forward together.
6. Shared – Vision must be shared and communicated with others. A leader cannot implement vision in a vacuum. He needs everyone on-board, starting with the staff and leadership, then spreading to the entire congregation. Vision can be communicated in many ways – through slogans, symbols, soundbites, and stories (testimonies, interviews, an video clips). Compelling vision must be communicated clearly and continually.
7. Simple – There has been much discussion and debate on the difference between vision, mission, purpose, and values. Some churches have written multiple and lengthy statements on each. But when it comes to vision, I suggest the acronym, KISS – Keep it short and simple.