By Dave Earley, adapted from Pastoral Leadership Is… (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)
A leader with vision sees potential opportunities when others see obstacles. They see the possibilities of the future when others only see problems. They see the future before their followers, they see further than their followers see, and they see God in and through the whole process and end product.
All of God’s great leaders had visionary capacities. For example, the book of Nehemiah shows the power of purpose. The challenge of rebuilding the wall energized the workers (2:17–20), united the people and directed their efforts (3:1–32), kept all of them going in the face of opposition (4:1–23; 6:1–4), and led to great accomplishment—they rebuilt the walls in a jaw-dropping fifty-two days (6:15).
Vision is a picture of a preferred future told in the present. It is what could and should happen. It is a statement of faith as to what God can and will do. Vision is a need-meeting proposal that stretches others to greater sacrifice and impact. It is “a specific, detailed, customized, distinctive, and unique notion of what you are seeking to do to create a particular outcome.”
- See the need: A great need inspires a great leader. Nehemiah purposed to rebuild the walls after being deeply affected by the need to do so (Neh 1:2–11). Jesus was inspired to reach the multitudes by witnessing the needs of people who were weary and scattered, like sheep with no shepherd (Matt 9:35–38).
- See the potential: Some leaders are more motivated by potential than by need. They get excited about what could be. They love the notion of doing something no one else has done yet.
- Ask probing questions: Ask yourself some probing questions to help you realize two essential aspects of vision—the desire of your heart and the power of God. Below are two probing questions to ask:
- If I knew I had no obstacles and unlimited resources, what would I love to do?
- If I knew it was impossible to fail, what do I believe God would have me do?
- Listen to God: Vision is born when we take the need and the potential to God in prayer. It is before God’s throne that vision is given for meeting the need and realizing the potential. We must learn to listen to the still small voice of God and give everything we have to doing what He says.