When I first joined the staff of Campus Crusade I often heard Dr. Bill Bright, our founder, share his heart for the world and his commitment to the Great Commission. The recurring reactions I had each time were a sense of challenge and a sense of frustration. I was challenged by the scope of what needed to be done in the mission-and I was frustrated that I would never attain to such a vision. It was clear to me that Bill Bright was a true visionary-and I was not. For several years I simply wrote off the idea that I could gain any ground on becoming a man of vision. No fault of Dr. Bright-I just didn’t understand what vision really was and that it could be cultivated. Since those days I have learned, that while I may never be a gifted visionary, vision can be cultivated and grown-and is important in the life of a leader. So here are a few of my thoughts about how vision can be grown.
Let’s start with a simple definition of vision. Vision is a mental image of a desirable future fueled by passion. There are a few key pieces here that need illuminating. Vision begins with something in your mind’s eye-that’s because vision is always future oriented. It is a picture of something in your mind that does not yet exist. But it is desirable and matches your passions. That’s what gives vision life. It has to be birthed in your mind, fueled by your passions. Borrowed vision will not be compelling for long. The seeds of vision may begin with organizational vision or through a natural visionary’s compelling communication. But you have to make it your own and add to it with your unique perspective and motivations. I am convinced that this takes time-reflective time. I am also convinced that any vision worthy of a person’s life also takes divine guidance. A powerful vision for the mission begins with intimate time with God-allowing Him to fill in the critical elements of what He is calling you to and how He wants to use you out of who you are.
Cultivating vision begins with a clear understanding of what you are passionate about. What excites you? What gives you life as you engage in mission or work of any kind? For me it is helping people connect to Christ through engagement with the Word of God. It is also helping leaders lead well. These two things give me energy and life as I live them out. What about you? The possibilities are endless. Ask your close friends what they hear you talking about regularly? When do they see you get excited about something? This may be an indication of your passions. The body of Christ needs your unique contribution-with energy.
The next step in cultivating vision is determining how you can apply those passions towards the scope of a defined audience. Often this includes a keen understanding of the culture and getting in touch with what bothers you. Where do you have a sense that things need to be different? For some it may be the plight of human trafficking. For some it might be the scourge of AIDS. For others it may be a longing to take the gospel where it is not being proclaimed. You may not be able to get your mind around the seven billion people of the world today-but you can certainly get your mind around the fifty people that live around the corner with a unique need. The point is to discern a defined audience where-if your godly passions were lived out-you could make a genuine difference.
The third step in cultivating vision is to communicate it to others-often and with variety. If you are leading a team you must share your vision regularly. But this is not only for their benefit-it will also serve to add fertilizer to your vision seedling. Share it verbally-share it in written communication-share it using a primary metaphor that might capture the ears and eyes of your audience. Learn to communicate your vision in a one minute verbal opportunity, a thirty minute message opportunity, and a written blog piece that does not go beyond one screen. Communicated vision is growing vision.
Finally, ask others to cultivate and share their vision. As you hear things you have never considered-add them to a prayer list of “vision desires”. Several years ago I heard someone begin to passionately communicate their heart for the ethnic university students of the U.S. Growing up in white, middle class suburbia I had never given a lot of thought to this particular segment of campus. I was convicted immediately. How could I not have a growing sense of vision for this growing population within the university community. I added this desire to my vision prayer list. It did not take long for me to begin to see the campus in whole new ways. I began to see the gospel for every student-not just students like me. I began to ask-how can my passions and gifting be used towards ethnic students?
Finally, do you want a great place to start? Go do a Google search right now for the lyrics to “Be Thou My Vision”. This old hymn is rich with compelling, visionary language towards Jesus Christ. Until we are captured by an ever growing vision of Him-all other aspects of vision for the mission will only be a dim reflection of our merely human efforts.