After being away from home for three months I’m just settling into Auss with the intention of re-establishing some important routines like blogging. This series is an attempt to evaluate some ideas we have around calling (vision, scope and focus) and present alternative ways of looking at them:
Vision can be defined as the individual or shared intended outcome for a particular ministry. For example, part of a church’s vision may be to provide shelter for every homeless person in the city, or it may be more qualitative like to love those who have themselves not experienced much love. The assumption behind good vision, I assume, is to set the bar high enough to inspire good practice towards the attainment of the vision, even if, in a worldly sense, the vision is practically unattainable. The members of this church will faithfully love the unloved, despite the fact that, short of a divine restructuring of existence, not all those that are unloved will be reached. In good faith, however, this reality must not be conceded by adherents to the vision, and with that I agree.
Vision is a factor that empowers good ministry. In saying that, it can also be limiting. With vision comes commitment. It is in a sense binding on those who are under it. Not that commitment is a bad thing, as the fulfillment of vision depends on commitment. Furthermore, how could something like marriage be possible without commitment (although, as an unmarried man, I do in an ideal theological sense accept exceptions to the rule, for example)? Commitment to vision limits when it obstructs commitment to the Lord. Marital commitment is an expression of commitment to the Lord, in the same way that commitment to godly vision is commitment to the Lord. Yet in the same way that marital commitment limits a higher form of practical commitment to Christ (eg. 1Corinthians 7:32-33), commitment to vision does also.
Up until now I have used the example of the a church’s vision. But an individual may also have vision, for example to establish a school in an area with limited access to education. Throughout her commitment to this outcome, the Spirit of God may pull her heart in other directions. I am not advocating for religiously justified caprice, but rather the primacy of following the Spirit, against following the vision. Of course it is likely that the Lord asks her to see the end of something she has started, but his call is not limited by this. What if the call of God means not so much the endpoint intended, the vision, but the daily reliance on the Holy Spirit to provide the next step? Compare the woman who is called to say a three year project of establishing the school, with the woman who is one day called to start teaching in the area until, by grace of God and obedience to his daily call, she after three years finds herself running a school in the area as a result of the work. I think our theology of calling allows for both options.
An important passage for me is James 4:13-15:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)
This does not necessarily discount vision but determines the way we should approach it. You cannot claim something yet to be fulfilled as if has already been, unless of course you are given the faith to do so. When you are given vision, all you can do is acknowledge your reliance on the Lord to see its completion. In the same way, if you have not been given vision, you faithfully accept what God has given to you to do each day and trust that he will bring something out of it.
Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment (you can do so with Facebook) if you would like to offer feedback, further thoughts or any misgivings you have regarding the theology.
Image of Cyclops, a man of good vision, from http://iphonetoolbox.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/x-men-cyclops-f.jpg