Years ago I heard Charles Stanley on TV. I’ve heard him enough now that I recognize his voice when I hear it on the radio. He’s ok – sounds like an ordinary Southern Baptist preacher to me. I first heard his son Andy Stanley when I went to Injoy’s Catalyst Conference back in 2001. I like Andy. He doesn’t sound like a generic Southern Baptist, but like a fired-up, creative, evangelistic, passionate pastoral leader. Since 2001 I’ve read some of this stuff and heard him a few more times. One of the things he said that sticks with me is, “Vision leaks.” I think it sticks with me because it’s a short way of summarizing what I’ve seen many times. I’ve seen it not only in the churches I pastor but also in my own life.
In a Leadership Journal article called “Vision Leaks,” Stanley mentions three signs we can look for that will tell us vision is leaking.
1. Prayer requests. What people pray for will tell you more than anything else whether they are locked into the vision and priorities of the church. When you are in a leadership meeting, are the only prayer requests for sick people? When I’m in such a meeting, I say, “Whoa, is anybody in this group burdened for an unchurched or unsaved friend? Yes, let’s pray for the sick people. Now, what else can we pray for?”
2. Stories of great things happening in people’s lives. If there are no stories, then maybe the vision for life transformation has leaked.
3. What people complain about. If people are complaining about the wrong stuff, then vision is leaking. When they complain about the music, or the parking, or that the church is too big, or there are too many people they don’t know, you can respond, “I know. God is blessing us.” But it’s a sign of vision leakage.
These are not merely the signs of vision leakage, but also of the lack of an evangelistic vision. Since most of the items on our prayer list are for healing, it may not be that our vision has leaked, but that our vision is for all people to be in perfect health forever. Now this sounds perfectly fine – I’d much rather be healthy not not, and I’d rather my good health last a long time than a short time. But is there anything particularly Christian about this vision? What about stories? Well, we certainly don’t here many stories about life change – we still think faith is too personal to talk about. Complaining? We complain about noisy kids, mis-arranged class rooms, lack of ideal cleanliness. What vision do these complaints reflect? Anything particulary Christian about them?
What would it take to develop an evangelistic vision? I think it’ll take two things. First, we need to get a passion for people. As we learn to see people from God’s point of view – remember when God saw us in our sin his decision was to give his only Son Jesus to come and die for us. Serious stuff is going on here. God’s passion for us and the people around us is infinite. As we spend time with God his passion for people will overcome our passion for cleanliness, order, and mere physical health.
Second, as we get God’s passion for people, we’ll start investing ourselves in actual people. We then won’t only be passionate for people in general, we’ll be passionate about helping our neighbors, family members, friends – even enemies – come to Know Jesus and experience life in him,