I knew the day was coming—I’d been sensing it for some time.
Our church had been cruising along for years, experiencing steady growth and a vibrant community based around a strong vision. New people checked us out every week. We saw people committing their lives to Jesus on a continual basis. But under the surface were obstacles that were being ignored. Eventually it happened! Our momentum came to a screeching halt as we experienced a major church split.
To make matters worse, it was my failure as a leader that led to the split because I took shortcuts while trying to avoid conflict. (I actually thought that the situation would resolve itself if I just ignored it.) The shortcuts led to a much larger and divisive outcome.
I meet so many pastors who are afraid to cast vision because past failure has left them paralyzed. They are terrified to be wrong. They are plagued by insecurity.
But casting vision is one of the three roles a senior pastor cannot delegate.
If you don’t wear this mantel purposefully, your ministry will always play it safe, doing the same thing each year with very little impact or growth.
Here are three of the most common reasons I see pastors fail to cast vision effectively, and some thoughts on how to overcome them:
1) Getting Stuck on Past Leadership Failures
It seems to me that personal failure has a greater impact on spiritual leaders than most people. There is so much pressure and expectation on us to never miss it. We often forget that the majority of leaders in the Bible had some type of failure.
Embracing failure is often the first step for removing the blinders that keep you from vision clarity.
You may find it helpful to study the story of the Prophet Elijah. He was a man that God used in unbelievable ways to demonstrate His power and plan. (1 Kings 17-19) However, Elijah came to a point of suicide because he was exhausted from doing ministry. Eventually, God twice asks him this question, What are you doing here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:9, 13)
You can return to a path of renewed vision and leadership success by asking the same question of yourself when facing failure:
How did I get where I am today as a leader?
1 – What are the events that led to my failure?
2 – Who did I allow to influence or intimidate my life in a negative way?
3 – When did I begin to sense that I was heading down the wrong path?
2) Leading from Insecurity
Nothing creates a fear to cast vision more than insecurity.
Insecurity in a leader may be the most detrimental attribute he has to overcome. The insecure leader may attempt to be intimidating and aggressive. He may also be indecisive and passive. No matter how he reacts, the focus of the insecure leader’s vision is more upon trying to hide his insecurity from those around him instead of where he wants to lead the ministry.
To overcome insecurity, I encourage you to focus on these five leadership attributes described by John Maxwell:
1 – Truth: Be honest with yourself about your giftedness, leadership strengths and weaknesses.
2 – Identity: Intentionally study the scriptures with a focus on who you are in Christ.
3 – Brokenness: Personally own the scriptural principle which teaches that weakness reveals strength.
4 – Purpose: Discover and put into practice your God-given calling.
5 – Give and Receive the Blessing: You must learn to let others love you, and do the same for them.
3) Leading Without Sufficient Training
Of the three factors that lead to paralysis, this may be the most common yet the easiest to correct. It still amazes me how many pastors are trained in how to teach the Scriptures but not trained in basic leadership principles. The good news is that training is available!
Here are three training avenues available:
1 – Utilize the plentiful amount of media resources available today.
I find podcasts like The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast to be very helpful.
2 – Consider investing in hiring a personal leadership coach.
There are coaching opportunities available for leaders in various leadership situations through The Unstuck Group.
3 – You may also want to attend one of the many leadership conferences offered throughout the year.
To be candid, this is my least favorite option because of how much information is poured into you in a short period of time. I find it better to learn and process small amounts of information in order to put into practice.
Cast Your Vision With Confidence
Don’t allow failure, insecurity or a lack of training rob you from fulfilling the vision God has for your church. He’s entrusted it to your leadership. Let these words from the prophet Habakkuk encourage you today:
“And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming – it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time. “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance – full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.” (The Message)