From the Prophet Habakkuk:
The Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Habakkuk 2:2-3a (NRSV) – November 19, 2012)
There are two passages of Scripture that I always think of when vestries or other church governing boards begin to discuss a vision for the church’s mission and ministry. One is the King James version of Proverbs 29:18a – “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – the other is this passage from Habakkuk. I really like the image of the vision being written so large that someone running by can read it and make sense of it; the church’s vision needs to be as big, expansive, and attention-getting as a billboard.
To catch a fish, one must cast one’s line into the water in a manner that will attract the fish. To lead and perform an effective ministry, the church and its leadership must cast a vision of the future far and wide – write it large – in such a way as to attract and retain members and co-ministers who will see that vision through, buy into it, act upon it, make it a reality. Vision casting in the church means discerning God’s purpose for the church or program and then making it known. Vision, as Habakkuk makes clear, must be presented in a way that motivates, inspires, and encourages; the people rushing by, running to and fro attending to the demands of daily life, need to catch the vision and really believe in it.
The process is not easy, but it is necessary. In the absence of vision, as the verse from Proverbs says, the people perish. The parish perishes. I’m reading a book about church administration in which the author makes the point that a congregation needs direction, a vibrant energetic center of action and service to give the congregation its particular and peculiar identity. Without that God’s people are, as God’s Son said, like salt that has lost its savor.
Write God’s vision as big as a billboard! Without it, the church will founder and die; without it, the church is good for nothing but trampling under foot like unusable salt.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.