I have a deep sense of uneasiness about where unbridled pastoral vision might lead, particularly when it is coupled with an ambition for empire-building. As God gives these pastors their vision (at least, we are told that is where the vision comes from) I wonder why the conversation between Jesus and Peter where Jesus says “Peter, if you love me FEED my sheep” doesn’t come up more often. It seems like a pertinent message to pastors, a vision for their role in the church, if you will.
On church leadership blogs I see so much namedropping by church growth pastors and so much bragging about their exciting churches, so much ambition or pride to see themselves and/or their churches included among the lists of hot churches doing things the now way. So much energy devoted to preparation for — or debriefing from — the latest leadership conference or retreat.
It must be so much more exciting to receive calls to speak at Namedroppable Leadership Conference than to receive calls saying Myrtle Jenkins is hoping Pastor will visit her in the hospital.
It’s hard to put my finger on what bothers me, because throughout the whole subject there is much that is good. But frankly, I see a lot of personal ambition and ego-stoking going on. God uses imperfection all the time, so it’s not like He’s not going to use this movement. Of course He will. Still, this part can’t be good for these leadership types themselves and it can’t be good for the people they are leading.
The danger I see is that people will submit to a vision in good faith and end up being worn out for the cause of satisfying a man’s ambition, or to feed his narcissism, or to assuage his existential angst and guilt about whether he’s doing enough with his life. That would be to misuse the people of God and the power of pastoral influence. That would be to drive the people instead of caring for them. That would be to desire a trophy church instead of being a true minister to the flock God has called you to love and tend and feed like a shepherd.
No doubt some vision is helpful as a church finds its niche or calling in a community. However, I think an over-particularized vision is a problem, inasmuch as the biblical vision for Christian life and worship is what it is. One has a sense that ekklesia gathered together believers, not believers who _____ [fill in the blank with some particularity.]
If we boil it down a church vision statement that leaves something out, don’t we risk hacking off fingers and toes from the body of Christ?