Rights and Wrongs of Visualizing the Future

Then the LORD answered me and said, "Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

God ordered the prophet Habakkuk to communicate a vision and to do so clearly. A couple of things stand out about this order that make it distinctive from an ordinary corporate strategy of writing a “vision statement”.

  • First, this vision originated in God, not from Habakkuk’s own mind.
  • Second, this vision stated divine intentions, not human ones.
  • Third, this vision could not fail to reach completion at the appointed time.

However, does that mean that pastors and churches must avoid all efforts to discern God’s intentions, write down their goals and instead simply allow events to unfold without plans or parameters?

My guess is that most leader’s minds naturally turn to planning around this time of year. We look back and evaluate the past year. We look ahead and plan the next.

So, call it what you will, most of us probably use some kind of envisioning of the future or setting goals to guide our activities. 

In fact, projecting a vision of the future and helping people see it, believe in it and move toward it comprises a skill set of highly emotionally intelligent leaders. Clarifying a vision for the future meets a need in the congregation. Your congregants absolutely need to hear a vision for the church in order to help them direct their efforts and energies toward those goals.

God’s directions to Habakkuk in delivering that particular vision focused on the essential element of, well, to put it quite simply, “easy readability”. The commentators tell us that the phrase “that the one who reads it may run” means something like this: “that the one who reads it may run his eye over it quickly.”

In other words, make it plain, simple and visually appealing.

So, as your mind naturally turns to next year’s planning, there exist some right and wrong ways to do that.

The wrong ways involve depending on self rather than God, insufficient attention to prayer and discernment as well as failing to communicate appropriately.

The right ways involve the opposite: listening, discerning, and communicating plainly and clearly.

Next week, I want to provide a few practical helps for planning your next year. Remember, making your vision plain serves your people well and helps the church discern and do the will of God.