November 9, 2012

Do you like this?

You’ve probably heard the line before: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

You’re most likely to have heard it in some sort of church planning meeting. Or in a ramp-up for the unveiling of a new, great church plan. There’s likely a capital campaign at hand, too.

“Why does our church need a vision statement? Because without it, the people perish. So says Proverbs 29:18.”

I’ve heard this proverb quoted dozens of times to prove that the church needs to be involved in strategic planning, mission statements, vision statements, core values, etc. And it’s always quoted in the old King James Version. Even hip, Message-Bible-using contemporary pastors resort to the KJV for Proverbs 29:18.

Why? Because here’s how the NIV reads: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint.” Or try Today’s English Version: “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order.”

What the Proverb is About

This is a proverb about receiving guidance from God.

This is about a people’s desperate need to hear from God.

It’s about the ways that people go off and do whatever they feel like doing if they don’t heed God’s instruction.

What the Proverb is NOT About

This is not about crafting “our vision.”

Google “church vision statement” and you’ll see all kinds of advice about making big plans, dreaming big dreams, and inspiring your people. These may frequently include the types of buildings and land a church will own, the types of programs they will offer, and the types of people they will attract.

Yes, most good leaders and churches will surely at some point mention that the vision is “inspired by God.” But does the process really always reflect that? Are we more frequently asking what our plans, hopes, and dreams are, or asking for a revelation from God?

A godly vision

My point here isn’t to tell you to drop all the strategic planning. I think it has its place. We do need to know what we’re aiming at.

Actually, I think the bigger problem is that churches today are having to create vision and mission statements. Do we really not know what we have been put here to do?

Somehow, it seems that churches got sucked in by the visioneering of the ’80s. We’ve all been taught that if we don’t have a mission statement that every member has memorized and a vision statement that has captured the congregation’s imagination, we clearly have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s just remember that the Church survived (and at many times thrived) for nearly 2000 years without these things. The great business strategies introduced a few decades ago probably aren’t what the American Church is looking for to end its decline.

November 9, 2012


How can we discern God's will for the future of The United Methodist Church? Through United Methodist Insight, leaders and influencers gain a broad vision of the news and views that are shaping the global denomination. Your financial support helps prepare United Methodist leaders for 21st century challenges of faith. Click on the donate button above for online giving. Or make checks payable to St. Stephen UMC and write "UM Insight" on the memo line. Then mail to United Methodist Insight, c/o St. Stephen United Methodist Church, 2520 Oates Drive, Mesquite, TX 75150. Thank you!

Sign up for the weekly compilation of UM Insight original content and articles from multiple sources of interest to the future of The United Methodist Church.
  • Court Decisions

    UMC Trial Courts Have Options

    United Methodist "jurors" have many more options available to them than "not guilty" or "revoke credentials" in a pastor's church trial, writes the Rev. Jerry Eckert.

  • Dallas Wedding

    Supervisory Response Under Way for Rev. McElvaney

    Dallas Area Bishop Michael McKee has confirmed that a "supervisory response" is under way in the complaint against the Rev. Bill McElvaney for officiating at the religious wedding of a gay couple.

  • Washington Mudslide

    United Methodists Ready to Assist After Washington Mudslide

    The Pacific Northwest Conference's emergency response team stands poised to help a devastated community recovery from a massive mudslide, once critical rescue-and-recovery efforts conclude over the widespread and still dangerous debris field.

Built with Metro Publisher™