Of course, many people misunderstand what James declares in James 4:13-16. James is not condemning the act of making plans, setting goals or exercising vision; he is condemning the practice of those who do so without any regards for the will of God (James 4:15), realizing that plans, goals and even vision may change. By principle and example, the Bible teaches that exhibiting vision is a positive trait of leadership.
Just as Nehemiah demonstrates, we need to be able to use vision in looking ahead. We cannot ignore the condition of the world around us; neither can we ignore the condition of the church at present! The church must have vision! The church always goes forward when men are in front dreaming dreams. As someone said, “The whole world follows the man who knows where he is going.” The inspired wise man said, “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint” (Prov. 29:18). Is the world wiser than the children of God are when it comes to vision? If science, business and medicine use vision, where is our planning for the future of the eternal souls in the kingdom of God? Where is the congregation who has the faith to plan and the knowledge to know where it is going? Where is the congregation with a printed plan for the next year, the next decade or even the next generation? So often, we are our own worst enemies! Too many congregations are not even keeping up. They barely know what is going on around them today, much less looking for greater achievements. As one has stated, “The greatest shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” Robert DeVos, founder and president of Amway Corporation, said that every organization, whether it is business, government, school or church, goes through four stages in its existence:
- Stage #1 is the building stage—from nothing, we build something.
- Stage #2 is the management stage—many elders bog themselves down in management with little accomplished.
- Stage #3 is the defensive stage—deficiencies lead to excuses and failures, and non-growth leads to alibis.
- Stage #4 is the blame stage—“Who is to blame?” This is where congregations fire the preacher to attribute blame. Problems are not solved, but congregations rationalize that a new man can turn things around, but this rarely happens because the root of the problem is not the preacher.
Therefore, Mr. DeVos concludes, “The solution is simple—we must move back into the building stage.”
We ought to have three areas of vision. The first is our purpose statement—our reason for existence: involving every member in service to Christ utilizing his or her respective talents, creating an exciting Bible school program, challenging youth ministry, effective evangelism program, broad world mission program, develop a heart of compassion for the poor and needy, building great homes within the families and create a sense of belonging and fellowship. The second part that captures the heart and service of the church is the short-range goals: number of baptisms and total responses for the year, specific goals for missions, Bible school drives, need for additional space for growth, additional staff workers and such like. The third part is the goals for the next decade of work: size of congregation in ten years, kind of youth ministry ahead, kind of Bible school ahead, number of missionaries in ten years, specialized ministries for aged, singles and such like.
Consider Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses. The Hebrew writer wrote of them, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” (Heb. 11:23). They looked at Moses and knew there was something special about this baby. In other words, the parents of Moses had vision. Their faith set out to see that Moses became what God wanted him to be, and their vision prompted them to act accordingly (cf. James 2:17). They not only saw by faith, but they did something about it. It is one thing to have and see vision, but it is another thing to go out and act upon it. They did not rationalize, “Oh well, God will take care of our little baby.” Notice that they did not practice fatalism: “Whatever will be, will be.” Neither did they practice fanaticism: “Let us throw our baby into the Nile, and see if he can swim.” Rather, they exercised proper vision and acted accordingly. If not, then Pharaoh would have killed baby Moses just like all the other Hebrew baby boys.
Let us consider one more important point—we need to have vision to be able to steer clear of the dangers that lie ahead. The Bible describes the children of Issachar as “men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). Unfortunately, Christians who lack vision fail to have an “understanding of the times” and are caught unawares in the dangers that Satan puts before us. Christians need to have vision to steer clear of the effects of denominationalism on the church. We ought to see ahead at what the ecumenical spirit may do in the church of our Lord and be ready to reprove such when necessary (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4). Christians need to have vision to steer clear of the effects of psychology and sociology on the church, knowing the futility in humanistic thinking (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). Christians need to have vision to steer clear of the effects of the entertainment industry, and what it is doing to religion today. Christians need to have vision to steer clear of the effects of atheism (Psa. 14:1). Christians need to have vision to steer clear of the effects of the world and its measure of success (cf. Luke 12:15; Rev. 3:17). Leaders of the church need to have vision, and will fix their gaze on the word of God and the Lord Himself as they make plans for the future. Praise God, the future of God’s people is bright!