(BNC) — The concept of vision has become the holy grail in many circles. Personal and business philosophy has influenced “the way we do church,” as it is often put, and that badly.

Megapastor Rick Warren takes vision to be key to growth. And, as is the wont of denominationalists, it all starts with the pastor.

A church without a vision is never going to grow, and a church’s vision will never be larger than the vision of its pastor. So you as a leader and as a pastor must have God’s vision for your church. The very first task of leadership is to set the vision for the organization. If you don’t set the vision, you’re not the leader. Whoever is establishing the vision in your church is the leader of that particular church. A church will never outgrow its vision and the vision of a church will never outgrow the vision of the pastor.

Steven Mills thinks about the importance of vision in small churches.

Vision is one of the most critical elements in the success and effectiveness of the local church. The Bible is clear, “Without vision people cast off restraint.” To keep the church traveling down the right path, it is important for its members to have a clear and shared vision. But how do ministry leaders develop and communicate vision? More important, how do you get your people to embrace the vision God has given you?

Mills does what many do: Rush to the KJV or ASV translation of Proverbs 29.18 and twist the meaning of the verse. (You’d think pastors and preachers would know better.) The verse refers to prophecy and the revelation of God’s law. See the second part of the verse: “Without revelation people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction will be happy” (CSB).

Vision means “The faculty of sight; eyesight: poor vision; something that is or has been seen.” It’s commonly used now to mean what we ought to see.

Mills defines what he means by vision.

The vision is a clear and challenging picture of the future. The mission of the church is to win communities for Christ. The vision statement is what your local church is going to do, and how it will fulfill the mission. The vision considers the needs of the community and the congregational context and values. The vision statement inspires a church to pursue the mission. The vision touches and flows out of the hearts of the church members.

As per both Warren and Mills’s statements, vision is a top-down activity. In that respect, it is an imposition of leaders on the congregation. Nowhere in Scripture is there any such passing of a leader-inspired vision, or roadmap of work, to motivate the pew-sitters.

Biblically, two truths define the vision of the church, both of them centered in God. First is Jesus’ calling his disciples to see the fields white for harvest, Jn 4.35:

Don’t you say, ‘There are four more months and then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, look up and see that the fields are already white for harvest!

The disciples dreamed of military conquest. Jesus wants them to see souls to be saved. They aspire to be victorious warriors. The Lord wants them to fish for people, for their eternal salvation.

Even our prayers need to reflect this vision. Before sending out the Twelve on the limited commission, Jesus said: “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest'” Mt 9.37-38.

Eyes turned outward to the eternal need of everyone around us is the vision of the Lord.

Second, is the Spirit’s generous giving of gifts to the body of Christ. The problem of a top-down vision statement is that it fails to take into consideration the composition of the local body of faithful and the gifts they have received.

The specific services that a given congregation provides rise from the gifts that the members of the body possess. Saints can certainly develop new gifts face with recognized needs, and the use of their talents ought to sharpen those and bring out others, but the instruction of Scripture is to use the gifts we have received, Rm 12.6-8.

And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.

Planning specific efforts and getting a feel for needs of those around us are good. We should never, however, impose upon others a program of work of our own under the guise of it being some essential element in the life and growth of a congregation.