Anyone who has been in a position of leadership will tell you that one of the greatest struggles leaders face when it comes to direction and vision for a church or organization is not seeking or developing vision, and it’s not casting vision. The hardest part is getting people united around the vision and moving in the same direction. It’s getting buy-in from people who have different ideas, desires, or who have fears about the outcome, and leading confidently in faith when we don’t get it.
This is a natural part of leading people, and it’s one of the first things you learn when you’re put into a position of leadership of any kind. Because of the struggles that often accompany the process of vision development and casting, many leaders make the decision to roll over and not even approach the subject. This is why many churches and organizations are struggling and unhealthy, and why many close their doors every day.
Even Jesus dealt with hesitation and resistance from his closest, most trusted group of followers.
Whether you’re in leadership in a church or in a secular organization, there is wisdom to be gained from the Bible. Many of the greatest leaders of secular companies from around the world agree that the leadership principles taught and modeled throughout Scripture are among the best to implement in your own leadership style. So let’s look at what we can learn about vision casting and follow-through from the Word of God.
First of all, vision is non-negotiable. We have to have it. Proverbs 29:18 tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Without clear, communicated vision, no church, organization, or group of people can move forward toward any kind of goal. The group will be stagnant until it dies and no mission will be accomplished.
Second, every leader fights the battle of leading people who don’t want to follow. It’s hard to keep things in perspective when you’re backed against a wall and you feel as if you’re being bombarded from all sides by people who don’t want to follow your leadership. But here’s something to help you put this in perspective: even Jesus dealt with hesitation and resistance from his closest, most trusted group of followers. They were short-sighted, questioned His decisions, and were governed by fear much too often.
In John 11, we find the familiar story of Lazarus’ death. His sisters, Mary and Martha, had sent word to Jesus that their brother, who was a very close friend of Jesus, was dying. They know only He could save Lazarus from death.
When Jesus heard the news, the Bible says he stayed put for two days. Verse 7 says, “Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
This didn’t sit so well with the disciples. Verse 8 tells us how they responded: “But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?
Jesus had been having some bad luck lately with people trying to kill him. (And you thought your last board meeting was rough…) Back in chapter 8, we see that Jesus is well aware that his popularity among the people he was teaching was lacking. He acknowledged that they were trying to kill him “because there’s no room in your hearts for my message.” Even Jesus dealt with unbelievers and hard-hearted people.
At the end of John chapter 10, literally just before we read of Jesus getting news of Lazarus’ sickness, we read that Jesus had been teaching again and trying to explain to people that He truly was the Son of God. Verse 31 says, “Once again the people picked up stones to kill him.” Later in that chapter, we read that they tried to arrest him (and most likely His disciples too), but they got away.
So you can imagine that the disciples are stunned that Jesus would stroll back into Bethany expecting different results. They’re afraid.
There are two vitally important things we need to learn from the disciples’ response to Jesus instruction to return to Bethany:
- They let fear divert them from submitting to the vision of their leader. The words are barely out of Jesus’ mouth before the naysayers start responding with the reasons this plan will never work. If you’ve ever felt the same way, keep in mind that even Jesus dealt with doubters who were controlled by fear.
- They were prepared to back out on Jesus. Really. Read their words. “Jesus, they were trying to stone YOU. Are you telling us that YOU are going back there?” Not we, not us, no plural. If you’ve ever felt abandoned after you’ve cast vision, remember that Jesus dealt with deserters and abandonment on a regular basis.
It’s unfortunate that as leaders, our natural tendency when we experience rejection, abandonment, or opposition is to call into question the vision we have been given. We start to doubt. Even if 99 people respond positively, ready to go, the one who expresses concerns, doubt, or fear is equal to (if not greater than) the 99 in our minds. Like an infection, it invades and causes us to second-guess our steps.
As leaders, we need to be aware of this so we can be prepared to lead on in the direction that has been determined. The reality we must face is that people will leave. Some will never buy in to the vision and they will go their separate way. While this is painful and difficult and easy to internalize, it’s a natural part of leadership.
We can’t afford to let fear steer us away from the direction we must go. We cannot allow short-sighted, negative people to hold back our churches or organizations from accomplishing the goals and the mission that is set before us. We cannot allow our success or failure to be determined by those who oppose the vision out of fear or for selfish reasons.
So the next time you’re having a bad day and you feel called into question as a leader, just remember that Jesus was in your shoes. He felt first-hand the same rejection that you feel. He was frustrated with those He led. There may have been days He was ready to throw in the towel, but if He had we would be paying the price for eternity. He was committed to His vision and He led boldly. Let’s pattern and model ourselves after Him and lead with confidence in the vision and direction that has been set before us!