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Biblical Arguments Against Vision
- The verse most often used to support vision in a church is Proverbs 29:18‚Ä¶ "Without a vision, the people perish." But even an elementary study of that verse will reveal that the word translated "vision" is best translated "prophecy" or "revelation". It isn't talking about the modern preoccupation with creating and articulating a vision over a group of people to maintain health or secure life or success. It's more related to the biblical theme, "We do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Without revelation, without the truth coming to us, we would die.
- There is no talk about vision for each local church in the New Testament. I suggest the earliest church's concern is primarily a human one: the urgent necessity of fellowship, the gathering together of those with the same belief in a hostile environment. Then it is out of this that worship, prayer and apostolic teaching find expression. Not even evangelism is its primary concern. The New Testament assumes evangelism is the byproduct of the presence of the church in society. For instance, in Acts, the earliest Christians didn't disperse in order to evangelize. Instead, the church dispersed after each increase in persecution, and people were added to the church as a result. Which of course brings to mind that this obsession with vision is a modern one. From the earliest church to the post-modern era, it wasn't a concern. Now, it seems to me, vision is a modern technique for attracting, keeping and motivating people in the midst of heated competition.
- Philippians 2: 5 encourages the members of the church to be like-minded. This doesn't mean theologically or ideologically. For Paul instantaneously launches into one of the earliest hymns of the church concerning the humiliation of Christ. For Paul, like-mindedness isn't agreement, but humility. In fact, later in Philippians 3: 15, Paul intimates diversity of thought. To seek unanimity on a vision statement is unfair to some of the members at least.
- To articulate a vision and align a church under it assumes we can predict and shape our future by our present thoughts and actions. It falls into the old cause and effect trap: if we do this, that will happen. In other words, it removes God and the need for God as Lord. Even with the most fervent prayer and discernment, the vision requires God to undersign our agenda, no matter how noble or spiritual it might seem. To conjure up a vision for our actions in order to determine our future is in my mind paramount to visiting the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28).
- Jesus' own modus operandi was, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me‚Ä¶" (John 4: 34). I suggest that just as the scriptures teach that God provides for and feeds his people daily (manna and daily bread), Jesus was fed daily with the will of God. The overarching themes of coming to seek and to save and to serve found daily and spontaneous expressions in the life of Jesus.
- The story of Simon the Sorcerer applies here (Acts 8). The disciples were doing something for others freely and spontaneously, motivated by love and inclusion. But Simon wanted to package it into a predictable program with guaranteed success. In the same way, to turn God's will (example: seek, save and serve) into a vision statement mutates the biblical order (command and obedience) into the worldly order (goal and achievement).
- Psalm 139: 16 states that, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." A vision statement discerned by the church, articulated by the leader and administered by the leadership subtly transfers the power of our unknown yet preordained future from God's hands into human hands. With a slight and subtle shift, we organize under the words of authorities.
- The biblical narrative favors diversity and dispersion. In the Garden, the vast variety of creatures are distinguished and separated by names. Babel attempts to gather everyone under one vision and they are scattered. Egypt attempts to gather all God's people under one mission and they are delivered. Israel attempts to reinforce its security but is dispersed into exile. The earliest church would've preferred to stay in the original hometown of Jerusalem but is persecuted and dispersed. Paul's greatest adversity was the attempt by Jerusalem to attain and maintain sovereignty over all believers. The Antichrist would sublimate all people under his power and authority but will be destroyed in the end. Organized gathering in the bible usually ends up as slavery or domination. I am surprised that often those most vehemently arguing in favor of vision (a unifying power over a group of people) are also the same ones who believe in the Antichrist, who's obvious purpose is to deceive even the elect and sublimate everyone under his charisma (because his vision will be plausible and spiritual).
- Psalm 1: 1 says, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked‚Ä¶". The later translations, in an attempt to neutralize the text, has translated it, "Happy are those‚Ä¶" which destroys the whole point of that Psalm, which articulates the biblical importance of the righteous individual. The fact that it is the first psalm is not an accident, for it launches the whole Psalter in the direction of individual faith that composes the community of faith. Although the bible obviously teaches the assembly of the righteous, it doesn't consider it a controlled clump, but a gathering of righteous ones, those who have "worked out their own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
- The principalities and powers find expression in organizations and institutions, including the church. I suggest that the church is simply a voluntary gathering of individuals, and it is healthiest to keep them free of an all-encompassing vision which is an attempt to collect all the members under one power. To captivate people "through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe" (Colossians 2: 8), is a benevolent dictatorship, but still a dictatorship. And this is why it is so deliciously deceptive: vision statements are usually plausible, they sound biblical, they are inspirational, and they hold out the hope that all these people can be controlled under one motivating idea, which in the end is demonic.
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