It’s Sunday morning and I am rushing around to get the kids and myself ready. As I put in my contacts my eyes are confronted with a terrible pain. It feels as if someone has jabbed my eye with a combination of sandpaper and scissors. As a seasoned contact wearer I know what this means—I’ve got a rip in my contact. “No big deal,” I think to myself, “I’ll just put in another pair.” Wrong! I’m all out of backup contacts. No time to get a new pair. I don’t have backup glasses. I’ve got only one solution—put in one of my wife’s lenses, which are not nearly as strong.
You need to know how bad my eyesight is. I cannot see the Big E. Without my contacts I cannot function normally. So with my wife’s spare contact in my eye ball I stand before the church and read from God’s Word. One side of the congregation is a blurry mess. The other side crystal clear. One side has vision the other nothing.
My mind immediately goes to the KJV translation of Proverbs 29:18. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Though, I’m convinced this verse is radically taken out of context in many leadership talks, I’m not convinced it says nothing about leadership. Because I know what it is like to not be able to see.
When I cannot see, I have to fill in the blanks and make assumptions. At times this is comical. At other times it is dangerous. Likewise when our people lack clear direction they will fill in the blanks with assumptions.
When I cannot see, I’m often afraid of things I should not be. Once in college my buddy thought it would be fun to see how well I could drive without contacts. Though I knew he was right there to grab the wheel it was scary. I almost drove into a telephone pole because I swerved to miss a parked car—a car that was a good 30 feet away from me. (Children don’t try this at home. It was in college. Don’t judge me). In the same way, without direction our people will easily slide into fear.
When I cannot see, the things which ought to be enjoyable are simply frustrating and confusing. I cannot watch television—I can only listen. I refuse to go in public for fear that I’ll miss someone waving at me or greeting me with a smile, or worse yet, I’ll talk to a mannequin. Likewise, when our people lack clear direction, the things which ought to be enjoyable in church are frustrating and confusing.
Usually I fall asleep about ten minutes after I take my contacts out. There isn’t much I can do without vision and so I just give up and fall asleep. I’m convinced the same thing happens in churches. They have no vision, no picture of the future, no idea what is going on, and so they just give up and go to sleep. They disengage. Or they stop coming to church altogether.
Earlier I noted how this verse is often misapplied. I say this because the word here for “vision” is better translated “revelation”. This is why the HCSB translates it as, “Without revelation the people run wild”. The type of vision our people need is not some cockamamie scheme dreamed up by the preacher. The sight our people need is the God-given vision of His Word.
Without such a vision—without grasping what God’s Word says for our lives—people will run wild. They’ll be like me without contacts just filling in the gaps of sight with their own fallen assumptions. We need to faithfully communicate God’s Word—God’s vision—to our people so they can see the world with God’s 20/20 vision. And our churches must be structured around this same vision, where everything shines forth God’s glory.