It’s now generally accepted that if you are going to be a leader, you need vision. I generally buy this. Some of the most effective leaders I know have modeled this for me. It’s a lot better than drifting.
But vision also has its dangers. Vision is especially dangerous if you’re a Christian leader and you’re going to invoke the name of God.
C.S. Lewis wrote to his brother during World War II:
In the litany this morning we had some extra petitions, one of which was “Prosper, O Lord, our righteous cause”… When I met [the reverend] in the porch, I ventured to protest against the audacity of informing God that our cause was righteous – a point on which He may have his own view… I hope it is quite like ours, of course: but you never know with Him.
We hope that our vision is from God, but when we inform him that our vision is righteous, or – even worse – pretend that our vision came from God, we’re on dangerous ground.
In Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Screwtape advised his young nephew, a junior demon, on how to destroy his patient (a human) in a time of war:
Quietly and gradually nurse him into the stage at which religion becomes merely part of the “cause” [vision] and his [faith] is valued chiefly for the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the [vision]. … Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades mean more to him than prayer and and sacraments and charity, he is ours–and the more “religious” on those terms the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.
The more religious our vision, the more dangerous, especially if faith plays a supporting role to vision.
I’ve heard talk this week about having a vision worth dying for. “As a leader” it’s said, “people will follow your lead. They will own the vision as much as you own it. If you’re not willing to die for it, then it’s not a vision worth dying for.”
Maybe, but Charlene overheard someone respond, “I’d die for Jesus, but I wouldn’t die for my church’s vision.” The problem is that we often confuse the two.
All organizations (including churches) need vision – but Lewis reminds us that God and the angels are not necessarily on the side of our vision statements. That’s something every leader has to remember.