As I look back, though, I wonder how much Kingdom difference those sermons really made.
Pastors from large mega-churches that I’ve followed from afar encourage us to bring an annual message. As a result, I’ve prioritized it as a necessary leadership tour do force upon which I thought the health, vitality, and future of my church depended. I had engrained into my leadership DNA that a vision message must include content (the what), the motivation (the why), and the inspiration (the impetus for everybody in the church to be moved to take on hell with a water pistol after listening to me for 30 minutes).
The kinds of vision messages I’ve brought have included these general themes.
- the I just got back from this great pastors’ conference and this is what we will do next year
- the I just read a great book on church growth and this is what we will do next year
- the I have no clue about what next year holds but I have to bring a vision message or else I’m not a good pastor
- the I have to fire up the church with this message because, well, we need firing up
- the I’ve come from a Mt. Sinai planning retreat and here is what God told me we’re to do next year
- and as I’ve gotten more mature the I humbly bring this before you as a word from God
The responses to my annual vision sermon have included…
- 100 people leaving the church the following year (after I attended Willow for the first time and decided we would be the Willow Creek of Atlanta; I’m not dissing Willow, I was simply too filled with myself when I brought that vision sermon)
- a phone call from a leader saying he was not motivated at all
- usually lower attendance on those days
- nice, smiling faces in the audience that telegraphed, “You go get ’em Charles. We’ll be praying for you.”
- kind people telling me afterwards, “that was a very cool acronym you used.”
- a few (I can count them on my hands and toes) who said, “Pastor, that motivated me to embrace the vision with you.”
Vision dripping is more important than vision casting: Great churches produce visionary teams, and visionary people that share (drip) the vision in the course of daily leadership and life. Vision ought to be a team sport and engage an army of everyday story-tellers in the community. Vision should never be relegated to special gifting of a the point leader only.