A Pastor’s Annual Vision Sermon: an exercise in futility?

vison sermon, visionaryI’ve served in a senior pastor role over 20 years and each year I’ve preached an annual vision sermon.

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