by Dirk Anderson
In 1966, Star Trek first aired on television. It featured gadgets such as the communicator, wireless earpieces, the hypospray, and the medical tricorder. Fifty years later all those devices have materialized in our world. We have flip-phones, Bluetooth, jet injectors, and the Scanadu SCOUT medical device.¹ The visionary behind Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, not only imagined a future world with cool gadgets, but also communicated the vision of a money-less Earth without greed, hunger, or poverty. Moreover, he imagined a society where all races, including aliens, live in peace and harmony. We have yet to see if the latter vision will come to pass. However, it is important for leaders to communicate their vision of the future.
Clarity of vision is vital not only in the world of science fiction, but in every great endeavor of life, including Christian leadership.
God Provides Clarity of Vision
The wise King Solomon wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverb 29:18 KJV). In the Old Testament era we find that when prophetic revelation ceased, the people tended to cast off restraint. They needed a relevant vision for the times in which they lived. Moses provided the enslaved people a vision of a promised land, and they followed him. Nehemiah was also a man with clarity of vision. When Jerusalem was conquered by Babylon the walls were destroyed. After the captives’ release from Babylon, Nehemiah came onto the scene with a single Trump-like focus: Build a wall! This great leader motivated the Jewish remnant with a relevant vision to build a wall, even under great resistance. Time and again Scripture reveals that a relevant vision is crucial to the leadership of that generation of people.
It is important for leaders to find the vision that God has for them. Henri J.M. Nouwen writes about his life in In the Name of Jesus. Educated as a Catholic priest, Nouwen lacked a certain clarity in his life. However, after spending time working in a mental institution with disadvantaged people he discovered a new vision of leadership. He writes, “…as I think about the leader of the twenty-first century, I do believe that those from whom I least expected to learn are showing me the way.”² After gaining this clarity, Nouwen went on to publish some 39 books, selling over 7 million copies worldwide.³ As a Christian thought leader, it was his clarity that enabled him to reach millions.
Clarity as a Leadership Essential
The Christian leader must take Jesus’ 2000-year-old call of reaching “every nation” with the gospel and make that vision relevant to their particular ministry (Matthew 24:14 KJV). Reggie McNeal recognizes the Church’s need for visionary leaders who can, “articulate a compelling vision that translates the Great Commission into their ministry context.”4 A leader who is able to do that will have a greater chance of success. McNeal writes that visionary leaders “demonstrate an intentionality that attracts followers.”5 People desire leaders with clarity of vision that connects the dots for them so they can understand how they are personally relevant in the Great Commission.
Clarity in the Face of Uncertainty
We live in an uncertain world, and uncertainty about the future creates feelings of discomfort. As the Christian world continues to fracture into more sects, as the extremes grow further apart, as the Bible comes under greater attack, believers are wondering where to turn to find clarity about their faith. The Christian leader of the future must be able to provide that clarity in the face of uncertainty.
In his book, Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley writes about the time his church faced uncertainty about expanding their facilities. They decided to build a second auditorium, which would be video-linked with the live services in the first auditorium. There was great uncertainty about this working, but in spite of this, the leadership moved forward with the plan. Ultimately, the project was a success. How was it achieved? Stanley explains: “Recognize that clarity of outcome is more important than certainty of outcome. … Clarity creates its own influence and momentum.”6 In times of uncertainty, it is more important for leaders to clearly share the vision than to know the future. The vision itself helps to create the future we will live in.
Christian Leaders Need Clear, Godly Vision
Many examples in both the Bible and in modern times illustrate to us the importance of a leader having clarity of vision. At one point the Pharisees attempted to distract the disciples on a doctrinal issue. Jesus replied to them, “Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). People do not want leaders without vision. The blind leader will only end up leading them into a pit. People are looking for leaders with clear, godly vision. This is an essential characteristic that is vital to vibrant 21st century leadership.
¹ Stuart O’Conner, “How Star Trek Predicted the Future,” Tech Digest, June, 2006, accessed Dec. 10, 2017, https://www.techdigest.tv/2014/06/how_star_trek_predicted_the_future.html.
² Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, (USA: Crossword Publishing, 1989), 92.
³ “Henri Nouwen,” Wikipedia, accessed Dec. 10, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Nouwen
4 Reggie McNeal, A Work of Heart, (San Francisco, USA: Jossy-Bass, 2011), 104.
6 Andy Stanley, Next Generation Leader, (Oregon, USA: Multnomah Publishers, 2003), 99.