My new, early morning beach friend from Shelbyville, Kentucky had vision. He.. Steve… was going to catch so many fish, he brought out a kiddie pool to keep them in. Dinner was going to be a spectacular feast without having to leave a tip. Steve had awakened with a clear picture of a preferred future. This was vision.
I never did see one fish held captive in that thar Kentucky kiddie pool. So… was that really vision or just wishful thinking from my beach friend? Good thing Capt’n Curts Seafood Emporium was running a special on fried flounder.
Where does vision come from?
John Ortberg paints a vivid picture I saw playing out in front of me today on the water. Some folks are motor boats and they’re in the captain’s chair to create and direct vision. Others will cry “breached buoy” on the motor boat method of vision by saying it’s too legalistic. There’s just not enough God with a motor boat. Consequently, some folks prefer a raft… to let the currents of grace take them where they may. Sometimes they go no where. Sometimes drifting captures absolutely no vision. Then there are those who sail. God provides the wind, but they have the responsibility of hoisting the sails to gain the most efficient tack. As I considered my philosophy on vision through Ortberg’s wordsmithing, a Jet Ski motored by and messed up the whole vision analogy. Ugh.
On Saturday, Oswald Chamber’s devotional entry clearly stated God gives the vision, and we must wait for it to become real in us. Usually the valley and pits of the fire are where God-created vision becomes fully alive in us. The process of this can be exhausting, mysterious, and humbling.
Finishing up Dave Kraft’s “Leaders Who Last’ today has been an affirming read for a 53-year-old like me who wants to last, remain a visionary, empower next leaders, and continue learning as a leader myself. Kraft is a 70+ year-old leader. I want someone to write that about me some day. I love Kraft’s guiding verse of Psalm 71:18 … “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”
What will it take for me to be a leader who lasts and finishes well? Only about 30 percent do. With change coming ever so rapidly, and aggressive forces running counter to the Church, sometimes trying to change, adapt, grow, and lead in new paradigms can feel like the culpability for vision rests solely and squarely on my shoulders as a leader.
AND… I’ve operated (or at least tried) out of such twisted paradigms. If I pray enough. Read enough. Plead enough in my ivory tower… I can create and earn vision. If I work out my salvation enough, I can gain the smile and favor of God, and I will have me some vision to dispense. Is this how it works? For many failed leaders, the answer is yes… and no. This just doesn’t work for a leader who wants to last, and I do.
Dallas Willard says grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Trying to earn vision is what short circuits many leaders. You can imagine how soothing Kraft’s seasoned words were for my soul: “Leadership begins and ends with a clear understanding of the gospel and being rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ as a free gift. I am saved and kept by the power of God and am a Christian and a leader by grace and grace alone.”
I looked down at my newly acquired red wrist band. “DONE.”
I picked this one up at camp last week. After studying through the 10 Commandments with the kids, we taught how keeping the commandments perfectly was impossible. Trying to gain or earn salvation and favor can’t come through a strict adherence to Exodus 20. The answer? Jesus. His work. His blood. Powerfully and supernaturally we go from “DO” to “DONE.” I love that.
The same thinking must be true for a church leader like myself. The work has been DONE. I’m saved and LEAD by grace too. What a freeing thought! The DO tension still remains strong for me, but what a joy and relief to know that Jesus loves His bride more than I, and has… in advance… prepared vision to show me and have me lead. Vision comes through me, but not from me. This is a good “second-half” thought for my leadership soul.
So what DO I DO? Kraft gives good challenge for leaders to clarify purpose, passion, priorities, and pacing. Kraft unpacks character, calling, and continued learning as key components. From a precursory look at the table of contents, this doesn’t seem like rocket science to devour. However, after reading through, the lessons reapplied to my heart after 28 years of leading have been an excellent exercise. Leading the details for so long can certainly fog the necessary foundations a life-long leader must maintain. My appreciation for what my annual study break does inside me grew through Kraft’s ideas.
Tomorrow I will begin “Amplified Leadership” by Dan Reiland.
BTW… into chapter 30 in Genesis. I’m convinced this will be our next series after Mark. What incredible, powerful, and whacky stories to unpack and apply. Have you read about Issac finding his wife? Don’t try this with your sons and daughters! Do you know the one about Jacob’s love triangle with Laban’s daughters? Reality TV has nothing on this stuff. What creative, gripping, and mysterious scripture Genesis boasts to point us to Jesus powerfully and surprisingly.