There’s a lot of definitions out there these days on what makes a good leader, and one of the common threads is that they are visionaries. Visionary leadership is considered a necessary trait for keeping an organization on track toward its goal, which the leader keeps in mind; the leader inspires others with the goal and influences them toward achieving it. For almost a week now, I’ve been considering the incarnation of Jesus, and his role as a shepherd in comparison — or should I say contrast — to the role which we’ve established today as a pastor. It’s gone something like this:
- The Rise of the Pastors & The End of the Megachurch Era
- Thatâ€™s the Way (uh-huh, uh-huh) We Like It
- A Few Words on the Inevitability of the Incarnation
- The Being-ness and Presence of the Incarnation
I think I’ve established that
(1) we’ve got a lot of ideas wrapped up in the pastor’s role that are not characteristic of the shepherd’s role of which Jesus spoke, and
(b) the incarnational model has more to do with being and presence than it does with achieving specific goals or milestones.
It seems to me that this characteristic of visionary leadership is one of the aspects of the apostolic-pastoral CEO (who is most certainly expected to be visionary) that doesn’t fit the role of the shepherd or the incarnation. It just struck me last night as I was considering it… I don’t think Jesus was a visionary leader, at least not as we’ve defined it.
Jesus had a clear sense of his mission, and he gathered other people into it. He assaulted the status quo, enabling and empowering his followers to act in his same pattern. He called people to follow him and demonstrated the model he would have them follow. That’s leadership, and to some extent, it’s visionary leadership. But did Jesus communicate a plan and a strategy for implementing his vision? Did he direct its pursuit as his followers joined in? Was he almost bull-headed in his pursuit of the goal? Was he even goal-oriented?
Some of these questions are uncomfortable if you accept that leaders must be visionary in a certain fashion. Jesus was resolute, but he didn’t run over people pursuing his objective… in fact, this characteristic didn’t seem to really surface at all until he neared Jerusalem for the last time. He did much more encouraging than directing. But if Jesus had a clear strategy that we’re supposed to follow for his to achieve the spread of the gospel and advance of the Kingdom, I think it would have been communicated far more clearly than what we see in the Great Commission, or in Acts 1:8. For a mission of the scale we’re on, I think we have to acknowledge that the specific instructions he left are, well, a bit sketchy.
To be sure, Jesus left us a lot of instruction and a lot of example, but on the whole I think he told us far more about how we’re supposed to behave as we execute the strategy than he did about the strategy itself. In the end, we have characteristics of the plan but not the clear plan itself. So does Jesus fail as a visionary leader? What do you think, is this a fair assessment, or am I overlooking something crucial? If Jesus was visionary but in a different way than we typically describe it, how would you mark or describe those differences?
Okay, I’ve been doing some catch-up blog reading, and naturally discovered in some of the blogs I follow that Hamo is talking about Bonhoeffer suggesting that God hates visionary dreaming. After a good Bonhoeffer quote from Life Together, he writes, “some of what masquerades as visionary dreaming” is “our own ego needs being expressed in the form of a corporate vision.”
Ed Brenegar picks it up from there, saying, “All too often church leaders fall into the trap of thinking that our vision for the church is Godly, when it is simply the enthusiasm of ego rush.” He goes on to discuss the difference between values statements, vision statements, and mission statements — all different.
Perhaps this is what I’m on about, that Jesus gave us some values (beliefs and characteristics on how we go about things: “live this way”) and a mission statement (“go ye” (and sorry for the KJV, it happens when I quote from memory sometimes ;^) ) or “as the Father sent me, so send I you” or “you will be my witnesses…” etc.) but maybe he didn’t give us nearly so much in the vision statement department. I posted the above before reading these two posts, from which some good discussion is developing.