Monday, January 16, 2006

Death of a Vision

Lately I've taken to updating my "theology" library a bit. I'm pretty selective in what books I buy - I generally buy books that either deeply influence my views and behavior or present my own thoughts in an enjoyable way. For various reasons, I have not bought many been a while since I've found many good additions. But recently my church started a list of pastor favorites, so I have been reading through a few of them (it was a bit disheartening how few of their favorites I had read).

(I say "theology" because most of what I consider to be good theology books have immensely practical aspects to them, not dry and boring reflections on surface areas of pins and angels.)

Since I've been reading more recently, I'm also going to take some time and post brief discussions about influential books in my life. After that, maybe I finally write my Yoda post.

And the first book is...not a book. (Okay, so I'm doing books and other influential events.) A long long time ago, I heard a teaching on leadership by some pastor - "Dan". The core idea that I remember I call "Death of a Vision": That God almost always lets a leader's vision fail - horribly - before granting it. That the test of how we handle failure is a vital part of being a successful leader.

I remember Dan walking through the Old Testament and demonstrating leader after leader that faced significant and lengthy deaths of their dreams prior to their major successes. For example:
Abraham - Promised to be a great nation, then spent 25 years waiting for a son, then asked to sacrifice his son.
Joseph - Dreamed of being great, then 13 years in Egypt as a slave, much of it in jail.
Moses - Wanted to free his people, then 40 years in hiding
David - Anointed the future king of Israel, then 10 years on the run from Saul
Paul - Called to be a messenger to the Gentiles, then 14 years in obscurity in Arabia

I dug up my notes on the outline of the talk. Here's a few of the points that haven't stuck with me as clearly, but have definitely impacted my outlook:
Leadership is not based on position: People must choose to follow; they must see God in us. Leadership is first about gaining a vision, being gripped by a call of God. Then occurs the death of a vision because God almost always lets our vision die. Great leaders go through long dry times - think about fears, concerns, etc., etc. - yet God calls them great men.

God does this because he wants to test us - to know our humility, our heart, our motivations. The devil's purpose is to get us to compromise; God's goal is to refine us. Secondly, failure allows us to know, deeply know, that our success is God's work, not our own. If we endure failure, God gives a supernatural fulfillment to our vision. Therefore, do not compromise, do not lower your vision to match your abilities.
I didn't realize until I was rereading my notes from that teaching that was also where the speaker challenged the men to consider being pastors, and where I first started seriously thinking about the idea. (The core comment I remember was something like "If you don't have anything else to aim at, why not aim at being a pastor? If you want to be like Christ, you need tho character aspects of a pastor anyway." But that's probably another blog post.

[Photo: Abraham & Isaac]


Tina said...

A couple comments:

The "death of a vision" idea is really interesting; now I'm left sitting here, trying to decide if I've ever experienced anything similar on a smaller scale. Perhaps.

The "become a pastor" thing I found equally interesting, other than the genderedness of it. (My snarky side wants to ask if the pastor had any suggestions for the women in the crowd or just completely ignored them at that point. But this is not the post in which to go on a rant about that. ;-/ )

The people in my life who serve in the function of "pastor" are indeed people in whom I see God and people who have been through significant levels of crap (significant enough to be able to understand/deal with me, anyway).

Remind me to expound my simplistic "lives are weighted" theory to you sometime. :) It goes along with this, a bit.

Peter said...

I've been looking for a good theology book as well, something that's not so fluffy, I think something like what you look for. Any recommendations thus far?

Al said...


I like a lot of Larry Crabb's writings. Inside Out is definately high on my list. I was also impressed by Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch, although I only read about half the chapters. I have Inside Out if you want to borrow it. Bold Love (by Dan Allender) is also very good, but the borrow list is a bit long at the moment on it. How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth is a good intro to Biblical interpretation principles, even if it doesn't apply them to my satisfaction. (I do have it as well.)

Al said...


Hrm, what do you know? Snarky is in the dictionary. I learned a new word today. I don't actually remember about suggestions for women - my recollection is that the pastor comment was pretty much an aside in the teaching, but happened to be an aside that caught my attention.

Tina said...

Interesting... the dictionary-listed definition isn't the one I usually mean. I like the Urban Dictionary entry a bit better.

Anna said...

Until this moment, I honestly thought the word "snarky" was Tina's invention, although I had figured out its meaning from context.

You *do* learn something new every day. :)

Joseph A. Christian said...

Sorry, folks. The "death of a vision" has to do with "throwing down "power", not letting others make a "king" out of you - not being a "leader" (Mt. 23:10), and laying down your life for your wife. "Elevation to power" (Pergamos) is NOT the way..."Thoroughly married to the world system" (Thyatira) is also NOT the way. Following those models (Revelation) will take you in the wrong direction...
God's Way? Throw it down (Ex 4); Let your VISION DIE (see above...) and GET A JOB!!! (i.e., lay down your life and perfect your wife (Just like Jesus is doing...)
Cool? Good...