Leaders cannot construct a vision. We cannot put one together in the same way we might piece together a strategy or action plan. We do not make a vision or dream one up or create one from within ourselves. Real visions for our churches/organizations are things of revelation. We may collect data, make observations, study a problem, and even dream about an ideal future.

I do all those things all the time. I mull things over in my mind and heart, sifting them with Bible verses and swirling them around with prayer the way an old prospector pans for gold. I think. I ask. I consider options. I strategize and pour through numerous scenarios in my mind. But those activities cannot generate vision. They are important leadership activities, but they do not spawn vision.

Vision is something I receive in a moment in time (or in several clustered moments in time). I remember what my thoughts/ideas were like before the vision, and I can see how they have become marvelously reordered after the new vision has clarified and rearranged them. I’ll put it another way. The vision changes the way I have been thinking—it does not result from that thinking! “Of course,” I say to myself in the moments after getting the vision, “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

The answer, of course, is that I didn’t think of it myself. Like Jesus said to Peter, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you…” Vision for an organization is a form of revelation, dependent on God’s Spirit to unfold something of God’s plan for that church or ministry. What sparks it, exactly, or when it happens, I cannot say. But when it comes, it ignites several additional thoughts/revelations.

A vision is a catalyst. If your vision does not automatically spawn, almost instantly, fresh initiatives and more action plans, it probably isn’t much of a vision. Because vision points an organization to its future, the vision ought to press your awareness toward new horizons. I know that sounds a bit ethereal. Imagine your church-as-it-is-now as you standing in the midst of a densely packed crowd of people. You are pressed up against three or four other people with whom you might have a conversation. But you are hemmed in and limited to those few. If the space suddenly cleared around you in a ten foot diameter, how many people would ring the enlarged, open space? You would be able to move about and talk with ten to fifteen people. Each of those people represent a new horizon of possibilities.

If your vision isn’t opening up possibilities that never occurred to you before, it isn’t much of a vision.