“Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:16 ESV)
Everyone has certain emotional triggers and I confess that this is one for me.
When I hear a religious leader speaking about “vision casting” my stomach wants to do “lunch casting”.
That’s because the whole concept is built on the faulty premise that God calls churches to be “successful” and that success is determined by numeric growth.
That is a lie from the pit of hell…we are called to be faithful and to endure no matter how many our number.
Have a “vision casting” party for that…
The “biblical basis” for the lie is the verse from Proverbs I cited above, often from an older translation that says “without vision the people perish”….so lets look at what it really says.
The key is the second part of the verse which describes the content of the vision.
The content was the retelling of the law… the proclamation of the word of God that had already been delivered.
How do we hear God today?…through His Word.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV)
The “vision” for God’s people is to hear the Word and do it…not the fevered imagination of an ego bound leader who would be the untouchable potentate of their church kingdom.
Most “vision casting” today is of the Jeremiah 23:16 variety…
The danger of the misuse of of this passage was best addressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.
A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves this dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians which his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.
When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”
I can’t possibly improve on that.
My “vision” for our church is that we faithfully gather to hear the Word of God, receive the sacraments, make disciples, and live our lives in such a way that God is glorified in our families and vocations.
That’s biblical…and more than enough to keep us busy until the Lord returns for us individually or together.
My dreams would only get in the way…