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A Visionless Church

May 30, 2007 by

Over at the nakedpastor blog, there’s a two-part post entitled “My Vision is to Have No Vision.” Any feathers ruffled yet?

He argues that vision is actually a killer. It crushes the natural growth and flow of things, and it inhibits the exponential, New Testament growth and love evident in the book of Acts. (Please note that I’m taking a bit of liberty in describing his position–connecting the dots instead of citing verbatim, if you will.)


He quotes Bonhoeffer, saying, “God hates visionary dreaming,” and Luther, saying, “Put two lovers in a bedroom, and you won’t have to tell them what to do.”

What does this mean for marketing your church? There’s certainly an increasingly postmodern population disillusioned by mission statements and ten year plans. Communities like The Simple Way and New Jerusalem Now are making headlines and changing the world. Consider that possibly, the most effective way to market your church is a simpler method–love people, and watch community grow.

While personally, I don’t think it’s possible to have no vision, I can understand the idea. It’s impossible to start something with no idea as to what aim you seek. There might be something to be said, however, about minimizing references to the corporate world in your church marketing. At least in ministering to some groups.

Don’t head over and curse out nakedpastor or break down any doors. I know visionary dreaming is a huge part of the modern American church’s DNA. But when you market your church, entertain the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, no vision could be the best vision.

Post By:

Joshua Cody


Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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16 Responses to “A Visionless Church”

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    May 30, 2007

    I don’t think you can avoid having vision, just like you can’t avoid doing marketing. Even if you’re all about having no vision, that is your vision (being open to where the wind takes you).
    It is an interesting idea to consider ratcheting back the vision quest so many churches seem to be engaged in. Sometimes we miss the people for all the grand plans.


  • Derek Borders
    May 30, 2007

    Proverbs 29:18
    “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”


  • Dan
    May 30, 2007

    I think this will work. The central vision has been set forth by Christ, the head of the church, so each of us should be able to come up with our own vision for personal ministry as part of a functioning body to point others to Christ. This would allow more people to get involved rather than just leaving the work of the ministry to the paid staff.


  • Colin
    May 30, 2007

    I think it’s the right idea couched the wrong way. The solution isn’t to have “no vision”. The vision is to have a church where people are passionate about sharing their lives with other people in relationship and service and the church enables them to get that done.


  • Dan
    May 30, 2007

    I think the problem with visions is that sometimes we create a vision and then use God to get to the vision we created. For instance, I’ve heard of and been a part of a few churches whose vision is to build a bigger, better building or acquire this or that so they can more effectively do “their” ministry. This is not always, but can be just a way we are just glorifying ourselves in the name of glorifying God. Our vision needs to be consistent with that of Christ and that may mean that all of our grand ideas and visions may end up being fruitless.


  • Bernie
    May 30, 2007

    In some cases, “no vision” is a statment for, “I am frustrated with all the information overload, ideas, theories, broken dreams and failure, that I don’t want to SEE AHEAD, PLAN AHEAD and thus have VISION. Some of the simple is great and Simple Church and others call us back to “focus and less is more” and I am learning much from this summons, however, the issue for some is a validation of mediocrity, complacency and in some cases opportunity for sitting at home, Starbucks or on the golf course. Vision and passion are essential – where there is no vision the leaders might be frustrated and tired, fearful or not wanting to ratchet up leadership or build teams or do more work.


  • Matt
    May 30, 2007

    The concept of not having vision seems to be a reaction to churches that try to fit their congregation into the pastor’s vision. I have noticed with many smaller churches that what the church is able to accomplish is contingent on the passions/gifts of the congregation (if the congregation is passionate about art, then an art driven outreach can work). If church leaders aren’t sensitive to the gifts of the congregation, the vision can quickly cause discontent. Great stuff to think through and discuss.


  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    May 30, 2007

    I’ve heard a line of reasoning that claims ‘vision’ in the Proverbs verse quoted above (“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”) is mistranslated, or at least meant something else back then and not what we think of as ‘vision’.
    I can’t remember where I read that. Rob Bell? Mark Batterson? Can anybody help me out?


  • Matthew
    May 30, 2007

    I believe the actual translation of the word vision in Proverbs is law, but the concept remains the same. I saw that this guy has multiple degrees in theology, etc. What I don’t understand is how you ignore scripture about planning before building or going to war (see the Gospels) or the fact that Paul laid out extensive lists of items for people to live by and remember. I think this guy has the idea right, in the end, it’s all about loving people and learning, but I think the order that we see in scripture is God’s way of saying there are certain things that He wants and doesn’t want. He most definitely had a plan and I believe he wants us to tap into it. In the end, it’s really not our vision at all, it’s His, and he has a way he wants it accomplished


  • st. Mars
    May 30, 2007

    …in reading the blog, I can kinda see a reflection in what I’ve experienced; I am tired of the ‘corp’/J. Maxwell gospel. I think he does want to get basic in vision….like make disciples and feed sheep….that is what Jesus comanded….
    …I’ve been feeling very missional lately…


  • Don Record
    May 31, 2007

    Perhaps if we thought of “vision” as our particular way of obeying God’s universal mandate to “go into all the world” and “love your neighbor as yourself”… Even though God will “build his church” it is still our priviledge and responsibility to use our “assets” in the best way possible to accomplish this goal.
    Those of us “mandated” to financially provide for our families choose many different careers and jobs to accomplish that mission. We wouldn’t consider anyone noble or spiritually “in tune” for refusing to find the best job they were suited to because “God cares for the sparrows…” We would probably say they were lazy or negligent.


  • Fred
    May 31, 2007

    In order to truly have no vision, you would have to not care where the church goes. The problem with most churches is not that they have a vision, but rather their vision is something they dreamed up. God is the one who gives visions and dreams. Part of the reason He does is that it causes us to trust Him to bring the vision to fruition. More churches need to set the model for their people of how to listen to God to see where He is wanting to lead. Because if we go where He leads, He will provide the strength and resources to accomplish that vision. That is the abundant life!


  • Larry
    June 5, 2007

    I’ve read through David’s blogs, and I’ve gotta say, I’m feeling a lot of pain there. His argument isn’t that the Church shouldn’t have a mission, but that he’s tired of the jargon/talk around other peoples’ “vision”. When he sounds passionate about ministry is when he’s comparing it to his teenagers: hanging out, laughing, being “aimless” (although most teenagers are hardly that); THAT’S his vision. I don’t know him or his history– apart from what I’ve read– but he sounds burned-out. I don’t think his post is a theoretical treatise on “vision,” I think it’s a cry for help.


  • Larry
    June 5, 2007

    I’ve read through David’s blogs, and I’ve gotta say, I’m feeling a lot of pain there. His argument isn’t that the Church shouldn’t have a mission, but that he’s tired of the jargon/talk around other peoples’ “vision”. When he sounds passionate about ministry is when he’s comparing it to his teenagers: hanging out, laughing, being “aimless” (although most teenagers are hardly that); THAT’S his vision. I don’t know him or his history– apart from what I’ve read– but he sounds burned-out. I don’t think his post is a theoretical treatise on “vision,” I think it’s a cry for help.


  • nakedpastor
    June 8, 2007

    hey! thanks for the great mention. I’m honored, to say the least! i must insert, though, that I don’t think I’m burnt out. After several degrees (yes you are right) and decades of pastoral experience (yes you are right), i’ve had extremely painful experiences. but i don’t think i’m burnt out. i’ve learned from my own studies and ministry that vision as we know it kills. i don’t say this resentfully or bitterly, but with sincere passion for the liberty of God’s people.


  • jeff
    January 19, 2008

    vision can be manipulated by our own egos and can contradict, even compete with the one true vision which we serve… our vision vs. God’s vision. The “bedroom” analogy was a nice touch… forcing something to happen instead of participating in something that is going to happen. we exsist and participate in God’s love, not manipulate it. you can have a vision for what you will do with the love, but cannot have vision for the love itself. God’s plan is elemntal.



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