Both Russ St. John and Don K. Clements have critiqued my post Where There is No Vision Statement… and have added something to the conversation.
Both have stated that I should not throw out the baby with the bath water. I tend to throw out a lot of babies. Their point is well taken. Vision statements do not have to be bad when used properly. I think what wrinkled my nose so much was the abuse of Proverbs 29:18 in stating the verse is about having vision statements, instead of it’s intended purpose of having God’s revealed word.
Here is the gist of Russ’ statement:
My point is simply to suggest that rather than taking an either/ or approach to the idea of presenting a coherent vision or philosophy of ministry for your congregation over against simply saying, “We plant and water,” you instead embrace a both/ and approach, doing the work of planting and watering, AND laying out for your people how that biblical work is the vision for your church. I think that even Paul did that for the Corinthians in telling them why he was never going to be like others who came to them with eloquence and emotional manipulation and tricks; he came to them with Christ crucified, and that is a vision statement grounded in theology. Theology has legs; it takes you places. Can we not tell our congregation our theology, and then also tell them where we expect that theology to lead them? I think that if we do so, we have de facto made a statement of vision.
Don goes a bit deeper and actually has a blog post in response to my post. Here is the gist of what he writes:
Hammon’s article goes into great detail in tearing down the principles underlying the article he referenced, and I commend him for that work. That particular business model way of doing things is indeed worldly, and therefore wrong.
But at the close of the article he goes to the other extreme where he essentially dismisses ALL vision planning when he writes: “In fact, most people who say the church needs vision statements, usually have something to sell the church. This should be a clear warning about the danger of vision statements.” He even leaves the implication that the only thing that is needed is ‘happiness in God’s Word’ by which he means the preaching and teaching of the Bible.
Perhaps Mr. Hammons suffers from the George H.W. Bush syndrome, and wants no part of ‘The Vision Thing’ as the former president passed it off while he was a candidate. Or perhaps he has failed to take into consideration the clear Biblical teaching that the church MUST be involved in planning, whether they call it Vision Planning or not.
The New Testament is filled with examples of the church planning for the future. The election of Deacons was a plan to start and carry on a needed ministry. Paul exhorted Timothy to recruit and train Elders, an absolutely needed ministry. In fact, Paul in Ephesians 4 makes planning for ministry the very heart of the work of Elders, when he writes in verse 12 that their responsibility is: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
The work of ministry in the church is built upon the foundation of Biblical preaching and teaching, but it goes much, much further than simply having people listen, but not act. And in order to act (in ministry) there must be a plan, there must be training, and there must be encouragement. It is at this point that Elders ‘earn their keep’, so to speak.
If a church is to be involved in ministry, they must decide what their core values are so they have a framework to work with. Then they must decide which ministries to be involved in, at what level, and for whom they will be provided.
There is more and you can find his blog post here. I’m grateful to both brothers for taking the time to give some clarity. I think they understand what is driving me. I can’t stand it when people take Scripture out of context. But then, another baby goes out the window. Forgive me for that. Some mornings I know I should say something, lest the arguments of bad theology go unchallenged. Nothing wrong in that. My error is not taking a breath between the moment that I finish writing and the moment I hit the “publish,” button and asking the question: “am I going too far?”
As my friends will say, “far be it from Timothy to go overboard now and then.” I have wonderful friends and I can usually tell I’m off in the deep end when they lovingly roll their eyes. I would promise never to make this mistake again, but I know what an empty promise that will be. Only by God’s grace and Spirit will I be restrained. However, I do admit I enjoy jumping overboard at times. It’s the best place to swim.