I’ve been thinking about vision a lot lately.

Actually, I’ve been rethinking about vision a lot.

When I was preparing to move to Albany to start a university ministry, I don’t remember hearing anything about “vision.” No one ever asked me the vision of our ministry…ever. They asked why we were there, or what we were doing, and we’d respond “starting a campus ministry,” or “helping university students connect with Jesus.” I guess they both could have been crafted into vision statements, but we never saw a need…it seemed self-evident.

It was when we began thinking about planting a church in Ithaca, NY that the idea of “vision” was encouraged (and by encouraged, I mean pounded into our heads). I remember sitting in a church planting workshop in Albany trying to write out a vision statement (or was it a mission statement? I’m still not sure I…or anyone else…really knows the difference). The assignment was to paint a picture of where you would like your church to be X number of years down the road. And although I wrote out something that seemed like something that could describe the vision of almost any church, I was told it was good. At the next church planting event, it was too long and needed to be shortened to something more memorable.

The end result was that I came through that process with a clear picture of what it was we were called to do in Ithaca. That meant when we made decisions, they could be filtered by asking the question, “Does this help us fulfil our vision or not?”

Peripheral Vision
I read an article (or was it a book I was skimming) a couple of months ago. I have no idea where. It didn’t have anything to do with the church. But the subject of the story talked about vision. And he said he didn’t have a grand vision. But he did things as they came along…if they seemed to be in line with what he was about.

When I played basketball in high school, the coaches were constantly going on about peripheral vision. About being able to see the whole court, and not just what’s in front of you. Kind of like when you are driving down a neighbourhood street. You focus on the road ahead, but you are also watching those kids in the yard playing with a ball, just in case one of them does something crazy.

As I look back on our time in Ithaca, there are things I wish I would have done differently. But what I’ve been thinking about lately are the opportunities that I missed because I was focused on “the vision” and I didn’t see how this fit. There was one time where we were growing and had a sizable group of people coming from a neighbouring community and so we looked for a larger place to meet. Future me would have counselled younger me to try to launch a new church in that community rather than focus on finding a new building…but then I couldn’t see how that fit with where we were going.

Tunnel Vision
What I’ve started to notice in me since I read the article a few months ago is that “my big vision” can easily become “tunnel vision.” I can get so focused on where I want to be in 5 or 10 years, that I miss the thing jumping up in front of me screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!”

I am an INTJ, for those of you familiar with Myers-Briggs…so maybe what I’m thinking only applies to people like me because we INTJs tend to ‘live in our heads.’ And switching from what’s going on in my head, to what is God doing around me, takes effort.

I think having a vision of where you are going is important. We are still committed to the vision we’ve had since we moved here. However, I’ve been recognizing the importance of listening…of being aware of what is going on around me.

I’m still working through a lot of this…but it seems to be one of the things jumping up and down in front of me yelling, “look at me!”