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October 20, 2016

Vision for Tomorrow: Discerning and Safeguarding the Vision of the Church

By Daniel Im

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Vision for Tomorrow: Discerning and Safeguarding the Vision of the Church.

One of the most iconic paintings in western civilization is Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Painted in 1889, the oil on canvas portrays a quaint, sleepy French village at night. Overlooking the village, Van Gogh painted rolling hills, a majestic blue night sky illuminated by brilliant swirling stars, and an oversized crescent moon.

Part of the brilliance of The Starry Night is that it is a visionary painting when reflecting on its story. Painted from the east-facing window of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole’s asylum in southern France, the vista which Van Gogh painted was one that was not visible to the physical eye, but rather conceived in his mind’s eye. It was a vision to see things not as they are at present, but as they might be.

Shawn Lovejoy, founder and CEO of Couragetolead.com and author of Be Mean About the Vision: Preserving and Protecting What Matters, asserts that the single most important facet of any individual’s life or even in the life of a local church is vision. This is the ability to see things not as they necessarily are at present, but as they might be—as God would intend for them to be. But the process of birthing a vision and seeing it come to fruition—to put the oil to canvas, if you will—is not as simple as it sounds. A church planter must discern from the Lord what that vision is, learn how to cast vision in a compelling and easily understood manner, and then understand how to protect it from the competing voices which try to destroy it.

Based on the webinar that I did with Shawn and Ed, here are the three insights that will help you execute vision for the long haul:

1. Learning to lead with authority is learning to lead under authority

Many church planters start churches to escape a current position in which they feel unsatisfied or have difficulty submitting to the authority God has placed over them. Shawn pointed out that God has always worked His vision through leadership. Naturally then, if we are to work under and draw a paycheck from a leader, it stands to reason that we should submit to the vision God has placed in the heart of that leader. Shawn rightly said, “If you’re not faithful where you are, why would God give you more?” He highlights the equally-important fact that sometimes submitting to the vision of a leader is impossible. If every means of trying to submit to that authority has been attempted to no avail, then it is probably best to leave peaceably before the situation escalates. Shawn made the important point that pastors should never plant churches to fulfill some sort of “father complex” or unfulfilled approval issues.

2. Vision can only be multiplied at the level in which it can be remembered

Once the decision has been made to plant a church, the most critical next step is learning how to cast a clear and compelling vision to potential launch team members and your church. Shawn said that a clear vision should be boiled down into one sentence. He asserts that it’s not necessary to have a separate “mission statement” from the vision statement, but that a quality vision will inevitably produce mission. Once that vision is formalized it must be cast with clarity and there must be systems in place to ensure it is being executed well.

To read the final insight in executing vision for the long haul, and to find out Ed’s explanation as to how Shawn can simultaneously be so nice and so mean—click here for the full video and post.

This video is part of Plus Membership, so to get full access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member. Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.


  • “We have a God-given responsibility to steward the vision beyond us.”-@shawnlovejoy
  • “If you feel like God is moving you to leave, can the vision outlive [you]?” –@shawnlovejoy
  • “God never speaks without a redemptive purpose for His people.”-@shawnlovejoy
  • “There is a humility with which you communicate what you feel God has shared with you.”-@shawnlovejoy
  • “It is a terrible privilege to wrestle with God.”-@shawnlovejoy
  • “Where is the research and development firm of the Church?” –@shawnlovejoy
  • “A vision without a plan is a pipe dream.” –@shawnlovejoy
  • “The great thing about a team is you will never want to quit on the same day.” –@shawnlovejoy



Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Director of Church Multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville. He is the author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, and co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed) with Ed Stetzer. He also co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Visit Danielim.com to learn more.


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