“Vision” is a word that gets used a lot today. It gets used in the business world, it gets used in politics, and, many times, it gets used in the Church. Church marketing and the “Church Growth Movement” (which is a real a philosophical movement with a large body of literature) go to great pains to convince pastors and congregations that their future exists in, with and under their “vision.”
And they're right.
Without the right vision the Church will most definitely perish. Defined is a unifying idea, message or image to which, through which and from which all a community's life and efforts flow. And God has promised us in his holy Word that His vision for His Church will be the indefatigable standard around which the armies of his faithful sons and daughters will flock. As St. Peter writes, “It stands in Scripture, 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.' ... You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people. But now, you are God's people. Once you had not received mercy. But now, you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2)
Loud and clear, God has a Vision for his Church: It's Jesus, the Christ, and him crucified for the forgiveness of all of your sins – and not only yours, but the sins of the entire world. As sojourners and exiles in this world of passions and flesh, his people have one focus: to rest in and trust that cornerstone to hold them steadfast against the war which rages in our world and against our souls.
There is a danger, however, in the word “vision,” – something which we must be well aware of. When the philsophical movement which is the “Church Growth Movement” speaks about “vision,” it speaks of something very different from all that Scripture says. There is much misplaced theology behind their reasonings, but the long and short of it can be summed up in this way: When the Church Growth philosophy uses the term “vision” it does not mean God's Vision, but our goals.
Now, there is nothing wrong with goals. In fact, we will need to be setting strong goals at St. John, based on God's Vision for us in Jesus. But goals, even good ones, are not a “vision.” They serve the Vision. They will pass away with time, but by our pursuing them, it is our hope that the Vision will remain among us – just as Dr. Luther writes in the Small Catechism: “God's Name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven!”