One of the false concepts that some believers have accepted without question is that they must commit themselves to “the pastor’s vision.”
The concept of “the pastor’s vision” basically teaches that God has revealed a special vision to the pastor for the local church, and congregants must unite around that vision and devote themselves (and their resources) to fulfilling it.
Emotional pleas to serve “the pastor’s vision” are sometimes accompanied by persuasive statements such as, “You won’t reach your full potential until you learn to serve someone else’s vision.” “Serving the pastor’s vision will teach you humility, loyalty, submission, and maturity.” “God will promote you and fulfill your dreams as you serve the pastor’s vision.” “The church will not grow unless we unite under the pastor’s vision.”
Various Scriptures are also quoted to support the concept of the pastor’s vision such as, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18), and “Write the vision, and make it plain” (Habakkuk 2:2). When kept in context, neither of these Scriptures remotely imply that we are spiritually-obligated to devote ourselves to a pastor’s vision.
For example, in Proverbs 29:18, the Hebrew word translated as “vision” is referring to Divine instruction and revelation. The Hebrew word translated as “perish” means to cast off restraint and run wild. If you were to read this passage in the New King James Version, it says, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.” Did you catch that? This verse is not saying that without a pastor’s vision, a local assembly will perish. It’s saying that where there is no Divine instruction or revelation from God (being properly taught, proclaimed, and obeyed), the people will cast off restraint and live however they please. But those who keep the word of God, blessed/happy are they.
Habakkuk 2:2 also has nothing to do with supporting a pastor’s vision. If you begin in chapter 1, you will see that the context of Habakkuk 2:2 is a prophecy against Israel. The Lord told Habakkuk to write down a vision that He was sending the Babylonians to invade Israel and take them captive for rebelling against Him. But this is obviously not what pastors are referring to when they say, “Write the vision and make it plain.” They are quoting Scripture out of context to persuade believers to support their religious agendas.
Do we have to rely on religious leaders to find out what God’s vision is? Not at all. We aren’t under the Old Covenant anymore.
During the Old Covenant, the children of Israel relied on prophets for a vision or word from God (Hebrews 1:1), because at Mount Sinai they forfeited the privilege of hearing from God personally (Exodus 20:18-19). They preferred being led by men than being led by God (1 Samuel 8). They also relied on prophets for a vision or word from God, because most of them didn’t personally walk with God God and have the indwelling Holy Spirit as we do today. They relied on priests and prophets to stand between them and God and tell them what God said.
In the New Covenant, we don’t need to rely on religious leaders for a vision or word from God – because today, God has spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2). The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon all believers to lead and guide us into all truth. As Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice” and “they shall all be taught by God.”
God most certainly has a vision for us, but it’s not some secret ‘special revelation’ that He only reveals to pastors. God’s vision has already been revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There is no need to waste time, energy and resources on books and conferences about “vision-casting” or “how to cast a vision for your church.” All we have to do is pray, ask God for wisdom, and study His word to find out what His vision is.
Beware of religious leaders who claim that God gave them a vision for the church, particularly IF their vision contradicts Scripture AND they are asking you to ‘partner’ with them (i.e., give them money). Don’t be so quick to jump on unbiblical religious bandwagons cloaked as “the pastor’s vision” or “God’s vision for this ministry/church,” and invest your time, energy, and money into personal agendas that have nothing to do with the will and word of God. The very same phenomenon happened during the Old Covenant: “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts.” (Jeremiah 14:14; Ezekiel 13).
Many wolves in sheep’s clothing have crept into the sheepfold with an agenda to make their own name great and fatten their pockets at the expense of unsuspecting souls. Their plan is to globalize their religious empires, not glorify God, edify the saints, and preach the Gospel to the lost. They know that it’s human nature to want to be a part of something greater than yourself, and they play on that desire by using Christianese language like, “God gave me a vision for this ministry/church” in order to appeal to believers and obtain man-power, free labor, and financial support for their religious pyramid schemes.
The only vision that we’re called to be a part of is the vision God laid out for us in Scripture. Yet many Christians have been lured away from God and His word and seduced after the vain imaginations of religious leaders.
This is not to say that elders cannot speak a prophetic word for a local assembly, or that God would never give an elder a dream, a vision, or a specific directive for a local assembly. We are cautioned not to quench the Spirit by despising prophecy. But at the same time, we are also cautioned to “test all things” by examining any alleged prophetic word, dream, vision, or specific directive under the light of God’s word to verify its authenticity.
Any vision that doesn’t line up with the proper context of Scripture is a personal religious agenda from man. Without discernment, the pastor’s “vision” can become a blinder which renders us visionless and places us in subservience to man-made agendas.