The Executive Director of LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Stetzer is prolific. Prolific is probably not a strong enough term for the voluminous amount of fodder churned out by this ecumenicist. As Contributing Editor for Christianity Today – the discernment and doctrine-free religion rag and its corresponding internet portal of diabolical faux unity – Stetzer takes an entire blog page to highlight his impressive resume.
(It’s really more impressive if you’re a Muslim, Catholic, or an ecumenicist of any flair. If you are any of those things, hit him up. He’ll probably join you in a kum-ba-yah council. Oh yeah, Stetzer’s also the guy who wrote one of the SBC’s church planting “bibles,” Planting Missional Churches, in which, after almost 200 pages, he actually touches on the importance of evangelism in church planting. HUH?)
That Stetzer and colleague, Thom Rainer, tow the denominational line of disregard for doctrine and discernment is evident by casually perusing the fodder they produce, endorse, or from which they profit. If you are a discerning, Scripture reading, Bible believing Christian, when you hear “LifeWay,” it’s highly suggested that metaphorical Pauline “avoid them” alarms go off in your head. The bulk of what you’ll face from this SBC affiliate is woeful, worrisome, and generally worthy of disregard.
One favorite proclivity of the SBC intelligentsia, in which Stetzer and Rainer are tag-teaming, ivory-towered pillars of presumed profundity, is the notion of “vision.” Vision is a thing. Vision casting is a thing. They are BIG things. That they are Biblical things, though, is quite another matter.
Rainer focused an episode of his podcast, February 12, 2016, to the topic of vision casting. Titled A Unique Approach to Casting Church Vision – Rainer on Leadership, the President of LifeWay interviewed author Will Mancini about his book, God Dreams. The discussion was “about how church leaders can effectively cast vision.”
Mancini heavily emphasized emotions, particularly enthusiasm, as a tool to motivate (i.e., manipulate) congregations to support their pastor’s “vision for their church.” But here’s a key takeaway that ought to cause you to consider the technique’s Scriptural compliance. It’s a bullet point on Rainer’s highlight of the podcast.
“It’s not about what vision you choose, but whether or not everyone is on the same page with the vision that is chosen.”
Hmm. Really. YOU choose the vision … ANY vision …and … it doesn’t matter which vision. Sounds awfully Scripture-driven, huh?
Hop over to Stetzer’s entry on his blog at Christianity Today from April 19, 2016, and you’ll find more about “vision,” and some insight on where the SBC elite might be finding their own motivation for the technique.
In Vision: An Odd but Necessary Thing, Stetzer writes:
“You see, that’s what vision does. Vision gathers people together for a common purpose so they might be focused on something greater than themselves. Vision is essential in so many areas of life. In business, CEOs cast vision around a product or resource to bring satisfaction to the customer and profit to the business. In government, politicians cast a vision for a better tomorrow around themes of change and hope. In the military, generals rally their troops with a vision of victory. In all of these places, resources, tools, and training exist to help leaders more effectively cast that vision. Yet, those same resources are often lacking in the church.” (Emphasis added)
So, vision is “essential in so many areas of life.” Okay. It’s something done in business to create a better product in order to create a greater profit. It’s done in government and politics with grandiose schemes of national improvement. It’s done in the military to motivate towards victory. In other words, the use of vision is a common motivational tool used in every sphere of human endeavor in the world.
Yet, Stetzer writes, vision is “often lacking in the church.” (Umm, we do have the Bible, if that matters.)
Vision is often lacking in the church. The vision that is used in the world is often lacking in the church. The church often has no vision.
Do you hear what he is saying? We MUST harness the practical, motivational wisdom from the world, spiritualize it, and use it in the church.
Umm. NO. That is precisely OPPOSITE of what we are told throughout the New Testament, by, no less, the prolific but INSPIRED apostle Paul.
Take some time to put this article aside and go read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, a magnum opus- worthy explanation by the apostle comparing and contrasting the wisdom of the world versus the wisdom of God. “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,” but “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” Hmm.
Turn a few pages further to 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1 and cogitate on that text, considering the use of worldly wisdom to accomplish godly goals. Paul gives us there the well-known verse, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”
(The context of this verse, as you hopefully know, is not marriage. Though it’s application in marriage is appropriate, the context of its use in Paul’s exhortation is the church. The church, the believers, should not be engaged in concert with unbelievers.)
“Unequally yoked,” of course, means that by the believers’ distinction from the world, they are not guided by the wisdom from those of the unbelieving world. We are yoked with Christ. We know Him, obey Him, and are guided by Him in His Word, aided by the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit.
(And the Holy Spirit has quit giving “visions,” as we know. Those ended with John, who wrote the inspired warning at the end of the last revelation not to add or take away from what we’ve been given.)
We don’t use the wisdom of the world to guide our faith, nor direct our obedience, nor serve our Lord. But Paul isn’t the only apostle who spoke to this distinction. John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
But “vision casting” remains a major emphasis of many SBC leaders. Ronnie Floyd, current convention president, wrote in November 2013, “Casting vision is one of my favorite things to do as a Pastor. It has also been a joy to do beyond my local church in some major settings. Each time, I find it a joy.” (Really? Was a faulty “vision” the reason for the woeful failure of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force?)
J.D. Greear, nominee for President of the SBC, outlined his pastoral responsibilities on his blog site, saying, “there’s so many things that are part of my job, and that I enjoy doing… vision casting, preacher-teacher, counselor, staff-coach.”
Steve Gaines, another upcoming nominee, teaches “Casting A Vision” on his Bellevue Intern Leadership Track.
If vision is, as Stetzer proclaims, a technique drawn from the wisdom of the world, is it appropriate that it be used as the basis of Christian service in the church? Should pastors be “spiritualizing” a method of the flesh to promote “things of the Spirit?” Is it not a sin to be so “yoked,” or to “love” vision and vision-casting as so many SBC elites seem to do?
We ought, perhaps, prefer a different pastoral take on the issue. Consider John MacArthur’s comments:
“I’ve never planned the future of the church. I’ve planned to solve problems. I’ve planned to accommodate growth. The church is not something I can plan.”
Continuing, MacArthur says, “Somebody said to me years ago, ‘Do you have a desire to build the church?’ and I said, Actually I have no desire to build the church since Jesus said He would build the church and I really don’t want to compete with Him. It’s His church.”
“I’m much more concerned about being the pastor in charge of faithfulness and truthfulness than I am to be the pastor in charge of vision.”
(That, I suppose, is why MacArthur isn’t a Southern Baptist. He just lacks the vision. Poor fella. This parenthesised section typed using the rhetorical sarcasm font, FYI.)
If by “vision,” we just mean plan or goal, then fine enough. Pastors and leaders need to quit spiritualizing common sense stuff and misleading parishioners by making them think something “divine” is going on. If you have a plan to pave a parking lot, it’s a plan; it’s not a vision. Just stop it. Some of us aren’t buying it, and those that do are being misled by the likes of Stetzer, Rainer, et al.
Folks, be wary around LifeWay … always. Be cautious about those who take wisdom from the world, spiritualize it, and apply it to the church. We are to be separate from the world, and in that separateness, as Christ prayed in John 17, the church will be a visible witness in the world, just as each individual believer is to be a Gospel proclaimer within it.
But we don’t need revelatory visions. We just need obedience to the one we’ve already got … Scripture. Open it up, read it, abide in it … and share it with your nearest vision caster.
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim
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