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As a church planter, I was constantly seeking to learn from those who had gone ahead of me. But as I listened to these seasoned planters I often found myself filled with “Vision Envy.” Do you know what I mean? You listen to another visionary, and suddenly your vision seems too small, too insignificant or too bland. That’s when we’re tempted to “borrow” part of their vision, or add elements to our vision that God never intended us to include. While it’s a great practice to listen to and learn from other visionaries, we must be aware of the traps of Vision Envy.

Trap #1 – You miss the unique vision God has called you to accomplish in your community. In my friend Will Mancini’s book Church Unique, he provides an exercise you can use with your team to identify the unique calling of your church. He calls this your Kingdom Concept. Your Kingdom Concept consists of Your Local Predicament, Collective Potential, and Apostolic Esprit. These three things working together help you answer the question: What will our church do better than 10,000 others? When you can answer that you are well on your way to discovering God’s unique vision for your church.

Trap #2 – You’re overcome with a sense of inferiority. My friend, Chip Judd says, “Comparison is the root of all inferiority.” Comparing your vision with the vision of another planter will not lead to a healthy perspective. But if you learn transferable principles from their vision its a win.

I was meeting with a visionary leader recently and was blown away by the size of his vision. Immediately “vision envy” crept into my soul, but once I recognized it, I was able to celebrate his vision and learn from his visioning ability. Listening to him lead me to ask myself a new set of questions, challenged me to think deeper about the measures of my vision and refine the way I share my vision.

Trap #3- You stop looking to God as the source of vision. Rather than spending time in solitude seeking the heart of God, we surf the Internet in an attempt to scheme up a bigger and better vision. There is no greater vision than the one God speaks directly into your heart, no matter how big or how small.

It’s a valuable practice to listen to the vision of other church planters. Just make sure you don’t fall to the traps of Vision Envy. There’s nothing more powerful than being given a vision straight from the heart of God. Moses spent hours in the Tent of Meeting face to face with God. This discipline gave him the fortitude to endure the times when the vision of the Promise Land seemed insurmountable. Nehemiah, wept, prayed and fasted as God formulated a vision for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. His time with God generated passion that others saw and longed to follow. Paul had a personal encounter with Christ that not only gave him a vision but put a fire in his soul to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Vision envy will produce a pseudo vision you can chase. But it will not give you the conviction and passion that comes from a personal vision encounter with God.

Years ago when I taught the Teacher Training at our church I would attempt to shift their paradigm by telling them, “Teaching isn’t talking, listening isn’t learning.”  We make a fatal mistake in leadership development when our only approach to training is dumping information from the teachers mouth to the learners ears .  Dumping information doesn’t necessarily produce transformation.  But many organizations use an informational rather than a transformational approach to developing leaders. Here are some of the big differences between the two.

  • Informational tells learners what they need to know.  Transformational challenges learners to behave in new ways by putting principles into practice.
  • Informational dumps content.  Transformational develops competencies
  • Informational the trainer provides the relevant information.  Transformational the trainer adapts content to the need and competency level of the learner.
  • Informational is one-way communication. Transformational is a two-way dialogue
  • Informational uses a one dimensional form of lecture.  Transformational uses the multi-faceted approaches of adult learning.
  • Informational follows a linear pathway.  Transformational customizes learning based on the learners present situation, curiosities and needs

What percentage of your leadership development efforts are Informational versus Transformational?  What steps can you take to increase the percentage of Transformational training?

Not everything we call leadership development is truly leadership development.

One of your staff members has a vacancy on his team, he looks around to find a new leader to fill the empty spot.  As he scrolls his finger over the names on the church roster he thinks to himself, “He’s not ready, she’s not ready, he’s not ready…oh, there’s someone that’s ready.” So he recruits them, places them and the gap is filled.

Unfortunately, that’s how many people are doing “leadership development” today.  But that’s not leadership development; that’s leadership placement.  Big difference.

  • Leadership development is looking for willingness not just readiness
  • Leadership development is walking along side someone for an extended period of time helping them learn the skills of leading
  • Leadership development is seeing potential in someone and developing that potential to its fullest capacity
  • Leadership development is giving them tasks of leadership before giving them the title of leader.
  • Leadership development is taking time to build their confidence and competence, not just handing them a job description and “empowering them”.
  • Leadership development means I’ve made the relational investment that goes way beyond recruiting and follows through the development process.

Let’s make a commitment to doing more leadership development and a lot less leadership placement in 2015.