I grew up on Mission Impossible, pre-Tom Cruise. It was amazing to watch the TV character Peter Graves tackle the impossible week in and week out. Headquarters gave him tough top secret jobs that were literally impossible with the words, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it….” He was part of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). Funny, but I don’t ever remember him saying no.
I know church leaders just like that. One such woman would give Peter Graves a run for his money. She has a towering, impossible and inspiring vision: To eliminate racism in her home state. Impossible, you say? You bet it is. Until you say it out loud, that is. Articulating a vision is the first step to making it a reality.
The truth is, if it seems do-able and you already know how to do it, it’s probably not a vision anyway. It’s more like a goal. Goals are good, but they don’t transform the world like a “Vision: Impossible” does.
When Microsoft developed the vision of putting a personal computer on each desk, it was a “Vision: Impossible.” Computers occupied entire rooms, not the tops of desks. The average Jane hadn’t even thought about what she might do with one, let alone if she had the means to afford one.
But that’s the nature of visions: they are impossible at first. In fact, that’s what sets them apart from goals. Goals are do-able. You can understand what steps to take to accomplish them. You might even be able to accomplish them with the people, resources and structures you have on hand. But a vision is a whole different order. It expands assumptions about what people think is possible.
Ending malaria, ending hunger, ending homelessness, and ending poverty are similar seemingly impossible visions. But once some brave soul had the courage to even imagine it, then give voice to it, the impossible started moving into the realm of possible. Now, interested people have gathered around each of these areas to create structures, assemble resources, establish goals, set benchmarks, gather funding, and attract key people to the vision. I truly believe that each of them will be accomplished.
Visions also require boldness. It requires a great deal of chutzpah to speak of the impossible as if it were do-able. Kind of like Jesus saying we can enter the Kingdom of God. Before Jesus, the Kingdom was a far-off sort of experience. But Jesus brought it to the foreground, and made it a here and now kind of experience going so far as to say that it is within us. That transformed what we think is possible and gives courage to visionaries and dreamers of every sort.
What if communities of faith took on making the impossible possible instead of settling for improvement and incremental change?
If you decide to accept the challenge to dream a “Vision: Impossible,” here are some things to keep in mind:
- Dream big. Jesus’ own dream was that earth would mirror heaven. The bigger you dream, the more you tap into the energy, power, blessing and realm of Jesus. This can be very scary at first. Not only for you, but for your people. Remind people that this is the stuff of faith. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen, it means you don’t have all the answers before you start. In fact, you can’t.
- Conduct a Kingdom Bible study. Read the Gospels looking especially at what Jesus had to say about the Kingdom. Note how much of his activity is actually about the Kingdom. Don’t stop with the Gospels. Read Acts and the epistles of Paul with this lens as well.
- Be willing to fail. When you take on a “Vision: Impossible”, things might fail. On the other hand, they might succeed, or come to fruition in a way you hadn’t expected. The disciples thought Jesus failed. But look at all the good that came out of his life and death.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Share your vision again and again, to gain adherents. The more you share it, the more people have a chance to get on board, offer suggestions, buy-in, and help implement it. Just about the time you’re sick of saying it, others will feel they’ve heard it for the first time.
There’s more to implementing a vision than just saying it. In fact, building alignment and championing execution are key phases of making the dream a reality. If you are interested in learning how to make the impossible possible, and creating visions that catapult the world forward, then you are ready for Creating a Culture of Renewal. This award winning program helps church leaders transform risk-averse cultures into congregations that are willing to dream like Jesus, enthusiastically tackling new initiatives and launching new ministries. New groups are forming in 2016.