We have all faced this kind of thing before. We’re on our way somewhere important and run into some kind of detour that delays us. It’s frustrating because there is nothing you can do about it except stay in the process until you get there, a real exercise in patience.
Some years before brother Kenneth E. Hagin died, I recall him expressing concern that the Body of Christ could delay the plan of God by not accepting what God wanted to do in the Body. At the time, that comment surprised me because I always figured that God was in control no matter what. Not so.
I believe the American church is in a rather large detour that is delaying what God wants to get done. A detour will still get you to the destination, but it is not the right road and takes much longer.
Here is how the dictionary defines “detour”:
A long or roundabout route taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way.
That definition is amazingly accurate in describing the greatest part of the church in America at this time. The church is unquestionably avoiding the Great Commission and has chosen to take a long visit at personal kingdom-building.
As I think back as to where the detour began, I have to take a look at the predominant teaching on “vision” that took root some thirty-five years ago. As the Holy Spirit was rejected in the main line denominations, independent churches began to start and multiply. I do believe this was a move of God, but I don’t believe it was embraced properly. This is the point where ministers were told to get a “vision” and pursue it. Prior, there was really only one vision, and now everyone had their own vision.
Teaching on “vision” is prolific. So many “successful” ministers have written and preached on the subject that it is now considered infallible doctrine. They all claim to have the evidence to back up what they have practiced and then taught. To some degree this is true, but error has crept in unawares.
There is only one vision.
As the Head of the Church, Jesus has the only vision for the church. The vision of the Lord is very simple and clear. It can easily be summed up in the following scriptures.
(Matthew 28:18–20 KJV) “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The purpose of the ministry gifts are also clearly stated.
(Ephesians 4:11–15 KJV) “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
Everything the Lord has purposed for the church is clearly stated. Every minister has a part in the vision of the Lord. I would call it an assignment or calling. The assignment or calling fulfills your purpose. As we each fulfill our purpose, the vision of the Lord is fulfilled. Somewhere along the way all of this got turned into “my vision.”
If I am pursuing “my vision” then I am not jointly fulfilling my purpose together with you in fulfilling the Lord’s vision. Under this guideline, we are not in this together, we are independent and, therefore, in competition. I travel the world and have never seen greater politics and competition in the church than in the United States. Few work together because they have picked up the practices of the world.
When you see a church advertising, “The fastest growing church in (the area)!” what you are seeing is a worldly practice to gain a competitive edge in a market share. People are to go to church to worship the Lord and be discipled, not because they want to be where they "think it’s happening.” Unfortunately, this tactic works at growing a church and has become the norm to build personal kingdoms. But that’s what they are - personal kingdoms. The focus is not the Lord’s vision or the Kingdom of God - it’s the vision of the pastor.
I have marveled at the number of churches that have failed and lost buildings they were building when the downturn of the economy hit. I realize that the economic stress has been so great in some areas of the country that some churches experienced extreme difficulty and failed through no fault of their own, an unfortunate consequence of the disobedience of us all (2Chronicles 7:14). But for the others, why and how did that happen? Perhaps it was not the Lord’s vision that was being pursued. There are many pastors out there with personal ambition and personal “vision” so strong that they must not have been listening to the Lord. God knew what was coming. Kenneth E. Hagin once told a story about how God warned him of a coming economic downturn and told him what to do to prepare for it. He obeyed God and was fine.
The proof is in the product. Some eighty percent of people in America claim Christianity. It’s easy to see that they have not been discipled. If they had been discipled, they would not do what they do and would not have voted for what they did. They have, however, been entertained and inspired to be a part of something they like, and they continue to satisfy their carnal desires.
A pastor pursuing his own vision is also a political person by necessity. The definition of a successful politician is one who gets reelected - or one who stays in power. To stay in power, you have to please people by giving them what they want. In a difficult situation, a politician will do what will make him look good rather than standing with what is right because looking good is what keeps him in his position.
As the "vision" teaching grew and became more and more accepted, it then lent itself to other error. It seems that two driving forces in the church have taken us all into a detour. One is the seeker sensitive movement that produces no deliverance or true disciples. The other is the extreme prosperity teaching that people are clamoring for but fails to develop Christ-like character. Both of these pursuits are the result of desperate ministers trying to gain a competitive edge to build their kingdom and fulfill their vision.
We need money and we need people seeking, but there are only “measures” of truth in these movements. They are divergent from the vision of the Lord; they are delaying the plan of God and delaying, to some degree, those of us who want God’s vision fulfilled. Remember, although Joshua and Caleb had not failed to keep God’s ways, they were delayed and had to spend forty years in the wilderness with the people of God before they could go into the promised land. I think God is waiting for us to figure out that these things are not working. Let’s pray it doesn’t take a generation dying off in the wilderness.
A pastor friend of mine is experiencing difficulty financially in the church. However, after asking the membership, it was discovered that quite a number of them are tithing and/or giving to the famous prosperity teachers. This hurts, hinders and delays the local church. I was told of another large church that ultimately lost their building and disbanded due to lack of finances. However, prior to disbanding, they surveyed the membership and discovered all the money they needed was available but being sent to outside ministries (probably the prosperity ministries). That didn’t just hurt this church, it destroyed it. God’s plan is being delayed due to a severe detour.
When Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul, He gave Paul some instructions that were the same content as Matthew 28:18-20 but in different wording.
(Acts 26:16–19 KJV) “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:”
Whose vision is “the heavenly vision”? It wasn’t Paul’s vision; it was the Lord’s vision revealed to Paul. I understand that once revealed, you could say that it was Paul’s vision because he received it in a vision. A better way to express it would be to say that Paul had a revelation of the Lord’s vision along with his purpose in it.
The principles of the "vision" teaching are fundamentally correct right up to the point where it becomes “your” vision. Once it becomes “my” vision and “your” vision, it becomes possessive. The words “my and your” are possessive words.
If anyone could have taken possession of a vision, it was the Apostle John. Read the book of Revelation - it was a vision given to him. However, here is how the experience is referred to:
Revelation 1:1 - “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him...”
A revelation of Jesus given to a man. It was not John’s vision.
We are, in fact, one body. Each of us has personal responsibility to pursue our assignment within the vision of the Lord. Because we are one body, there are some things that affect the whole. I sincerely pray that we examine ourselves and return to the pursuit of the vision of the Lord and get off of this detour.