The third component to a convincing vision is the reason something must be done now. You have to present people with a reason for your vision. You have to answer the questions: Why must we do this? Why must we do this now?
Nehemiah’s reason was wrapped up in this theologically pregnant phrase, “and we will no longer be in disgrace.” Space does not allow me to fully explain the significance of those eight words. The bottom line: the Jews knew that the city of Jerusalem was meant to reflect the greatness of their God. As long as the city was in disarray, it reflected poorly on God. Something had to be done.
One problem we all wrestle with is that our visions are rarely new or unique. Like Nehemiah, we look at the things around us that need to change and we wonder, “Why hasn’t somebody already done something about this?” We aren’t the first to see that something needs to be done. But what others have seen and been content to ignore, a leader sees and takes action. A leader points the way to a solution and gives a compelling reason why something must be done now. In Nehemiah’s case, the wall had been that way for over a hundred years. Why rebuild now? What had suddenly changed? Only one thing:a leader came along who saw and stated the problem of sticking with the status quo.
You have to present
people with a reason for
your vision. You have to answer
the questions: Why must we
do this? Why must we
do this now?
Consider the ONE Campaign. AIDS and extreme poverty aren’t new. But as a result of the ONE Campaign, there are thousands of Americans doing something now who weren’t doing something before, even though they were aware that something should be done. The ONE Campaign is providing thousands of Americans with a reason to act.
The original vision for the Willow Creek Association is another great example. Bill Hybels wasn’t the first person to recognize that local churches were in trouble. That was old news. Bill was the leader who finally said, “Enough is enough, something must be done. And something must be done now!” It was his burden for the next generation of church leaders—guys like me—that compelled him to launch the Willow Creek Association.Its purpose: to provide local church leaders with strategic vision, training, and resources to build biblically functioning churches. In 1992, the Willow Creek Association was launched with a few Midwest churches. Today it includes a global membership of more than 12,000 churches. The WCA is a solution to a problem. The problem existed long before the WCA was formed. But the solution would have never gotten off the ground if Bill and his team had not cast a vision that included a reason why the problem could not be ignored for another generation.
Every organization—business, nonprofit, or church—was launched because somebody stumbled upon a reason why it was time to act. You weren’t the first to recognize the problem. What makes you different is that you have decided to do something about the problem now.
As you think about your organization’s vision, ask why act now? What’s at stake now? Why not allow another year or two or ten to go by? What makes this season unique for you and your team? When you can answer these questions, you have created a context for the passion you will need to move people forward. They already know there’s a problem. They probably have a hunch about the solution. What they need is someone to give them a reason to rise up and do something about it.That is the role of a leader. To cast your vision convincingly, you need a reason for why now is the time. If you haven’t defined the problem, determined a solution, and discovered a compelling reason why now is the time to act, you aren’t ready to go public with your vision. It won’t stick.
They already know
there’s a problem. They probably
have a hunch about the solution.
What they need is someone to
give them a reason to rise up and
do something about it. That
is the role of a leader.
I’ll make a prediction. If you and your team will set aside time to define the problem, state your vision as a solution, and discover a compelling reason why now is the time to act, you will walk away from that meeting, or series of meetings, with more passion for what you are about than you thought possible. Something will come alive in you. And when you talk about your vision, you will be more convincing than you’ve ever been before. Note too that when your team talks about the future, they will use similar terminology. You may even create a new vocabulary for your organization.
Andy Stanley, Making Vision Stick (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on the book of Nehemiah. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.