Expatriate missionaries as vision casters

Missionary ministry that reflects Christ

Jesus was a vision caster. For instance, early in His ministry, He challenged two Galilean fishermen to leave their nets and become "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). Jesus spoke so compellingly that Simon Peter and Andrew immediately followed Him.

To those two men and to multitudes of others, Jesus cast a vision of what life in the Kingdom of God could be like. In one of His first sermons, Jesus' pithy "beatitudes" in Matthew 5 point to God's design for human beings. Jesus talked about how relationships should work. He challenged people to make good choices. He told His followers to go and make disciples in every people group. He laid out for them how some things in the future would unfold.

Sometimes people didn't immediately understand the vision Jesus cast before them. He talked about high ideals and such radical transformation that people still respond: "That's not possible."

The truth is, of course, that what Jesus said wasn't pie-in-the-sky stuff that will never happen. Jesus was realistic about the way things were. However, He also knew that, through the transforming and energizing power of the Holy Spirit, things could be different, and He painted a vision of that for His listeners.

While He was here on earth, Jesus sought to lead people toward the realization of that vision. The vision struck such a responsive chord in people that it did not fade with His Ascension. Through the centuries, millions have found Jesus' vision believable and have committed their lives to it.

A little over 20 years ago, Burt Nanus wrote a book titled Visionary Leadership. That book defines a leader's vision as the picture of a "realistic, credible, attractive future. . . . a future that is better . . . or more desirable."

Missionaries would do well to follow Jesus' example of casting vision. That vision needs to captivate people because just as in the case of Jesus, the day will come when the missionary will no longer be there. If missionaries are not casting a vision, the risk is that their ministry will wind up being nothing more than "sticking a finger in the water," as my Italian friends say. In saying that phrase, Italians refer to the fact that a finger withdrawn from water leave no sign that it was ever there.

Vision casting. It's important.

    -- Howard Culbertson

This mini-essay on Christlike attitudes and actions that need to be present in cross- cultural missionary service is one of a dozen articles in the :Missionary ministry that reflects Christ" series published in Engage, a monthly online magazine.

"Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." -- Acts 2:27

Bible passages relevant to Great Commission fulfillment    Doing missions well: Biographical sketches     Fiery sayings to inspire global evangelism efforts     Historic world missions slogans     Ideas shaping world mission outreach today