The Death of a Vision


As you study corporate, church or organizational history, you will see an interesting pattern unfold. That is, the entrepreneurial spirit (or revival) starts with a person whose tremendously gifted and talented. This person develops a vision and people follow that vision. As the vision grows it turns into a movement. People follow and the movement grows, so far so good. But at some point the movement begins to construct a monument and after a short time if leadership isn't careful, the monument turns into a mausoleum. A heartfelt vision, turns into a movement, which turns into a monument, which becomes a mausoleum. Unfortunately it happens over and over and over again.

Take the car troubled car industry (no, you take it). It starts with men of vision and passion. We see economy of scale, mass production, we see growth. Suddenly monuments are built – whether they are monuments to the status quo or fat-cat union contracts – monuments are built and suddenly leadership is worshiping business as usual while the consumer and the economy and the environment are all changing. instead of vision and innovation, we see mausoleums.

Take the ministry that starts with tremendous heart and vision. People's lives are changed, and consequently we need more buildings, we need less time for ministry because we have so many services or "to dos" to keep the monuments going. Suddenly, without warning, we see mausoleums – the death of the vision.

Here's what happens. The tragedy occurs when the machine which was originally set up to help and serve people (aka customers) becomes so ingrained and established that the people inside exist to serve the monument (or the machine whichever you prefer). And, then you have a masoluem instead of the vibrant organization that was originally built to serve and meet needs.

How do you stop it?

  • Like all bad habits you need to recognize your problems and  your tendency to ingrain business as usual.
  • Keep the vision alive. Never quit preaching the original vision and staying totally focused on the people whom you serve.
  • Question everything. Paradigms become entrenched because they serve the machine that created the monument. Be careful of long-standing paradigms. Everything changes at some time or another.
  • Be careful of false pride. If you think your organization is important, fill a bucket full of water and put your hand in it. Quickly pull out your hand and the remaing hole is your level of importance. You're right – there is no hole. It's only there in your mind and pride fuels it.

How do you keep the vision? How do you keep your organizaton from turning to a mausoleum? I'd like to know.


4 Responses to “The Death of a Vision”

  1. darrell a. harris says:

    thanks for sharing both your insights and your questions with us, wayne. they are thoughtful, helpful and challenging.
    as a kid in the ’50s, i remember finding groucho marx’s humor incredibly intelligent and provocative. as i grew older and “got” even more of his zingers and aphorisms, he loomed even larger. so anytime someone starts off with an allusion to one of his gems, i’m usually hooked at the outset (“take my wife; no, really, take her”.)
    i think a key to the question you raise is tucked way in the prophecy of habakkuk (2:2-3.) these two small verses carry a great deal of valuable freight.
    1) habakkuk is told to “write the vision” so that others can “run with it”. as long as the vision resides only in the vision caster it will always have a limited life.
    however, if it is clearly, thoughtfully and persuasively written, others can take up the torch in an informed and intentional way. there are many examples: the bible, the u.s. constitution, the rule of st. benedict, the magna carta, etc.
    2) also, a vision handed on with such care will see recurrence, renewal, re-emergence at a some later time.
    we tend to lock in a vision to the era of hits birth and hey-day. (and perhaps, as you say, also encumber it with the paradigm of that birth era and “first coming”.) but if the vision truly has transcendent quality and has been clearly preserved and handed on, it is always capable of rebirth and “second coming” in subsequent eras.
    such recurrences can be especially vibrant and infectious if freed from the baggage of paradigms that have passed on with time. and often such renewals mine yet additional riches out of the original vision when rediscovered in the new context.
    habakkuk encourages me. i hope he will you, as well.

  2. David says:

    Great post! I appreciate this very much. How important it is for any organization, especially a church, to remain true to its mission and relevant to its environment.

  3. work is more thar a necessary for most human being; it is the focus of their lives, the souece of their iadentity and creativity.Do you think so?

  4. No, I dont totally agree. While work is important, its not the source of my identity. In my view, God gives me my identity, purpose, values and esteem. Work is an outflow of the mission, gifts and talents He has given me.
    Sent from my iPad

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