Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and so any church leader worth their salt will cast a compelling vision for people to aspire to. But what’s the best way or the medium through which to cast vision? Some think it’s as simple as leveraging a deep baritone voice, like Charlton Heston coming down from the mountain. But a deep voice does not a vision make (and what about female leaders in the church? There are a ton of female Christian leaders casting compelling visions without a deep baritone voice).
Some people think casting compelling vision is as simple as wrapping it around a Bible verse (Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 are fan favorites) and proclaiming it from the rooftops. But the proof is in the pudding. Countless churches claim these verses as their marching orders yet don’t seem to follow through with it. So what’s the absolute most powerful way to cast vision in your church? Let’s look at the life of Jesus. He had a compelling vision of the Kingdom of God that he wanted to share with the people of Israel. So what medium did Jesus use? What was the primary way Jesus taught the people? Through stories (Mark 4:33).
The absolute most powerful way to cast vision in your church is through stories. We remember the stories (parables) of Jesus because stories are a vehicle that can take truth a lot further down the road into your soul then simply declaring truth on its own. Jesus could have told us that God loves us and that would have been true. But what greater impact did it have when Jesus told the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)? Stories are the best medium through which to cast compelling vision, and if you’re not leveraging stories within your church, then check the temperature of your vision.
At the church I pastor, we’ve put a lot of time and effort into telling better stories (not that we’re creating new or fictitious stories, but we’re capturing and conveying the compelling stories that are already out there). One of the greatest opportunities we have to cast vision is through baptism, when we showcase the transformative power of Jesus in someone’s life. I grew up going to churches where water baptism was done at the beginning of the service, quickly and without a lot of fanfare so we could get to the ‘real’ service. The pastor would mention a few words, but that still wasn’t leveraging the power of the story being told.
For the overwhelming majority of our baptisms, we video their story and show it before their baptism. We moved baptism to the epicenter of the service, because the baptism video of them telling their story in their words is the most powerful part of the service. It takes time and effort, but the stories we share cast the vision of life change so much further than anything I (the preacher) could simply say from the pulpit.
This past Sunday the subject matter for the sermon was the power of service and how we make a difference when we serve others. Standard fare for most preachers at some point throughout the year, something that could easily get lost in the white noise of every day life. I wanted to try and drive a stake of the power of service deep into the hearts of the listeners, so I loosened up and tilled the soil of their souls through stories. I started the message with a pre-recorded video of our church staff sharing stories of volunteers that made a difference in their lives growing up. The week before I had gathered stories from our church members about volunteers who had made a difference in their lives and I read those stories from the stage. A few of the stories were church members thanking other church members so the big finish was me calling those church members on stage and reading their letter of thanks from one church member to the other with them present. The power of vision was palpable in that moment when the church members were on stage. People were leaning in, the soil of their hearts were tilled and ready to receive the truth that “when we serve others we make a difference.” What tilled the soil? What carried the vision further and deeper into the hearts of the listener? Stories.
If you want to be a better preacher, tell better stories. If you want to cast compelling vision, tell compelling stories. The hard work and effort it takes to cultivate the stories that are already out there are worth every ounce of energy you expend. Tell better stories!