No one can catalyze a movement alone. Any pioneer with a vision for a movement therefore needs to succeed in rallying others around his or her vision. Inspiring others with a God-given vision is an essential activity on the path to movement, and an essential competence of every effective movement catalyst. The late Steve Smith, author of the T4T method and book (2011), told me where he saw Inspiring God-given Vision belonging in the journey to movement. “I resonate with the catalytic qualities your research has identified. Three qualities stand out to me: Expectant faith, inspiring shared vision, and persisting till breakthrough.” In this blog you’ll learn about the places where inspiring vision is most essential and how to become more and more effective in it. I’ll share with you best practices from the lives of some of the most effective catalysts and practical steps you can take to grow in your ability to Inspire God-given Vision.
What characterizes the vision casting of catalysts?
A vision is a window on the world of tomorrow. Casting vision means to be able to look out of that window and see tomorrow, then open the window to others. Here is what my research has found, concerning how effective movement catalysts cast vision and help others see tomorrow:
Effective catalysts articulate a compelling vision of the future,
talk enthusiastically about what needs to be accomplished,
and express confidence that goals will be achieved.
Notice the three content elements of catalysts’ vision casting:
the vision of the future,
what we need to accomplish to bridge the gap between present realities and the future vision, and
the confidence that this gap will be bridged.
Notice also the prevalence of three emotional aspects in effective catalysts’ vision casting: their vision is compelling, they talk enthusiastically, and they express confidence. Effective vision casting transcends words. It stirs emotions.
Effective catalysts exhibit this quality strongly. On a 1-5 Likert scale their self-rating is 4.66 – a very high rating. They also exhibit this quality more strongly than non-catalysts. See the table for a comparison.
Table: Inspiring Vision for Catalysts and Non-Catalysts
Inspiring God-given Vision
Average of all 22 qualities
Inspiring Vision – what others say
When studying the field of leadership for my doctorate in intercultural leadership, I found that Inspiring Vision is central to leadership. In today’s foremost school of leadership, “Transformational Leadership,” this competency is called “Inspirational Motivation” (Bass, 2005). This ability to motivate others through vision has been empirically identified as one of only four qualities of transformational leaders globally. We should not be surprised that effective catalysts also exhibit it, as the catalyzing of a movement requires highly transformational leadership abilities.
Addressing apostolic leadership, Michael Sinclair describes the vision-casting effect that apostolic leaders create: “People readily catch their vision and feel led to join in” (Sinclair, 2005:6).
For movement catalysts, the late Steve Smith reported that in his experience vision casting is one of the relational competencies of movement catalysts (Smith, 2014:38). In personal dialog with me he even listed it as one of the top three qualities of catalysts, next to expectant faith and persistence.
Trevor Larsen emphasizes that a trait he has observed among national catalysts in a country in Southeast Asia which he has been mentoring over years is “a broad vision from God” (Larsen 2016:1). To tie the insights of these three authors together: effective catalysts cast a God-given vision in ways that others easily catch.
Inspiring God-given Vision in Scripture
The most-quoted Scripture that speaks about vision is Proverbs 29:18. The ESV translates the Hebrew quite literally and well: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” Without a prophetic vision people loosen restraint and live their lives in all sorts of directions. To put it in positive terms, where there is prophetic vision people restrain and direct their impulses to focus them on what matters.
Vision that has such power is prophetic. God has revealed it to his people. God-given vision provides direction and focus. It gives the inspiration and energy to say “No” to many other things and pursue the one thing that matters most.
I need to emphasize that we’re not talking about any man-made vision we’ve conjured up! Our vision must be God-given. That means God has spoken to you and your team. Either through Scripture or prophetically, He has revealed to you one of two things: either a) how he is going to use you in your ministry, or b) his intention or plans for the people group and population segment you are serving. What is true of expectant faith applies here equally. (See my blog on “Expectant Faith and How to Cultivate It”.)
If you feel as you read this, “Our vision doesn’t have that much clarity that has truly been revealed by God,” I urge you to set time aside and seek Him for a clearer vision. You can do this both individually and corporately with your team.
Our vision must be God-given. That means God has spoken to you.
What does Inspiring God-given Vision accomplish?
Inspiring God-given Vision is needed to mobilize workers. If you want others to join your ministry, you need to communicate to them what God has shown and spoken. That has the power to mobilize them.
Inspiring God-given Vision births expectant faith. If God has revealed a vision of something he is going to do, we build our faith on that vision. We’re filled with expectancy that something great is going to happen here.
Inspiring God-given Vision fuels fervent intercession. If God has spoken about what he’s going to do, we can pray this into being. We intercede with fervency, with confidence that what God has revealed is going to happen.
Inspiring God-given Vision builds confidence in all our actions. We will carry out our ministry confidently. We will share the message God has given us confidently because we know our vision is going to be fulfilled.
Lastly, Inspiring God-given Vision builds persistence. We realize this vision may take a long time. It may mean overcoming numerous obstacles and hindrances on the way to the vision. But ultimately it builds perseverance because we know if we persist, it’s going to happen.
Best Practices of effective catalysts
Here are three best practices I have gleaned from effective catalysts around the globe, as I’ve interviewed many of them. They reported on surveys that they have incorporated these best practices into their lives and consider them to have contributed to their movement catalyzing.
Best Practice 1: Communicating vision compellingly, concisely, constantly, and consistently.
Effective catalysts communicate their God-given vision compellingly and concisely. Being concise means for a number of catalysts that they have developed short and memorable statements they are ready to fire off at every opportune or inopportune moment. For others being concise means they have developed more elaborate versions of their key message that they are equally ready to share in detail at any given time. Here are a few of these compelling short vision statements:
A hundred million Muslims
The whole nation for Christ
No place left (without a church)
Fourth generation churches by 2025.
Effective catalysts communicate their God-given vision constantly and consistently. You may wonder: “How often? Every month? Every week?” The answer is--all the time! One catalyst responded: “I laughed when I read this characteristic because I have been accused of not talking about other things.” Another catalyst told me:
“We repeat this [vision] until people say it in their dreams!”
If anyone were to wake you up in the middle of the night and ask, “What is your ministry vision?” Would you be able to state it in an instant? That reflects how deeply you have internalized it.
Crafted vision statements and messages provide consistency, as they repeat the same message wherever catalysts go; even with the same people who have already heard it.
Visuals of visions posted wherever people’s eyes often fall remind them, compellingly and consistently, of a vision. We can post them on walls, computer screens, or notepads.
We need to be re-envisioned every day. We leak vision, and are pulled in many different directions by circumstances and other people. Those who know me know I am strongly guided by vision. Yet I am in need of vision – every day! That is why I have a screen background that gives me vision every time I look at my computer. In my office I have three images always visible before me, which inspire me to pursue my visions every day. I have a photo from the early days of our movement in Sudan – equipping others to catalyze movements is my life vision; a cover image of my next book, which I created before I even started writing it; and a representative image of my next vision – a digital movement training platform.
Best Practice 2: Breaking the vision down into time-framed milestones.
A grand vision by itself may remain an unattained dream until it is broken down into milestones. When talking enthusiastically about what needs to be accomplished, catalysts emphasize personal responsibility before God and time-framed execution. They have frequent conversations in which they raise questions like: “How do we get from A to B, from where we are to our vision?” “How can we define milestones on the way to our vision?” “What milestones can we work toward – not only at some indefinite point in the future, but by the end of this quarter, by the end of this year, or in the next three years?” Then catalysts support their coworkers in getting closer to the God-given vision, step by step.
Best Practice 3: Expressing confidence that goals will be achieved.
Catalysts aren’t saying we're hoping it may happen. Because the vision is God-given, they have the confidence that it will happen. They also build this confidence among their team members in several different ways:
Pointing to the momentum already underway in the movement. They point out all the good things that are happening already, even if on a smaller scale.
Regularly sharing testimonies, and inviting others to share testimonies of what God is doing. That enables others to see where God is at work and that the God-given vision is beginning to be realized.
Giving positive reinforcement to team members and partners for the good things they're doing. Helping them see how the things they do contribute to the vision they’re pursuing together.
A Growth Path toward more effectively Inspiring God-given Vision
Here are specific steps you can take, gleaned from the lives of effective movement catalysts and my own experience:
Whenever God speaks, we want to record this treasure and keep it before us consistently.
Recording all revelations God has given you that inform your vision. Whenever God gives us fresh revelation (tested by the infallible revelation of Scripture), this is a treasure. Whenever He speaks, we want to record and keep His messages before us consistently. Personally, I have recorded all the revelations God has given me for my future ministry, in an audio file on my phone. I listen to them and meditate on them every day.
Formulating your ministry vision concisely in a concise and compelling statement. This vision statement is to be derived from the revelation God has given you.
Communicating your vision consistently. Communicate something of your vision at every single meeting with your team and partners. Sometimes you may just be referring to your compelling vision statement; sometimes you’ll want to go into more depth. But talk about it all the time, keep it fresh, keep it alive, keep it in front of everyone.
Notice when your vision casting creates the greatest resonance. Which words and images create this? What was the energy and the passion you exhibited when this resonance happened?
Zero in on those elements that created the deepest resonance. Those are the ones that truly inspire the others around you. Use those most frequently.
Self-coaching and coaching questions
Reflect on your own vision. How clearly do you see a bright tomorrow? Without thinking about it, grab a pen or keyboard and write up in two lines the vision God has given you.
Reflect on your team vision. What, beyond your strategy, is the “cause” your team is committed to? What is the vision that gets your teammates’ juices flowing, that makes them truly passionate?
Do a reality check of your team vision. Ask the teammate who most recently joined your team: “What have you heard and perceived from us to be the common purpose of our team?”
Reflect on the clarity of your shared team vision. Before which of your team members could you stand with confidence and say, “Here’s what I’ve heard over time you want our team to accomplish here. Here’s what I’ve heard you are committed to contributing to this.” Go through your team, member by member, in your mind’s eye.
Reflect on the personal vision of each of your teammates. What is meaningful to each of them? What has attracted them to join your work? Have you shown them how the things they do contribute to the big picture? How frequently have you pointed out to them specific examples of their contribution? Jot down a few notes about each of them.
Imagine your future team. Make a list of all the individuals or groups of individuals you want to enlist to your vision of the future. How could you communicate your God-given vision to them so they would feel compelled to join in?
What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from you. What are YOUR thoughts? What is your experience? Leave a comment below! If you prefer to private message me, you can use the contact form.
Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities besides Inspiring God-given Vision in my book Movement Catalysts. You can order your copy here.
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Emanuel Prinz – Father’s Beloved & Movement Activist
Bass, Bernhard M., and Ronald E. Riggio. 2005. Transformational Leadership. (2nd Ed.). New York and Hove: Psychology Press.
Larsen, Trevor. 2016. Focus on Fruit! Movement Case Studies and Fruitful Practices: Learn from Fruitful Practitioners. A Toolkit for Movement Activists: Book 2. S.l.: Focus on Fruit Team.
Sinclair, Daniel. 2005. A Vision of the Possible: Pioneer Church Planting in Teams. Pasadena: Authentic Media.
Smith, Steve, and Kai, Ying. 2011. T4T: A Discipleship Re-revolution. Monument: WIGTake Resources.