Skip to comments.The Cult of the Visioneer
Posted on 02/24/2014 7:02:22 AM PST by Gamecock
I spent my early years in ministry immersed in the language of vision and mission. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that if a church was going to be successful then it must have both a mission and vision statement. If you were really good you had purpose, vision, and mission statements. It was no longer acceptable to simply understand that your church was around to do what the church had always been around to do: preach the Word, administer the sacraments, and make disciples of the Lord Jesus. That would not do. The pastor was now cultural architect (that is an actual title a pastor in California has taken). He must be a visioneer. The shift seemed rather seamless. Who, after all, was going to dare speak out against vision and mission?
The process is simple. A church has a pastor. The pastor receives from God a specific vision and mission for his church. The church follows the visioneer.
For this arrangement to work however the congregation has to understand at least two things: 1) God speaks to our pastor directly, and 2) God gives our pastor a mission unique to our church. These have become the assumptions. They are simply not questioned.
I have explained to the church I serve as pastor that our mission has nothing to do with my going off somewhere and getting a word from the Lord. God does not give me visions. Actually the mission of the church is not difficult to discern. God has made it quite clear in his Word. The church is sent into the world to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of the Lord Jesus in the ways that he has prescribed (Matt 28:16-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:6-11).
There is simply not a category in Scripture for a pastor who receives, by way of revelation from God, a particular mission for his church. It is not there. So why does this notion continue to flourish? There are at least three reasons:
1. A misunderstanding of how God speaks. The visioneering pastor and his church operate under the mistaken notion that God speaks to us outside His Word. As a result the pastor is able to act under a sense of Divine fiat - "God told me." 2. Ignorance of the Scriptures. Too many church members (and pastors) do not know the Bible well enough to know that this approach to vision and mission is not found in the Bible. 3. A preference for the sensational. The visioneering pastor and his church risk missing the blessing of God's ordinary means of grace. The desire instead is for a divinely spoken vision. Within this way of thinking is the prideful assumption that there is something special about my church.
Combine unbiblical ideas of a pastor who receives visions from God with slick fashion, cutting edge marketing, and shameless self-promotion and you have a cult-leader in the making.
A recent info-graphic produced by Elevation Church includes the following statements:
1. We serve a Lead Pastor who seeks and hears from God.
3. We serve a Lead Pastor we can trust.
7. We serve a Lead Pastor who pours into us spiritually and professionally.
16. We serve a Lead Pastor who goes first.
This is frightening stuff. We have a Lord who came not to be served but to serve (Matt 20:28). And yet at Elevation it is plain that "Pastor Steven" is the boss who expects to be served. It gets worse. Elevation even produces coloring pages for the children which carry the caption "We Are United Under the Visionary" displayed over a depiction of Pastor Steven. The coloring page goes on to say, "Elevation is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity by supporting his vision." I have not read language like that since the last thing I read about North Korea. Why would a church allow such cult-like manipulation?
Notice how it is connected to the language of vision. "God gave Pastor Steven a vision. Who are you to question it?" Indeed. Who are any of us to question the man who receives visions from God?
I ask my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters: Is this what is meant by church autonomy? Is there no mechanism in the Southern Baptist Convention that can provide oversight and correction to such abuses?
I raise these issues because I care about the purity of the church and the integrity of the pastoral office. I have no question that the cult of visioneering can produce results. It can attract crowds. It "works." And if it were not so blatantly unbiblical and dangerous for the souls of those who follow I suppose it would be fine.
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This is so far out of line that it makes me embarrassed to acknowledge my first name.
Relatives attend Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas. After we visited there with them we talked about the church. When they said there is no elder board and that the church is governed by heads of other huge ministries from across the US I scratched my head. They also said that elders can get in the way of the vision of the pastor so his leaders need to agree with his vision. Cult like indeed.
One of the prime indicators in the business world that your company is run by the “pointy haired boss” is to rate the vapidity and cluelessness of the company’s vision and mission statements.
True for religion also.
Can one imagine Jesus having a “vision” statement?
Indeed, he had a mission. He just went about his life carrying it out.
The Gospel revealed in the Scriptures knows nothing of God speaking to people, unless He speaks to them audibly. The Holy Spirit only communicates the conviction of belonging to Christ (Rom. 8:16). For many years now, the evangelical community has held onto a mysticism that has produced every form of heresy until they almost can no longer hear the Gospel Paul taught. Today, we have Osteen teaching self-help and wealth and the sheeple drink deeply. This error is not a derivative of the Romanist error, but puts many of the gatherings in the same situation...lost.
I could attract a crowd if I took my clothes off on a stage every Sunday. It would "work."
Would it result in souls converted to Christ, families committed to godliness, reconciliation, love of neighbor, and all those things the Bible tells are features of Christ's church? Does a "visioneering" pastor's church produce these results?
I don't know.
It is oddly coincidental that this story came out after watching a documentary last night about Jonestown. But then, I do not believe in coincidence...
Without photographic evidence I'll just have to take your word for that. ;-)
I have explained to the church I serve as pastor that our mission has nothing to do with my going off somewhere and getting a word from the Lord. God does not give me visions. Actually the mission of the church is not difficult to discern. God has made it quite clear in his Word. The church is sent into the world to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of the Lord Jesus in the ways that he has prescribed (Matt 28:16-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:6-11). There is simply not a category in Scripture for a pastor who receives, by way of revelation from God, a particular mission for his church. It is not there. So why does this notion continue to flourish?
PFL. Thanks for posting this, Gamecock!
Fellowship church follows exactly the same ‘visioneer’ type model as described above
I used to be in a "christian cult" many years ago. The leader was very controlling, even to the point of telling people they couldn't look at underwear ads in the paper because "they were of the devil".
Reading about this Elevation 'church' sets off alarm bells.
Oh, was it? Sorry ‘bout that!
Any naked person will attract a crowd.