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.
Hopefully this doesn't catch on.
It’s Monday ... I’m trying to get as much amusement out of it as I can.
I have worshiped nude.... but I was alone with God at the time.
Worshiping nude in a crowd? That is just icky.
I sing hymns in the shower.
And when someone turns on the washer you suddenly discover that you can hit the high notes in "It Is Well With My Soul".
Oh, I think there would be a crowd for her, too. People are weirdly fascinated.
Sadly, we have folks who say they have become preachers, yet; they do not preach from the Bible. Perhaps being popular is more important to them then the Gospel. We have a number who wish to be inclusive, PC, MC, etc. Paul clearly was very direct and blunt at times.
If I took my clothes off on stage any day, it would have quite the opposite effect at my age. There would be a record stampede to the exit!!!
Excellent article. Many wise words. Thank you for sharing it.
My first comment is... God likes a flat organizational chart! Each person is to have their own direct connection to the Boss through His son. Never, ever surrender your will externally to another human being as if you do, you do not have the authority over your will to surrender it to God.
It appears that my purpose is to assist each person to use the Bible as their operating manual for their life as it is God’s scavenger hunt tool given to us as a guide to finding His hiding place.
Per above, “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.”
Very good points... what are the fruits of the process. Is the harvest full or empty.
While it is sometimes very subtle, the question I ask is “Does the pastor get his power from the people who worship him or from his worshipping God. There is a big difference.
I once observed a Buddhist master who had such power that when he raised his hands, I could feel the wind from his energy on my body far away from him. (indoors)... Later that day I watched him more closely with a crowd of people. He asked that everyone pray for him. What I saw happening was him collecting the prayerful energy of all the people who were worshipping him. He concentrated all their energy like a magnifying glass does sunlight and focused it on the woman who was in charge of the conference who was standing right next to me. What I noticed was that it was NOT Divine Energy. It was a high volume of a low frequency energy. It appeared as though he were doing miracles, but they were not real.
I caught this woman as she was falling off her feet and shielded her from his energy. I reflected it right back at him which made him very angry. The human body cannot take high volumes of low frequency energy. It’s like using a thin wire for high voltage current. It fries! Shortly thereafter, this master died. It was an excellent learning experience for me. Always strive to grow closer to God and turn only to Him for my strength.
The very first time I observed a charismatic pastor manipulating people into the false born again experience, it made me physically sick to see this happen. I walked out into the cold freezing rain and turned to God and asked, “Why was I led here to see such a horrible thing.” The voice replied to me loud and clear, “This is how satan will lead my people astray.”
“Can one imagine Jesus having a vision statement?”
Jesus gave us His vision. We just tend to ignore it.
How does a Tax-Chick have any free time at this time of the year... Probably the same as me, creative procrastination from doing corporate tax returns!
“We are united under the visionary”
Sounds like something Joe Goebbels would have come up with.
Do the church members all extend their right arms when they Amen?
I’m retired from tax work. I kept having babies at the wrong time!
LOL... too funny. That was one rule when I hired staff.... No babies in tax season!!! I was able to get absolutely wonderful employees that way as they would work hard in tax season and then want the summer off to spend with their children. It was a win-win situation.
I have children with birthdays on March 27, March 30, April 2, and April 6.
My mother, OldTax-lady, gave up her practice in Florida recently because tax season was also houseguest season. Also, her clients kept dying and she would get depressed.
Too Funny.... What a daughter won’t do to sabotage her mother trying to delegate..... LOL
Mom would spend her days entertaining the houseguests, nights trying to do all the returns, and then get sick. She’s in her 70s!
....”We Are United Under the Visionary” displayed over a depiction of Pastor Steven”....
Well that’s clearly cult style...but the question is who is pushing elevation of men over the centrality of Jesus Christ and His Gospel Message?
I think we are fast reaching the time where Jesus said truth would be hard to find, for that we see the void being filled with all manner of men seeking power and self glory...but worse are people willing to mount them up....and with this comes agendas of men salted with just enough of the Gospel to make it palatable to “itchy ears”.
Congregations are far from studying Gods word on their own.....as with politicians....congregations are spoon fed today. People want the “appearance” of being religious without the commitment or relationship to the man Jesus Christ.
...”if I took my clothes off on a stage every Sunday. It would “work.”....
Well, many attending church walk in looking like that today....so this does give some evidence the condition of “the flock”.
Not according to those who were there and witnessed this display of grief. They were confounded by the reality of these expressions....and the absolute allegiance to their “Dear Leader”.
These people are fully conditioned from childhood on. They “believe” what they are told despite the evidence contrary to what they are told.
Even those who have escaped N.Korea have difficulty adjusting to simply making decisions for themselves on the basics. Older people especially have trouble adjusting to freedom. Younger people have special accommodations to reacclumate them, but even they struggle greatly.
....This is how satan will lead my people astray.....
I agree....I see it often today in the various churches I have visited. People are seeking “experiences” they can feel with their senses.
In reality much of what is happening in these experiences is not of God’s Spirit. Jesus told us this would come as people “left the faith or denied Him”.
It’s not so much the leaders as the people today are “ripe” for deception.
“Its not so much the leaders as the people today are ripe for deception.”
As the economic and political turmoil begins, people will begin to fall. As they fall they become fearful, and as they become fearful they look to someone else to protect them just as people are now turning to the government in fear and surrendering their individual rights in exchange for the illusion of safety.
That is when people become very ripe for deception. It is what set the stage for Hitler and many other charismatic dictators to take power over people.
While this will happen, people’s eyes will soon see they have been deceived and the fear will return stronger than ever. Things will then begin to happen which are beyond the control of man. Only at that time will the empty vessel, with no where else to surrender, turn inward and find God.
Everything is happening exactly according to His plan.
“Even those who have escaped N.Korea have difficulty adjusting to simply making decisions for themselves on the basics. Older people especially have trouble adjusting to freedom. Younger people have special accommodations to re-acclimate them, but even they struggle greatly.”
I agree. I spent a lot of time with people who lived in the GDR (East Germany) and listened to their stories of how the missed the security they felt before the wall came down.
They also explained to me the feeling of despair when they learned that all the propaganda they believed about how great their country was, was just an illusion. It was a great society identity crisis, especially for those who were in the favor of the old government who now found themselves on the outside.