“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 26:18

Mary Belle was one of those church members who really stood out.  Though she went home to be with the Lord several years ago, I still remember her vividly.  She had a unique laugh – more of a cackle, really – but the thing I remember most about her was her vision.  Mary Belle was “farsighted.”  She could look into the future and see a vision – and it turns out, her vision of the future turned out to be incredibly accurate.

She taught Sunday school at our church and she believed firmly that she could make a difference in the future by making a difference in the lives of the children she taught every day.  I remember her standing in the back of the auditorium with me, pointing out the children God had helped her lead to Christ.  It brought her so much joy.

As our church was struggling with our plans for the future, I’ll never forget what Mary Belle said.  “One day,” she proclaimed to a room full of church leaders, “this church will run over 500 people.”  Then she added in response to a room full of nervous laughter, “You just watch.”

Mary Belle never lived to see the crowd of over 500, or the completion of the new auditorium we built to accommodate them.  Nor did she see the expansion to two campuses – and then three. But she believed in the vision of what our church would grow to become.

I think as church members, we all need to check our vision from time to time.  We tend to allow ourselves to live with common ailments to our vision that can hurt church growth and effectiveness.  To maintain a healthy vision, we need to watch out for symptoms of these four common vision problems.

Presbyopia – (not to be confused with Presbyterian) a condition that causes the eyes to lose focus.  Many churches suffer from this condition when we lose our laser-like focus on reaching the world for Christ.  Slowly, little by little, our vision loses clarity until we wake up one day and find our vision is blurred and fuzzy.  We find today in many churches that the once-clear vision of Scriptural teaching has been blurred by public opinion, political correctness and an attempt to make the church socially acceptable and relevant.  If left untreated, Presbyopia can lead a church to a total loss of vision.

Myopia – a condition more commonly known as nearsightedness. Up close, we can see amazingly well what’s going on and what God is doing.  But when we cast our eyes out into the future, our vision fails.  When we fail to plan ahead, we set ourselves up to just plain fail.  We need to constantly be looking ahead to get a vision of what our church will look like next year, and in 5 years – and 10 years.  A side effect of untreated myopia is a condition called me-opia.  Me, me, me.  What’s in it for me?  The treatment for me-opia is to remember that it’s never been about “me” but it’s always been about “Him.”

Hyperopia – a condition more commonly known as farsightedness.  Just as we can’t focus our lives only what’s here and now, we can’t focus wholly on the future and fail to see what’s right in front of us.  It’s a great thing to sing about the sweet by and by, but we live in the nasty now and now where people have both eternal and physical needs that we can’t lose sight of.  We get so focused on heaven that we fail to see Jesus right in front of us.  If you’re overcoming a bad case of hyperopia, look closely, squint if you must, and see the undernourished child, the addict, the struggling single mom, and the shut-in who now calls the nursing home – home.  When you reach out and minister to them, Jesus says, “You have done it unto me.”

Tunnel vision – the loss of peripheral vision.  As a church, we need to be aware of what’s going on all around us or we risk being blind-sided by the enemy.  We can work on our vision for both the present and the future, but we also need to stay alert to what’s going on around us, too.  Churches and denominations have died and are dying because they lack peripheral vision, turning a “blind eye” to sinful behaviors and lifestyles that are unbiblical.

Proverbs 26:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  We need to not only have a vision, but we need to strive for 20/20 vision.  It’s vital that we remember that the church was not created to stand idly by in a lost and dying world and simply wait to get to heaven one day.  We need to sharpen our focus, focus on the needs of the people right in front of us, focus on our plans for the future, and focus on what’s going on in the world around us.

When we have a healthy vision, we can make a big difference for the cause of Christ.