As I grow older I realize the truth in this statement more and more.
Steve Jobs died today. Man, if there was ever a person (not divine) who was worthy of being called a visionary it was him. I marvel as I consider where he started, where he has been and what all he accomplished in his brief life. When you’re talking about a man who experienced this level of success, there’s never just one or two things that made it happen. I’m sure he had a tremendous love for what he did, a crazy work ethic, a little luck (right place, right time) and a whole lot of vision. I believe that being able to see a picture of something great and the road map to get there is a God-given gift.
There’s some days when I feel like God has gifted me in that way – especially when it comes to the Church. But you know, even though having a vision is nice and being given the opportunity to implement your vision is a blessing – neither are really worth much unless you choose to find the courage to go after it. Courage is a nice word. We use it a lot to make people look good (or bad). But really, when you peel away the onion, courage is just the application of faith. Now there’s the rub.
This is the point where I go from puffing out my chest (because I am thinking of myself as a visionary) to dropping my head in shame because I don’t have enough faith to go and make the vision happen. This has been me for . . . well, too long. Give me a moment to try and explain why.
When you cast your vision, chart your course and then set out on the journey there’s a really strong possibility that people won’t like it . . . and there’s a few things to choose not to like. It may be kind of simple, some people just may not like you. Others may not agree with the vision. While others may not think the course you’ve charted demonstrated much wisdom. Then of course, there’s likely some who never thought a new vision was needed in the first place. So as a visionary, as a leader, you can imagine where this leaves you. There will always be some folks who simply aren’t happy.
This is part of what impresses me so much about Steve Jobs. Just think about all the innovative products that Apple has produced. Well, actually, there really hasn’t ever been anything produced by Apple that wasn’t innovative. From the outside, all we see is the end result. We see the small personal computer, the iPod, iPhone, iPad (and who knows what else). These are all products that have really molded our culture. But we never heard all the people who said it wouldn’t work. We didn’t really pay attention when his critics were saying how crazy he was for spending so much money on things that wouldn’t sell. All we know is how successful he has been.
The same thing applies to people who have made a big difference in the Lord’s Church – guys who have really cast a vision and had the courage to chase their vision. I think of men like Rick Atchley, Patrick Mead and Terry Rush. I see all that they have accomplished with their own congregations. I hear all the great things about them. I’ve read their books. But what I haven’t realized, until recently, is how much it hurts to be consistently attacked by people who are supposed to be your Christian family. I have never been there when they were corned by an angry Church member who was convinced that they were the Antichrist. And until recently I had never known the pain of seeing your name in print because someone that disagreed with you took it upon themselves to attack you in front of as many people as possible.
For a while now I have tried so hard to not have that kind of experience. I’ve been careful where, when and how I ask difficult questions. I’ve always looked around first before saying something that may seem controversial. In other words, I’ve lacked courage. I’ve lacked faith. I do have a vision and I do have a plan (whether they’re good is another issue). But until recently I hadn’t realized that I lack the amount of faith it takes for a vision and plan to matter. That’s why having a vision is scary. They are such a precious commodity to begin with. So to let one go to waste because it’s not accompanied by faith is . . .
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