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Is it okay if a pastor’s calling is to help others fulfill their calling? Or, without a big, hairy, audacious pastoral vision, will the people perish?

I’ll come back to those questions soon. But first, this.

You can’t have a great church without a great vision. That’s what I’ve been told.

And you can’t have a great vision unless the pastor (always the pastor) casts a singular vision for the church, then sells that vision to the leadership and the congregation. I’ve been told that, too.

So I did – or tried to do – what I was told. For years, I prayed, worked, searched the scriptures and listened to God in every way I know. I begged him for a vision that would carry our church to vast, new expanses of glorious ministry.

But it never quite worked out that way.

When My Vision Doesn’t Catch On

I thought I had it a few times. I caught a new idea and I presented it with great passion and promise…

But no one else cared.

And it’s not like I have a church full of heel-draggers and vision-killers. Quite the opposite. I don’t know of a church with more caring, passionate, energized, missional people than the church I’ve been blessed to pastor for almost 25 years.

Yet this church, filled with great people wanting to do great things for God, didn’t jump onboard to the vision I thought God had given me. Why?

Because God hadn’t given it to me.

I made it up.

I didn’t mean to make it up, of course. But I was so desperate to cast a vision in the way I’d been taught, that I convinced myself into it.

Since those early failures, I’ve learned a few things about myself, the church and how God uses us to fulfill his plans.

As it turns out, not every pastor is called to cast a grand, singular vision for their congregation. In fact, most probably aren’t.

Don’t Know What To Do? Do What You Know

So what does a pastor do when, like me, they try desperately to catch a vision from God, only to come up short?

How does a church function when there’s no meta-narrative, project-oriented vision to get behind?

How about this. Do what pastors (along with apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers) are called to do. Equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Preach, teach and live as though the priesthood of believers is a real thing. Because it is.

There are thousands of pastors operating under a burden similar to the one I bore for years – the burden to discover, promote and implement a unique vision for your congregation. But it’s a burden we don’t need to carry.

Which brings me back to the questions I started with.

Is it okay if a pastor’s calling is to help others fulfill their calling?


But, without a vision, won’t the people perish? No.

Aside from the fact that this second question comes from a faulty, badly edited interpretation of Proverbs 29:18 (for more, read this article), here’s the truth behind having a vision for the church you pastor.

When people tell us our church can’t be great without a great vision, they’re right.

The good news is, every church already has a vision. And a commission. And a commandment.

It’s in the New Testament.

A Common Vision

It’s okay if the only vision your church has is to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. They’ve been working just fine for 2,000 years and counting.

It’s also okay if, in addition to that, God gives some pastors a big, meta-narrative, project-oriented vision for everyone to get behind. But it’s not necesssary.

It turns out God has given me a vision for the church I pastor. It just happens to be the same as the vision he’s given every local church.

Love God, love others and share the amazing story of salvation through Jesus.

That simple, profound vision may not be unique. But Jesus didn’t call us to be unique, he called us to be faithful.

Equipping Others to Fulfill Their Vision

I don’t need to be a vision-casting pastor. Christ’s vision for the church has already been cast.

Now I have the profound joy of embracing my calling – to be an equipping pastor.

It’s amazing to hear how God is calling the people I pastor. And it’s a profound pastoral joy to help train and resource them to see their vision fulfilled.

And when those seemingly disconnected visions come together in a new, God-inspired way that I could never have imagined? Well that’s when you know God is in charge, not me.

I wonder what would happen if the massive and unecessary burden of having to find, cast and promote a unique vision for the church was lifted from pastors’ shoulders. Maybe we would feel free to become the equippers we’re meant to be.

We just need to know it’s okay to do church that way.

It is.

Pastor, it’s okay if your calling is to help others fulfill their calling.

That’s what pastors do.


Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.

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Timothy Smith

commented on Apr 11, 2017

Thanks, I needed that article.

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