Shooting wildly with blurred vision 18

If you spend any time listening or reading modern church leaders like Perry Noble and Steven Furtick, you know that they are driven by vision. Their job is to cast vision, and everybody else’s job is to follow the leader’s vision.

It’s a leaders job to cast vision and focus people on the future, not to be in a constant state of comparison. I wrestle with this–every leader I know does; however, I honestly believe that the more passionate and obsessive we become about VISION…the more of a difference God will allow our churches to have.

Church members are expected to believe the vision religiously. They are something to be believed in.

People DO BELIEVE in the vision God has placed IN you.

Violations of vision obedience usually prompt vigorous discipline. As I’ve documented before, that can range from strong questioning to involuntary resignations.

As much as they build their careers and churches on the first part of Proverbs 29:18, visionary leaders rarely quote the entire verse:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(Check out the Google results from Noble’s blog for “vision and perish” and the results for “vision and perish and law.”)

The word vision is not the same as we use in corporate vision statements. The word has a number of possible meanings:

  • a) vision (in ecstatic state)
  • b) vision (in night)
  • c) vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication)
  • d) vision (as title of book of prophecy)

In the context of this verse, it refers to God’s inspired Word. Notice the contrast in the but. People who don’t listen to God’s Word cast off restraint, but blessed are the people who listen and obey it. The antidote to perishing is not to cast vision, but to keep the law.

In fact, visions in the Old Testament usually describe things to be avoided. Scan the minor prophets, for example, to see how often visions are descriptions of God’s consuming punishment for sin. They are never blissful dreams of future goodness; prophets who cast such positive visions are condemned (Ezekiel 13:16, Jeremiah 23:16-18). Another way to translate the verse might be something like

Where there is no certain threat of God’s devastating punishment, the people will act carelessly and without restraint, but people who obey God’s law will be blessed. (Proverbs 29:18, Duncan translation)

As Lance Rowlett points out, the common misapplication of the verse is ironic.

Properly interpreted, this passage is a timeless call to proper proclamation of Truth. But in order to properly proclaim God’s Word, we must properly interpret it.

Of late, though, the passage has been improperly interpreted, thus improperly applied to ministry. And that is the irony–a verse that implies the need for correct handling of God’s Word has been improperly handled (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15), and thus ends up extinguishing its own intent.

So-called visions can be dangerous and wrong. Many times in the Old Testament, God’s people are warned away from false teachers casting their own visions.

See Jeremiah 23:16, for example (all of these verses use the same word for vision as Proverbs 29).

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.

Here’s another example from Ezekiel 7:26.

Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders.

One more from Jeremiah 14:14.

Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.

At least Perry Noble realizes that his own visions are risky.

I believe that if a leader is consistently spending time with Jesus and being set on fire that, from time to time, he or she will cast a vision that is so bold that everyone in the room becomes uncomfortably excited!

The comforting thing for Noble is that if someone points out that the vision is false, it’s actually proof that it’s correct.

He must understand that if the vision is from the Lord it will be attacked…people will not like it…it will get personal…BUT, even when all of these things happen he simply will not back down from what he knows the Lord has spoken into him.

Confidence is casting a strong vision and asking others to join you…

When someone asks you to follow a vision, especially when it’s not God’s certain revelation, run for your lives.

18 thoughts on “Shooting wildly with blurred vision

  1. Seth May 27, 2009 8:47 pm

    About people believing the vision ‘religiously’ no where in that quote does Perry say that. The part about the ‘prompt vigorous discipline’ if someone doesn’t follow the vision, if you read the whole article from Shane Duffey, you will note that everything turned out good, Shane learned something from it, overall, if he hadn’t have questioned him, he would not have been a better leader, he would not have been able to help his team and the people under him see the vision and be more productive. If you read the whole article, it’s a good thing they talked about vision and that he questioned him. I have never really heard that many people quote Proverbs 29:18. Also, the last quote from Perry says nothing about his vision being false, like you imply, he says it is from God, big difference. The last quote is not represented correctly not is the information you are getting off of it correct.

  2. Albert May 27, 2009 10:03 pm

    @ Seth
    I don’t think the moral of the story is in question here. I believe JDuncan was concerned at the fact that Duffey’s first thought was to “Question strongly” someone’s intentions when it appeared that the NS vision wasn’t forefront in the person’s mind.

    That would be great if Duffey and the rest of the team learns not to reel when a trace of disallegiance is detected, but the point (I believe) was to give an example of the hold that the “vision” has on the leadership.

    Also, I don’t think JDuncan actually said that PN thinks his “vision” is false. “The comforting thing for Noble is that if someone points out that the vision is false…” –key word being “someone.”

  3. James Duncan May 27, 2009 11:14 pm


    Re religious belief in the vision: Look at what PN wrote. People believe IN the vision. It’s a little word in terms of letters so it’s easy to miss, but it carries an awful lot of meaning.

    I’m quite certain you haven’t heard many people cite Proverbs 29:18. That’s my point. It’s the source of the whole vision thing, but they rarely ever cite it fully or in context. On this point we agree.

    Re Duffey and the final quote: What Albert said.

  4. Seth May 28, 2009 12:00 am

    Honestly, I don’t have a problem with the staff having to be bought out to the vision of the church where they work. There are many benefits to it both for the church, the leadership, the kingdom, the congregation, and everyone involved.

  5. Albert May 28, 2009 10:05 am

    One word: Legalism.

  6. Seth May 28, 2009 12:51 pm

    How is that legalism?

  7. Albert May 28, 2009 3:14 pm

    Legalism: noun, excessive adherence to law or formula

    When leadership places the “vision” on such a high pedestal, there is little room for change or variation. Such is the example of Duffey’s conversation.

  8. Seth May 28, 2009 4:47 pm

    A vision is not a law or formula. Let me ask this, if you were working at a church, and your vision was to bring people to know Jesus, if someone did not agree with your vision and they were on your staff, would you keep them? This person, who doesn;t agree with your vision, would not work to his full potential b/c if he doesn’t agree with what the church so doing, he will not want to do it. Not only will he not be reaching his full potential, but the church won’t be able to reach its full potential either. Its like if you had a band, and it was a country band, and in this band oyu had a guy who was a rapper, would he fit into the vision of the band? no, would you keep him? I would hope not. He would be better served going out and joining a band where his abilities would be better utilized. So, if a church doesn’t stick to the vision it has, it will lose its way over time, it will forget what it was called or started to do. I have seen first hand that effect on older churches and have talked to people who have said the same thing about their church, that the vision of the church was lost over time and the church became complacent and not wanting to reach people, like a social club.

  9. James Duncan May 28, 2009 5:44 pm

    Albert is correct. Having a vision statement is not objectionable. Saying it’s from God is.

    That’s where the legalism comes from. Leaders tell their followers that they must follow manmade rules. That is, and has always been, legalism.

  10. Seth May 28, 2009 7:27 pm

    Newsflash, vision, from God, is not manmade, and therefore, not legalistic. Perry doesn’t make anyone follow the vision, if you don’t want to follow it you are welcome to leave. and, like I said above, the entire staff should have to follow the vision of where they are working at. Its even a biblical point, look at what happened with Paul and Barnabas. They disagreed so strongly on a point that they split ways. The vision of who to bring with them was wrong, and so they split wasy so they could still work and not get in the way of each other.

  11. James Duncan May 28, 2009 7:47 pm

    Seth, you’re not doing your side any favors.

    Read the post again. The argument is that leaders who say they have a wonderful vision from God are telling lies. God repeatedly refused to be credited as the author of such visions. If God disowns them, that makes them manmade.

    On what basis do you know they’re from God? Where in Scripture do you find warrant for such a vision (in the sense that it is used in Proverbs) to be treated as a normative part of church leadership?

  12. Albert May 28, 2009 9:18 pm

    I’m sorry, but I would (and do) have serious doubts about a prophetic vision coming from a man who commands such a large audience and such a large community of believers. I believe ( and I believe JDuncan does also) I have a moral and spiritual obligation to question this so called “vision.” It’s dangerous when someone like PN pronounces such a revolutionary thinking.

    “Perry doesn’t make anyone follow the vision . . .”

    Of course he does. He and the entire leadership team adhere to the church’s “vision.” And, as we have seen, if someone doesn’t like it they aren’t “welcome to leave,” they are forced out.

  13. Seth May 29, 2009 12:55 am

    See, that is one incident, having been to NS and being a member and knowing multiple people on staff, if you aren’t sold out to the vision, they generally don’t hire you, so the vision incidents of recent do not happen all the time like duncan and yourself make it appear that they do. Again, he doesn’t make you follow the vision, I have been thru the hiring process at NS also, and when you don’t agree with the vision, it is not a forced out, they discourage it but in an extremely nice way, you are blowing these incidents out of porportion, making them seem like they happen all the time. I know, I have been there, seen people leave due to vision differences, but it was a loving way, not mean, not hateful, not spiteful. No one is forced out, they are encouraged to leave for their own benefit. I know from talking to people that they are free to leave if their visions don’t line up, know a personal friend of mine who was told that by a staff member, he isn’t on staff, but he and his fellow staff members/leadership above him are still the best of friends and he still goes to NS.


    Ok, so, if God doesn’t give church leaders vision for his church, how are we to know what to do? Does that not put managing the church into the hand of us and takes it out of the hands of God? If God doesn’t give Pastors vision, where does it come from? how do we get it? How do we know what to do? How do we know a vision comes from God? that I believe is between the person and God. Just like I will not question a persons salvation because I don’t know how it happened for them or wasn’t there when it did. So, I won’t question a vision from God because I wasn’t there when it happened. I have heard from God and have recieved a vision for the church I am going to plant. You can question the vision of a pastor all you want, but, in the end, it is between the person and God, no one else.

  14. Seth May 29, 2009 1:13 am

    That must be your way of telling me to “go away”. well i’m won’t, not yet anyways. so get use to me being around. I may dig holes, but, at least I stick with my convistions about what I believe to be true based on scripture and the holy Spirit.

  15. James Downing May 29, 2009 8:16 am

    Seth said: “So, I won’t question a vision from God because I wasn’t there when it happened.”

    Don’t you think that sets you up to fall for false prophecy? All a leader has to do is tell you it’s his vision from God, and you won’t question it, because you weren’t there. Doesn’t this go against Paul’s advice to “test all things”? Is that anything like the Bereans, whom Paul commended for testing his words against Scripture?

    I look at it quite the opposite. I don’t trust any man’s vision…especially if he claims it is from God. I will test it rigorously, and if it can’t hold up to my testing, it certainly doesn’t deserve to be followed.

  16. James Duncan May 29, 2009 10:30 am

    No, Seth. I kind of like having you around with all the hanging curve balls you send my way. You make the host look good, so we like your kind.

    What I keep trying to tell you and your friends is that you don’t argue your points very well, and more often than not seem to confirm my arguments.

    Your last post (before my digging rule) says 1) NS doesn’t enforce its vision–except when it does, and 2) There’s no way we can judge the visions of the leaders. Downing has already pointed out the problem with that.

    How can you be sure that Noble’s visions are not the kinds of visions God describes in Jeremiah 23:16 and Jeremiah 14:14?

    Your answer is not only that you don’t know, but that you don’t care.

    Stick around, friend. You make my case better than even Tommy.

  17. Seth May 29, 2009 9:35 pm


    No, I said they don’t always enforce it like you make it out they do. The incidents you always report on, the shane duffey case and the tony morgan case, and sometimes the dustin willis case are 3 cases over NS 9 years of operation. Something tells me that thats not a bad thing, you make it seem like this attacking people who don’t share the same vision happens everyday and is a common place and I know for a fact it isn’t. 99% of the time if you don’t agree to the vision they won’t hire you so as to not have these incidents come up. Just because you hire people who believe in your vision doesn’t mean the people don’t have a diverse background.

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