Before any church can appoint a pastor it needs to have a clear sense of vision; i.e. who it is and where it is going. Without this sense of vision, clarified and articulated by the community of God’s people, the church is not in a position to discern the right person to lead them towards it. The work of reflecting, discerning and articulating the vision of the church really belongs to the lay leadership in their capacity as representatives of the whole body. This is collective work and work for the long term. The vision of a congregation is broader and longer term than the tenure of any one pastor. It is the basis for selecting, empowering and reviewing the pastor.
Pastors themselves should be cautious of a church without a clear vision. This is not because the church doesn’t have one; (actually they always do) but because the true vision is probably hidden well under the surface and there may well be reasons for this.
The last thing a church should do however is to appoint a pastor with no vision. The ability to articulate vision, to live towards it and to be able inspire people towards shared vision is a foundational practice of leadership. The challenge here is stereo vision. As a pastor sees the vision of the church which is usually based in a sense of place, community and continuity with it’s best history, is there congruity with where the pastor sees himself or herself leading a community? Conversely as a church sees the vision that a pastor has of leadership which is often more anchored in theologies of mission and ministry, practices and leadership styles, can they see that this person will be able to lead them forward?
The complementary visions of pastor and congregation need to be close enough to create a vibrant, creative and empowering tension but not so far apart to be a source of significant conflict. When these visions are essentially in stereo and understood to be so i.e. they see the same thing from slightly different perspectives, this can be a gift for a church and pastor together. Although room needs to be given for both churches and pastors to grow and change, it is better to discover visions are too far apart before the partnership between pastor and congregation is formed rather than afterwards.
Stereo vision when working well gives a depth and capacity to both individual visions enabling them to complement each other and together move creatively toward the future.