10 Signs That a Church Has No Clear Vision

Following the leadership of Thom Rainer, I define a church vision as “God’s particular plan for a particular church at a particular time” – that is, it is prayerfully capturing what God wants to do through current leaders and laity in the current context. A vision matters, for it guides the church in all it does.

On the other hand, many churches have no clear vision. Here are some signs of this problem:

  1. Nobody, beginning with the leaders, can state the vision. That’s a sure sign that no vision exists. By the way, some churches that actually have a mission statement still face this same problem, evidenced when nobody knows the statement.  
  2. Leadership tends to be reactive rather than proactive. Leaders who spend more time putting out fires than igniting sparks for ministry seldom operate under a clear vision.
  3. Leaders are often divided. They’re not a team, for a team strives for the same victory. Visionless churches can’t even state what “victory” will look like.
  4. Ministries are disorganized and siloed. They may be good ministries, but each ministry lives on its own turf. Nothing connects them so their combined efforts point toward a clear end.
  5. Passions rather than planning ignite the church’s varied ministries. New activities and ministries start just because somebody has a passion and a burden – not because those ministries contribute to the church’s overall goal.
  6. Internal conflict festers. That happens when a church is going through the motions of activity without a clear sense of direction and goals. Agendas fill the void that the lack of vision creates. 
  7. The goal seems to be to “get through the next weekend” rather than to maximize efforts to reach the unchurched. Everything feels like a “band aid” on a problem rather than an exciting step toward the future. 
  8. Budget expenditures are a big deal. A clear vision helps diminish budget wars, for the church knows exactly where they want to go. Where there is no clear vision, though, people begin to fight to protect their own favorite ministries.
  9. Many church members just sit. That’s easy to do when the church has no vision. Why invest yourself in something that’s only floating along, with no sense of purpose? 
  10. Strong leaders don’t stay long. The most equipped leaders don’t waste much time in a church that has no direction. They go to a church that knows where they’re going.

What would you add to this list? 

21 Comments

  • People who attend a church for ‘provision’ ask, “What do I get?” creating a consumer approach. People who attend a church for ‘vision’ ask, “What do I get to do?” – a whole different approach.

  • Mark says:

    Self perpetuating leadership. When there is no way in, people on the outside give up.

  • Steve Hoekstra says:

    Most churches don’t have good clear vision because leadership does not have good clear personal vision. It is difficult or impossible to lead a church to see and develop vision when Leadership can not verbalize personal calling and personal vision.

  • Ann Paulson says:

    Hello Chuck: I’m writing to request your permission to repost your article “10 Signs That Your Church Lacks Vision.”
    I work for NL Moore & Associates, a church consulting company, and I recently read your blog article and loved it. I’m wondering if I could re-run it on our website nlmoore.com on our blog posting page and social media pages. I would give credit to you as the writer and redirect people back to your website. Thank you for your consideration. Blessings, Ann

  • Christoph says:

    That point 5 Passion vs planing makes me thinking. Not sure if I agree with it. But I get it that every aspect of church ministry should reflect the vision. If it is not clear we do this and that without a clear vision. In the introduction that definition about vision is right on. It also implies we need to update our vision

  • Chris Welch says:

    Well what I#d like to add to this list Chuck is that no scripture anywhere talks about one man heading up any church anywhere. I think you may have that confused with Jews, synagogues and Rabbis.
    The “one man ” technology was bought wholesale with Catholicism. in the Bible there are elders over local churches, plural, and all sorts of recognised ministry callings, all functioning along side each other.
    Apostles ,prophets, pastors, teachers evangelists, discerners of spirits,administrators, helps. A pastor is not a designated head over anything, so right there most of your examples are registers of illegal burnout caused by nobody reading the scriptures and learning from the Holy Spirit what a church really is. But i guess Chuck , actually putting things right would be too much for your generation, so thirdlevel Christianity will have to wait , like the Israelites for the next generation down.
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    Paul Noble
    Paul Noble This list is like someone talking about crossing the Atlantic in a sailing ship when we have air travel!
    LikeShow More Reactions · Reply · 4 hrs

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    i have removed the dying reference since obviously there is no real advantage in people dying. The best outcome is that people change and repent before the Lord.

    But our job as prophets is to haul people to account, to pierce little bubbles that people live in, to invade false realities by the Spirit of the Lord.

    A pastor over a church is a completely false reality,
    and it’s bad fruit is everywhere to be seen.
    A church on every corner. Since no one man can hold the counsel of God….if anybody sees another of the 12 tribes worth of Divine material they feel they have to build another stone house next door to fill in what the other guy is missing.

    As somebody has indicated above, you then get fights for topdog in the one church….and since there isnt any room for the 12 dogs that existed in Acts 2, again there is a church split.

    Would that everybody were a prophet said Moses. The same would go for apostle , pastor teacher and evangelist and all the others. We are MEANT to be well-rounded. The purpose of ministry is to impart the self same to everybody else listening.

    I think you inability to accept rudeness is dangerous. It means you only accept yes men. How many prophets have you pushed out of the churches you are associated with. I smell a rat.

  • Chris Welch says:

    Your post on leadership is awaiting moderation

  • Barry says:

    “Following the leadership of Thom Rainer, I define a church vision as “God’s particular plan for a particular church at a particular time” —
    This is total nonsense. Where in biblical apostolic doctrine do you see this taught? ! It is the same as purpose driven nonsense- just parroted from Rick Warren.
    God doesn’t have a particular vision for any particular church to do anything beyond what he has already commanded for the church in the New Testament- “the faith once for all handed down” – that one vision is “preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16
    This notion is one more reason why the church in NA is such a mess and has lost the one and only biblical vision God has for every church.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Barry. I actually differentiate between mission — which, I would argue, is what you’ve defined above and is the same for all churches — and vision. Any vision that is not governed by the mission is unbiblical. Either way, I appreciate your honesty. 

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