Thursday, December 1, 2011

Proverbs 29:18 is Not About Your Big Ideas

“Where there is no vision, the people perish . . .” (Prov. 29:18, KJV).

Proverbs 29:18 may be one of the most misapplied verses in all the evangelical church today. Many a church leader has used it to spiritualize his strategies and blackmail followers into supporting his entrepreneurialism. Vision statements are cast. Mission statements are crafted to serve the vision. A list of values is composed to serve the mission. An array of programs is developed to serve the values. A stable of leaders is recruited to serve the programs. An army of volunteers is inspired to assist the leaders.

Much of what goes on in our local churches serves to make sure the church machine keeps running. In less healthy—but sometimes very big—churches, the entire machine is designed to put on an excellent weekend worship service. All of this would indeed perish if that vision were not cast.

But what if a leader’s good idea for church growth or success was not the vision Proverbs 29:18 had in mind? What if we aren’t free to insert anything we come up with, no matter how spiritual or “inspired by God”?

The verse is longer than is usually quoted. Proverbs 29:18 (in the ESV) in its entirety reads: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

The vision is “prophetic vision”; what is in mind here is the revelation of God to his biblical spokesmen. Where there is no vision shared with us by the prophets, to whom God revealed the mysteries of the ages, we like savages run wild. In other words, we may have a vision, but if it is not the one given to the biblical representatives of God’s revelation and the forecasters of God’s coming glory, it is not to be conformed to. “But blessed is he who keeps the law.” The latter part of the verse implies that when the vision of the prophets is held by the people, the blessing of living God’s way ensues.

What is the vision of the prophets? It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” (Col. 1:26; see also Rom.16:25 and Eph. 3:9). The vision is Jesus.

The world would have us know a billion other things. The church would sometimes have us know many other things, as well. But those who have beheld the life-changing vision of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ know better.

-- Gospel Wakefulness, 201-202


Pastor Randy said...

Yes and amen!

Adam Ford said...

Nice, Jared.

Jason Wert said...

Well said.

Gary Ware said...

Yep, it's right up there with describing every invitation to help/support another group (cross-culturally or otherwise) as a 'Macedonian call'.

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I wince every time I hear that one. Thanks for setting the record straight.

OI said...

It's terrible when the gospel is preached and scripture is used for wrong purposes.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

I am at a church that is running every play in that playbook. It looks just like your first paragraph. Sometimes I feel like the main character in the Wendy's TV commercial from a few years passed in which everyone is running and jumping into a giant hole in the ground. After a moment he looks up and wonders why everyone is mindlessly jumping to their deaths. He's surrounded by people just following the person ahead jumping into the abyss.

I feel like that a lot. I've tried to have constructive conversations with curriculum writers and our pastors and (amicably) asked questions like, "Have we ever thought about doing teaching more about Jesus instead?"

To which I have been ignored, discredited, and been given many excuses by leadership.

It's heartbreaking.

Jared said...

Anonymous, that breaks my heart. And I'm not just saying that.

Been there, brother (or sister). I feel for you.
Going to pray for you right now.

Wendy said...

How exhausting it is to follow “a billion other things”.

The vision (Col. 1:26…) was indeed cast before our generation came to being. It seems for many of today's church leaders, the vision is too simple to grab us. They feel pressured to dream up something more demonstrative and reflective of their personal passions, gifts, and talents and deliver it as something that is exclusive to their own body of believers.

Whenever we resource and arouse our own lesh in an attempt to come up with something better than the gospel, the grand plan of God drawing us to himself, we will always fail. Anything else is Counterfeit. Counter Gospel. Counter Truth.
I am one who had been fooled into consuming the deceptive philosophies of today’s church machine – post salvation. I have since learned to guard my heart and attach to the person of Jesus Christ as my one and only trusted leader who has already cast a vision that lasts from generation to generation.
My new favorite verse is “Dear ones, keep yourselves from idols” because I never saw it coming and I traded my trust in Christ as my one and only for whatever I was being fed at the time. I will prayerfully never let them blackmail me again.