I don’t know where I heard it first. But somewhere along the way, someone suggested to me that “vision” was a boomer thing. I’m a Gen X/Y-type, which means I’m supposed to blame everything on boomers: malls, suburbs, cars, pasteurized milk. When I was told “vision” was “boomer”, my ears perked up.
Culture, the person told me, was more important than vision, especially in the 21st Century.
Because vision depends on a charismatic leader-prophet who’s one-of-a-kind, and who is sagacious enough to see the path and smooth enough to get people to walk the path behind her or him. By contrast, culture is a shared thing that might initially be shaped by a sagacious leader, but which can stick around much longer than the leader.
Instead of being a Prophet who bombastically sees and tells the future, be a prophet who speaks truth and grace into normal people’s lives and teaches them to do the same.
Instead of being a Priest who ruthlessly guards the distinction between the indispensable expert religious guru and the recipients of Priestly ministrations, be a priest who brings the good news of Jesus as the fortification for bruised reeds and the reviving oxygen to smoldering wicks, and teach others to do the same.
Instead of being a King who makes policy, draws boundaries, and consolidates territory through shrewd, CEO-like “leadership”, be a king who understands the times and learns to communicate what God’s people should do in the concrete particularities of normal life, and teach others to do the same.
To say that culture is greater than vision is, in a sense, simply to say that Jesus gets to be Prophet, Priest, and King, and we get to learn his ways, emulate him, and empower others to do so. It means that we trust that Jesus can be the visionary, and we can learn, leaders-first, to keep up with him together as we discover what it means to keep in step with the Spirit.
It’s not a boomer vs. X-er thing, of course. It’s simply a “we” thing instead of an “I” thing. It’s a recognition that discipleship, movements, and mission happen together, and that the leader is there to help foster the environment where those things can take place around him, and then, ultimately, without him.
Culture > Vision.