Don’t Cast a Faceless Vision

How good are you with “Name That Tune”?

Back when I was 10 years old and U2 was writing songs for Achtung! Baby (1990), a Stanford researcher did a “Name That Tune” experiment. She asked a group of “Tappers” to tap out the melody of a very well known song with their hands on a table. The “Listeners” were to take a stab at discerning the song. She figured 50% of people would get it.


Nope. Try 2.5%.


We church planters are the ones reading all the books on missional living, vision formation, discipleship multiplication, and gospel contextualization. We’ve got the tune, clear as a bell, in our head. But in our articulation of these big ideas, we’re tapping. And normal people can’t hear the tune playing in our head.


We’ve got to get concrete. We need to stop talking about “reaching the lost” and start asking people to join us in praying for and engaging with our actual neighbors, who have actual faces and names.

We need to stop exhorting people to submit to God’s word and start asking people what God is saying to them and what they are going to do about it.

We need to stop sloganeering about how we’re going to be a “church planting church” and start sending teams into specific neighborhoods, fully equipped to do whatever is necessary to form those neighbors into a true Christian community.

We need to stop talking about “community” and start inviting people over for supper.


As church planters, our language creates culture. But “culture” is the dynamic relationship between concrete, actual things and specific people in particular places. If you want your people to make a concrete impact, you have to stop assuming that what’s in your head can make it into their lives through “tapping out” melody-less abstractions.

Without loving our people enough to speak concretely into their lives, our abstract missiologizing (see what I did there?) is nothing more than tapping on a gong until it’s noisy or a cymbal until it clangs. It makes a racket, but the melody of the kingdom just doesn’t work its way from our heads into the hum of their lives.

Cast a vision. Talk about the kingdom. Issue a call to evangelism. But speak concretely about faces and places of real people.

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