Bible Answer

What is “casting a vision?”

I've heard my pastor say we need to "cast a vision," but I don't know what that means. Is it biblical for pastors to be preoccupied with arriving at a vision for the growth of a church rather than simply accomplishing the work of evangelizing, discipling, equipping?

A strategic vision (or a plan for the future) is not by itself a bad thing in any walk of life, including in serving God. God is not opposed to plans, as we see with Joseph who planned thoroughly to survive a period of famine in Egypt. Setting goals and objective in ministry can be immensely helpful to accomplish difficult and challenging tasks even as we rely on the Spirit and seek the Lord’s counsel. 

The question is where do we go to find our vision and goals in ministry? In Joseph’s case, the Lord set the vision when He told Joseph through a dream given to Pharaoh what to expect and how to respond. Then Joseph simply put God’s vision into action through careful planning and execution, as scripture records.

Likewise, men must seek the wisdom and counsel of the Lord in His word by the counsel of His Spirit. Then when the Lord reveals His desires to our heart, we put that “vision” into action for the glory of Christ. Unfortunately, many churches have replaced leaning on the Lord and His word for direction with leaning on their own understanding and egotistical desires. In some cases, modern churched "cast" visions of larger and larger buildings and bank accounts rather than visions of dividing to reach the world for Christ. 

As you mentioned in your question, growth is an overriding preoccupation for many churches, while scripture emphasizes growing THE Church, not a specific church body. These goals may sound similar, but they are actually very different and usually opposed to one another. Growing THE church means to reach outward with the Gospel, teaching disciples to become disciple-makers, and sending them out to start the process somewhere else. This model doesn’t grow a single church body necessarily, but it does grow THE Church!

Nevertheless, we caution you against judging any pastoral staff too quickly on this question. Allow time to get to know their hearts and intentions. Many men in pastoral ministry have been trained in seminaries to think of pastoring a church like building a business, and, unfortunately, they may have internalized this premise without questioning its biblical legitimacy. Show these men grace and attempt to guide them into a more biblical view of how the Lord calls His Church to grow. 

Finally, you may find the following resources helpful on this topic. Our article on the megachurch phenomenon and our study on Nehemiah explain these matters further.