Gaining Lasting Impact from Your Vision: The Jesus Approach
June 26, 2019
We have spoken of how inspiring a group of people with a shared vision is one of the hardest challenges in leadership. Growing your vision is not easy. Having your vision impact the world for generations is perhaps the ultimate goal for a visionary, but such a goal can feel like climbing Mount Everest. Impossible! However, Jesus did it. The key is to create a growing wave of ambassadors for your vision across continents and generations.
One of the greatest success stories in spreading a shared vision is through the approach and method Jesus used. We may think of Jesus as a good man or the Son of God, but a visionary leader?
The reach of the Christian faith grew dramatically from Jesus’ death to a few hundred years later. In 40 A.D., a few years after Jesus’ death, there were around 1,000 Christians. By 350 A.D., just over half of the 60 million people in the Roman Empire were Christians. That is a growth rate of the Christian population of 40% per decade. Sociologist Rodney Stark outlines this in his fascinating book, “The Rise of Christianity.”
The Jesus Approach
Jesus was truly authentic to the vision he shared. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says the poor in spirit (i.e., the humble), the meek, and the merciful are blessed — Jesus was all these things. Aside from authentically living his vision, there were a number of factors that accounted for the dramatic growth in the shared vision of the Christian faith.
1) Jesus Consistently Shared His Vision
Jesus shared his vision with his team, his disciples, and with others. He embodied love and preached the good news of the forgiveness of sins and challenged the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. He did not share his speech just once to a big crowd, but shared it often with small numbers of people, as well as with larger groups of people.
2) Jesus Entrusted His Message to a Faithful Few
The organizational model that Jesus used to spread his vision is worthy of study. There were three levels in his leadership model: The Three (Peter, James, and John), The Twelve (Jesus’ twelve disciples) and The Seventy-Two (a wider group of disciples). Jesus knew that his vision wouldn’t spread as well with just a big speech, but with faithful followers who would embody the vision and preach the vision. This is the theory of multiplication that is so critical for the exponential growth of any vision — the kind of exponential growth that the Christian faith had.
3) The Next Generations Lived and Spread the Vision
Two great epidemics illustrate the extent to which early Christians lived their vision and the power of people who live what they preach. The first epidemic occurred in 165 A.D. It lasted fifteen years and led to the death of approximately a quarter to a third of the population of the Roman Empire. The second epidemic was in 251 A.D. and was equally devastating. Caring for those with the disease was very risky, but the early Christians embodied the values of love and charity. Many Christians died caring for the sick. A contemporary observer stated that caring for the sick was very counter cultural at the time.
4) Early Christians Were Committed to the Vision
Early Christians were so committed to the vision that they were willing to die for it. While the number of Christians who were martyred for their faith was not great, their example had a powerful effect.
5) The Vision Was Different
In spreading a vision or a message, it helps if it stands out. The central message of Jesus’ vision was one of love, forgiveness, and mercy. In a time when the culture taught that humility and mercy were not rational, the early Christians’ message of forgiveness and mercy was striking.
Creating an Impactful Vision
While the growth of Jesus’ vision across continents and generations might seem daunting for us as leaders, there are some practical tips that Jesus’ approach can teach us about creating a vision that has impact.
- Embody Your Vision: Let the way you live be as bold a message as the words you speak.
- Consistently Share Your Vision: Sharing your vision does not happen in one big speech. Share it often in different places, with different people consistently and constantly.
- Give Ownership of Your Vision to a Team:More than the big speech, having a core team that lives and preaches the vision is key. They will help spread the vision, ideally even after you.
The key to rapid exponential growth globally of your vision is multiplication. Spread the vision to a faithful few who will preach and embody the vision, who will in turn find others who will preach and embody the vision. Significant growth in your vision depends on this multiplication. Start small, with a faithful few, to grow big.
- How are you authentically living your vision?
- Who are you giving ownership of your vision to that can carry the vision to future generations?