Vision must be “grounded.”
It’s easy to lose touch with ordinary people if one is in an isolated community (like academia) or if one spends too much of one’s time reading blogs, books, articles, etc. One reason so many terrible prognostications occur in the realm of ministry is because we read too much and exist too little.
It’s easy to say, something like, “Nearly all megachurches will be dead within fifteen years,” as one ministry guru prognosticated a decade ago, when you study data and not people. It’s easy to say, “Christianity in America will be all but dead by 2050,” if you stare at charts rather churches. Sometimes, it feels as though we simply prognosticate what we wish would happen. Other times, I think we are victimized by the bubbles and echo chambers we inhabit—sometimes without knowing it. Sometimes, we are even inside a bubble inside other bubbles.
Don’t misunderstand me. Blogs are good. Books are good. Academia is good. Conferences are good.
Bubbles are bad. Echo chambers are bad. Losing touch is awful.
I’ve been to conferences and read books suggesting issues are at the forefront of peoples’ minds I haven’t heard mentioned once by a parishioner in nearly 20 years of church ministry. The effect is, pastors who listen to them spend precious time aiming churches at bogus targets. When we misjudge what people are really feeling and thinking about—and this impacts all sorts of things.
If you really want to know where the cutting edge is—start by spending time with people. You can’t read about what’s going on inside their minds or lives. You have to experience it yourself. Then, set your eyes to the horizon.
If vision isn’t grounded, you’ll find down the road it was a hallucination.