Vision is Vital
Written by Edward Earwood
President | Fortify Foundation
Yes, it has been 50 years since my parents first approached me about attending a Christian high school. Christian education was not a new concept to our family; my parents had both graduated from a Christian high school. However, a Christian school was not what I considered to be a viable option for me as a high school freshman. That all changed in the summer of 1972 as I transitioned to a sophomore. I still remember the conversations with my parents that ended with me attending a Christian school. There were many hurdles to my enrollment; however, now a half-century later I can attest to the fact that I needed the influence of a Christian education. And the need for Christian education continues today! Fifty years later! But can it continue? For Christian education to thrive for another 50 years, Christian leaders must maintain and expand their VISION.
What is vision? It should not be confused with sight. Sight, defined as the process or function of seeing or looking at something, is what is done with one’s eyes. But vision is internal; it is defined as a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination; it is a mode of unusual discernment or foresight. On June 27, 1880, Helen Adams Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Her family, kinfolks with Robert E. Lee and Charles Adams of the Confederate army, lived at Ivy Green, a homestead that Helen’s grandfather had built. Only 19 months into her life, Helen contracted an acute illness that left her blind and deaf. Her early years were filled with frustration due to her limited ability to communicate. Her parents hired Anne Sullivan, also sight and hearing impaired, to be Helen’s teacher. Annie had vision—she taught Helen to communicate, to read, and to write. Helen went on to become the first deafblind person to earn a college degree; she became a prolific author and a world-famous speaker. She caught the vision of Anne Sullivan and accomplished great things until her death at age 87.
The result of this shared vision of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. A trip to northwest Alabama today would allow you to see more than her home—Ivy Green—but also a library, a hospital system, and numerous other landmarks named for Helen Keller. She was listed in Gallup’s Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century and Alabama honored its native daughter on its state quarter. Why? Vision! On October 7, 2009, a bronze statue of Helen Keller was added to the National Statuary Hall Collection. It is displayed in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center and depicts Keller as a seven-year-old child standing at a water pump, signifying her understanding of her very first word—W-A-T-E-R. The pedestal base bears this Helen Keller quotation in raised letters and Braille characters: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”
Why has the work of Helen Keller lasted for almost 150 years? Vision! And not just a vision that originated with Helen. It was a shared vision that she learned from her teacher, Annie Sullivan. For Christian education to continue and thrive in the next 50 years, we as Christian leaders and educators must grasp the importance of maintaining and expanding VISION. To guide us in maintaining vision in our ministry, let’s consider three principles.
First, sight hinders vision. Sight makes us focus on the present—the things that we can see with our eyes. Often the things that we see strike fear in our hearts and minds, paralyzing us. Economic forecasts, political maneuverings, and social trends can easily distract us from trusting God to supply. Vision can easily be lost when we are over-focused on what our eyes can see.
Second, sight is innate; vision is learned. Sight equally distracts us all; our sight is naturally drawn to that which is seen. Vision only comes by praying and sharing. As leaders, we must be continually seeking and sharing vision for future ministry. Vision will awaken us to God’s power and provision. Leaders must have a vision of opportunity to advance their ministry as well as share that vision with those whom they lead.
Finally, vision is vital to success. Without vision our mission will fail (Proverbs 29:18). Without vision (faith), it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:1). Vision has always made leaders successful, setting apart the one leading because of their position and the one leading because of who they are and what they represent. Good leaders catch a vision; great leaders cast a vision. Good leaders see a vision; great leaders share that vision.
If Christian education will thrive in the next 50 years, Christian leaders must set vision that will show the way and share that vision with those whom they lead.