Mrs. Wilson’s Secret Vision
Carlton L. Coon, Sr.
Gladys Wilson was an extraordinary sixth grade teacher. I don’t recall a specific class; I do remember the week I Mrs. Wilson told me, Norman Tyson and Charlie Chapman, “I want to meet with the three of you at some point over the next few days.”
It was an odd mix. Norman was an “A” student, with excellent behavior. Charlie and I well, we weren’t “excellent” in either grades or behavior. Charlie and I got quite a bit of attention from Mrs. Wilson the kind where she said, “Be quiet,” or “Where is your homework?”
After some days, Mrs. Wilson called us together. The meeting was brief, but memorable. Mrs. Wilson said, “You three boys have the potential to be extraordinary, to do things that will make a difference. Don’t waste your life. It is important to focus and amount to something.” With those few words, Gladys Wilson communicated possibilities to Carlton, Charlie and Norman.
I don’t know it to be the case, but Mrs. Wilson may have had a similar conversation with each student in her class.
Mrs. Wilson’s Secret
Beyond a vision for the class,
Mrs. Wilson had a sense of possibility for individuals in the class.
She communicated her vision for them – to them!
Some years ago, Shearson/Lehman Brothers had an ad that read, “Vision is having an acute sense of the possible. It is seeing what others don’t see.” Mrs. Wilson saw in me what other teachers did not see.
The Difference a Vision Makes
Jesus applied Mrs. Wilson’s secret to Simon Peter when Peter answered Jesus, “Thou art the Christ…” (Matthew 16:16) Earlier in the encounter Jesus had used the name “Simon Bar-jona” to address Peter. Jesus could have used the name “Simon Bar-jona” again; instead Jesus chose to say, “Thou art Peter.” It was a bit of a wordplay on the name Peter which means “rock.”
In essence, Jesus looked at Simon Bar-jona and said, “You are a rock!” Jesus looked beyond Simon’s history, temperament, impetuousness and limitations to declare a vision of what he would become. Some would have seen Simon Bar-jona as a poor, uneducated insignificant fisherman not worthy of a second look. Jesus looked at the same man and saw a preacher in the making the leader of a Pentecostal revival that would sweep the world. What would I have seen in Simon Peter? Would I have drawn attention to the vision that this man was to be a “rock”? Eyes that look are common while seeing eyes are rare.
Eagles have eight times more visual cells per cubic centimeter than a human, which gives them astounding visual ability. At an elevation of 600 feet, an eagle can spot an object the size of a dime moving through six inch grass or a three inch fish jumping in a lake five miles away. Am I an eagle in envisioning what the newest of converts can become?
What is your vision for each convert as they come in the church?
Do you envision each person teaching Sunday School, teaching Home Bible Studies, being part of the youth staff or becoming a preacher of the Gospel?
What is your vision for the children and young people being brought up in the church?
Your vision for a person matters. The German statesman, Johann Goethe wrote, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay that way, but if you treat him as if he were what he could be, he will become what he could be.”
Speak Your Vision
As one pastor gives a convert their baptismal certificate he also says, “You are here to have a ministry. Nobody gets to just ride; everybody serves. We look forward to you being part of our Sunday School team, bus ministry or praise team. Perhaps God will even call you to be a preacher of the Gospel.” That pastor is planting seeds of possibility in the converts. It is amazing what people can become if we help them imagine it.
Jerald and Linda Staten were students at Christian Life College in Stockton, CA. Actually, they were new converts. In a meeting with the Statens and two other couples, the late Kenneth Haney remarked, “I feel it is time for you to become pastors.” He continued, “I want you to each become pastor of a bus route.” The job description: fill a bus with kids and then pastor the kids on the bus.
The Statens, who have planted multiple churches, and are currently planting in Washington, DC, wept as they drove home. They said, “We are pastors now; we have our own bus and children to care for. Pastor Haney really believes in us!” Kenneth Haney was doing for the Statens (remember – they were new converts) what Mrs. Wilson did for Norman, Charley and I. He was speaking what he envisioned they could be.
Charley Mahaney is only one of thousands who came from the back side of nowhere from a life of sin and failure to become something meaningful for God. Wayne Huntley broken family. Marrell Cornwell from one of the poorest of families in Concordia parish, the first person in his immediate family to be saved. Our Filipino coordinator Benji Terrible gang member and drug user.
I’ve repeatedly had people say, “We don’t have any leaders or potential leaders.” Perhaps this is actually a lack of vision for the individuals one leads. Leaders are “made, not born!” The rawest of material can be shaped to become an influencer! Work with what you’ve got.
Enable Others to Act
Those who envision what people can be are Kingdom-minded. Leaders help people to catch a vision for using their gifts and then release them to accomplish that vision. The classic book on leadership, The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner (a recommended read) gives five priority actions of a leader. One of those actions states: Leaders enable others to act.
Often we call this “empowering,” but it means enabling others to “become” and to “take action.” People are empowered as we give away portions of authority and influence, enabling them to take greater responsibility and greater authority.
Systems to Fulfill the Vision
To suggest what Simon Peter could become and then not give opportunity for him to develop into that unique and empowered person would have been demotivating. It is not enough to envision the convert becoming a teacher do we have a process for them to become a teacher, a bus route worker or part of the praise team? Is there some system in place to learn if a person plays a steel guitar or loves to paint murals? What is the individual’s life work? What are they passionate about? George Barna observed, “Fewer than 1 out of every 20 believers has discerned God’s vision for his or her life and ministry.” Is that a failure of the believer or a failure in leadership? Systems help people fulfill the vision. What might the system look like in a continuum to develop people to their fullest potential?
Discipleship courses that are ongoing.
Some motivational gift training with an accompanying testing tool. Fitly Framed is available from the Pentecostal Publishing House.
Leadership training that is ongoing and open to even the newest of converts.
Some sort of ministry development for those who may feel a call of God on their life.
Applying Mrs. Wilson’s Secret:
1. Make a list of the people you pastor and those on your prospect list. Beside each name, write down what you envision that person becoming. Include children in the process of listing and envisioning. The exercise of imagining begins to alert you to each person’s potential.
2. Often we are not aware of people’s abilities and interests. Teach on the many abilities that benefit God’s work and then use a form to collect people’s gifts, talents and hobbies. Include a wide range of things like landscaping, painting and decorating in the listing.
3. To discover what motivates people, systematically use a tool like Fitly Framed as part of the disciple-making process. After discovering each person’s motivational gift, find a way to put their ability to work.
4. Constantly talk about your expectation and vision for each person. An acquaintance asks young children, “Are you preaching yet?” Of course, not many children respond with a “Yes,” but many say, “Not yet!” With that simple question who knows what possibility is being sown in the mind and spirit of a child?
The above article, Mrs. Wilson s Secret Vision was written by Carlton L. Coon, Sr. The article was excerpted from Director s Communique.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.