By Kenneth F. Haney
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
In the beginning, God had a vision for His church. It was a positive vision. When Jesus founded the church, they were one in unity, one in doctrine, one in holiness, and one in Spirit. (See Acts 2.) They were bonded with a common cause: that of fulfilling the great commission. The enemy worked, even as he does now, at fragmenting unity, bringing division, introducing false doctrines, and destroying holiness. Satan’s plan has been to prevent the church from becoming one. He is the author of division, the opposite of vision. He works at causing schism in the body of Christ.
The magnitude of the revival God desires to send in these latter times cannot be housed in church buildings. When Jesus talked about the church, He was not referring to structures-mortar, brick, steel, chandeliers, carpets, and stained glass windows. He meant people! The whole purpose of His coming into the world was to give Himself as a sacrifice or ransom for mankind. Matthew Henry states: “It [the church] is a number of the children of men called out of the world, and set apart from it, and dedicated to Christ.”
The construction of beautiful church buildings says something to a community, and that is important, but we must remember that the original church in Jerusalem began without its own building. It exploded into existence in an upper room. One hundred and twenty were filled with the Holy Spirit. They spoke in tongues, which were accompanied by the sound of a rushing mighty wind and cloven tongues as of fire! This was the beginning of the church. From this initial infilling, the church grew to three thousand, then to five thousand, and then to multitudes. Soon they were accused of filling Jerusalem with their doctrine. Most historians agree that the church in Jerusalem numbered somewhere between sixty thousand to eighty thousand firm believers shortly after the first century.
A building could not be built that would house this many people. It happened so quickly that it was very important for the church, under the leadership of the Bishop James, to be organized in order to accommodate the great harvest that the Lord had sent. They expected growth and revival and believed for it. It was in the very fiber of their being; it dominated their thoughts and actions.
In many cases today, we have limited God and tied His hands by speaking negative thoughts and talking more about those who have fallen from the faith and the apostates of the latter time, than about what God will do about the harvest in the end time. Our minds can become so cluttered by the environment of our times, that all we can see is the deterioration, judgment, and the annihilation of the human race. We must be careful not to miss the whole purpose for the existence of these circumstances. Current events have been permitted by God so that the church can do its greatest work in this final hour.
Power Of Vision
Vision is not a choice. Most people have visions or pictures in their minds, but what is the vision God wants us to have? Vision is an image of the future, something forthcoming.
What affects our vision? Our environment, what we read, what we see, what we hear, the people with whom we associate, the time we choose to spend in talking to the Lord-all these things affect our vision.
Vision needs to be “caught” from the spirit of the early church, and not by comparing ourselves with each other. Comparing ourselves among ourselves is one of the greatest downfalls of our time. In so doing we not only do not do well (II Corinthians 10:12), but we also inhibit the ‘Word of God from going forward. Many have adopted ideas and concepts for church growth developed in the twentieth century. What we need to do is revert back to the New Testament church found in the Book of Acts and the Epistles. There we see how God blessed and multiplied churches with a tremendous earthshaking revival.
We have been quick to adopt the methods and patterns modern day denominational churches, while equally as quick to condemn the heresy and false doctrine that they may embrace. Along with contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints, and holding to the biblical truth of the Scriptures, it is equally important that we follow New Testament procedures and methods for church growth.
This is our day! Shakespeare wrote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in Shallows and in miseries; we must take the current when it serves or lose our venture” (Julius Caesar, Act IV).
There is also a tide in the affairs of God. We will take to the current. Entire congregations are being, and will continue to be, baptized in the wonderful name of Jesus and filled with His Spirit!
God has great vision for the church; we must get in sync with His vision!
We All Have Vision
Whether good or bad, positive or negative, we all have vision! We all have images in our minds. The Bible is replete with examples of both good and bad vision. Contrast the image of the ten spies, who in their own eyes looked like grasshoppers, with Joshua and Caleb, who said of the land of Canaan, “We are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30-33). Gideon, even though he wondered about it, believed in God’s vision of winning a battle against thousands with only three hundred men.
Right vision or image will affect the purity of the heart. When David was running with negative talkers, he said, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” (I Samuel 27:1). David was not going to perish. He was anointed to be the king. Paul understood the influence of image when he said, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).
In the natural realm, the Wright brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison, all great inventors, began with an imaginative idea that came from their minds. Imagination sows the seeds of reality.
What image is in your heart? Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). The image in your heart is what you speak, think, and signal to those around you. Either we create the atmosphere conducive for God to work, or we allow the enemy to work against us. It is important to preach, sing, talk, live, act, and envision right images so that victory will come. Live the Word, not your feelings, and the result follows!
The element of faith is essential in obtaining vision, and without vision, the victory of life can never be achieved. The vision must be believed. And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind” (Luke 12:29). A doubtful mind demonstrates a lack of faith.
This doubt was demonstrated in the Old Testament story of Elisha at Dothan. His servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Fear was a natural response-but there is something bigger than fear. Elisha could see something in the realm of the Spirit that the servant could not see and responded with these words: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (II Kings 6: 16). The servant saw the enemy; Elisha saw God!
After he had spoken these words, Elisha told his servant to go take another look. It would be good for us to take another look when things seem impossible. Sometimes all one can see and hear is the neighing of the horses, the bustling of the enemy’s chariots, and the enemies of God declaring war against the church. Remember that man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. When the servant took the second look, the Lord opened his eyes to see the innumerable angelic host.
In Mark 5, Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, sought Jesus to heal his sick daughter who was nigh unto death. God’s power was greater than the circumstances. Before Christ arrived at the house, a messenger came and told the ruler that it was not necessary to bother Jesus, for the daughter had already died. When Jesus heard what the servant spoke to the ruler, He said, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36).
Before they had even reached the doorstep of the home, they heard the wailing and the crying that confirmed the death of the daughter. But when Jesus stepped into the home, He said, “The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth” (Mark 5:39). They laughed Him to scorn. They looked upon Jesus as just another religious leader. If we are not careful, we will look upon ourselves as just another denomination. We are more than that! We are the church, the New Testament church, the church of the living God. We must do what Jesus did.
We Choose Our Vision
Each Pastor will choose his or her vision. It is the will of God to send great revival though the medium of His church. The local church is where the revival must start if the world is to be touched. The vision must be greater than the negative voices around us.
The local church is the key to revival, and the pastor is the key to the local church. There seems little hope of reviving some congregations unless the minister can first be revived. The pastor can block revival or bless revival. He is a man under authority and with authority. The Bible speaks about him being a star in the right hand of Jesus (Revelation 1:20.)
The seven letters in Revelation, found in chapters 2 and 3, are letters to individual churches. Most of them are revival messages to the congregations, and when God wants to talk to the church, He talks to the minister, the angel of the church. In each case, if the pastor gets the message, the church will get it also. Every pastor must first catch the vision, then ask God for an anointing to reach his congregation and infuse them with a fire of passion to reach every soul by whatever method they can use to impart the truth!
As a pastor approaching a new year, I would seek God and ask Him for a vision for that year. He would put the vision into my heart. Often I found His will for the people burning in my spirit. Of course, I would write it all down, prepare banners, sometimes Power Points, and often print brochures or booklets laying out the vision. On the first Sunday of the New Year we would present the vision. It often became the most exciting service of the year. I would ask the Lord to anoint me like never before so that the people would indeed catch the vision, for without them we could not succeed. In the midst of the presentation message we would worship, pray, and sometimes shout as the children of Israel did as they marched around the walls of Jericho. It was truly an exciting thing, but more importantly, I knew the people must buy into the pastor’s vision in order for it to succeed.
Years ago someone gave me a plaque with a statement by William Carey: “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” The first century church attempted great and mighty things for God. As a result they likewise expected great acts from the Lord. They believed they could change the world. There was not a question in their minds that the world could be changed, if they were willing to pay the price. They did not permit negative thoughts to enter their minds. They believed every city, every village, and every country they entered into would be affected by the gospel. Night and day they lived with confidence that the world would be turned upside down through the apostolic ministry.
We Preserve to Keep the Vision
If you are a man or woman of God, He will speak to you and give you dreams and visions for the people you are responsible to lead. No matter what happens, remember God keeps His promises. If He made a promise to you or gave you a vision, it shall come to pass if you persevere. It is imperative to persevere even though it looks like the vision will be stamped out or obliterated. God made a promise to Abraham, but it took years to come to pass. Centuries later, Stephen spoke before the high priest and the council about this promise: “But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt” (Acts 7:17).
A spirit of doubt permeates the atmosphere of the last days. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (II Peter 3:3-4).
It is imperative that we keep the promise of our vision alive. Following are the temptations that visionaries face:
1.) The temptation to take shortcuts. The devil wanted Jesus to take a shortcut and subvert the perfect will of God. (See Matthew 4.) In the case of Sarah and Abraham, Sarah took a shortcut and told her husband to have a child with the bondwoman. There has been war ever since between the two nations that are the offspring of Sarah and Hagar.
2.) The temptation to give up. Many have given up their vision because of the long struggle that hindered them from attaining their goal. If they would have just persevered, they would have attained their vision.
3.)The temptation to deny the origin of the dream. It is possible to doubt and say, “Maybe it was not God; maybe it was just my imagination.” Never give up God’s promise. Be like Abraham and stagger not. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20).
4.) The temptation of pride. A little success can produce a lust for power and evoke self-pride. Some people begin humble and dependent upon God, but they cannot handle the successes and blessings of the Lord. This spirit was in King Nebuchadnezzar. When he walked in the palace, he was filled with pride. “The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). While the word was in his mouth, God stripped him of his kingdom and drove him into the wilds to live as a wild beast. We must never cease to give all glory to God.
5.) The temptation to settle for almost. We must have endurance for everything God has promised and not settle for less. Almost is not enough! What God has promised He will perform!
Temptation carne to Joseph. He lost two coats: one to his brethren and one to a seducing woman. Joseph knew who his real audience was. It was not the people; it was God. Joseph even lost his name but kept his dream. You may lose your coat but do not lose your dream.
God gave Moses a dream of a Promised Land. Moses allowed his frustration and anger to abort the dream. God told him to speak to the rock and water would come forth, but Moses struck the rock instead. “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Numbers 20:12).
The apostle Paul knew the importance of keeping the vision. He said, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Keeping the vision was not without sufferings. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:24-28).
Not only did Paul suffer all of the above; he was buffeted by Satan, who sent a thorn in the flesh. God allowed it to be so Paul would not be exalted above measure. When God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” Paul simply answered: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:9-10).
Paul was looking past the curtain of time, beyond the veil of flesh. I remember the old song Odell Cagle used to sing:
Let me look past the curtain of sorrow and tears
Let me view that sunny bright clime
It will strengthen my faith and will banish my fears
Let me look past the curtain of time.
Our Vision Determines Our Destiny
Vision will affect our destiny for good or for bad. In Moses’ time, the vision of the people caused them not only to wander forty years in the wilderness, but even to die there, never attaining the vision God had for them. In Joshua’s time, their vision caused them to see the walls of Jericho coming down. One had victory, the other had failure. In Moses’ time they existed, but they never conquered, all because of their vision!
It is imperative that the church takes every positive step possible in the direction of preparing for the great harvest that is already waiting. God is sending a mighty ingathering of souls in the end.
In the last days, judgment is coming. The signs of the times are declared daily in the news. Paul and Jesus both spoke of the “falling away,” but also simultaneous with this “falling away” is prophesied revival, harvest, and revelation of truth. All of the negative situations of the last days are in the process of preparing the hearts of men for the greatest ingathering of all times, which will continue among the children of Israel after the church is raptured.
The vision of the hour is “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). There will be a revival among backsliders: prodigal sons and daughters will come home. This is revival! The revelation of the one true God and baptism in Jesus’ name will spread throughout the world. Many Trinitarian ministers are and will continue to receive this revelation.
The United Pentecostal Church International was birthed for this hour. We are to carry this message to the world! We must catch the vision and fulfill God’s plan for the hour. Pastor, you have been placed in your city by God. You are not an accident. Do whatever it takes to reach every community of the city. Think outside of the box. Most people will not come into your church. You must go to them. Send buses into their neighborhoods. Teach them Bible studies. Rent one-room offices or storefronts to meet with them. Organize small groups to meet in multiple locations. Fast, pray, receive God’s vision and plan.
Jesus spent three and one-half years casting His vision for the world and for His church. After His death, resurrection, and ascension, that vision was launched on the Day of Pentecost. That vision was an obsession for His followers and they were empowered by the Spirit. They did not just have the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost had them, and they were driven by the vision. They could see a conquered world and there was no foe that could defeat them. They suffered, were beaten, incarcerated, and martyred, but they kept subduing kingdoms and conquering cities. All the apostles were martyred with the exception of John, but that did not stop the church. They were driven by the power of Christ’s vision and were equipped with passion to spread His gospel.
In the Book of Acts they converted everyone. The Thessalonians testified, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6). They aggressively spread the gospel. “And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Historians tell us that by the end of the second century one-half of the known world embraced the apostolic doctrine. The power of God and their vision enabled them to convert the world to this apostolic message!
Satan has deceived many men and women of God by convincing them that they will not succeed in reaching their cities. They have a negative image of the church; thus they have lived with disappointments. However, it is high time to change our image. How can this happen? Through prayer, fasting, and faith in God’s Word! Ask God to give you a new picture, image, or vision. See the church filled with visitors! See yourself anointed and preaching with great unction. See the altars filled with hungry men and women, mothers and fathers, teenagers and children crying out to God. See a Book of Acts revival! Why not dream big?
Jesus’ vision was GLOBAL: “For God so loved the world, that He gave” (John 3:16). Thus the vision of His church must be GLOBAL. The vision for the United Pentecostal Church International is GLOBAL IMPACT! It is a grassroots vision that affects all of the Jesus Name people from children to teenagers to adults, from the smallest to the largest of churches, from continent to continent, from nation to nation, and from city to city. The whole world must and will be mightily impacted by this apostolic message. We, His church, are all involved. We must be obsessed with the vision to reach a lost WORLD!
This article”Vision” by Kenneth F. Haney is excerpted from the book Turning the World Upside Down, 2008.