THE OFFICER: THE VISION

Joel BakerJOEL BARKER, scholar and futurist, wrote:

Vision without action is a dream.
Action without vision is simply passing the time.
Action with vision is making a positive difference.

In my previous article, I shared my vision for The Salvation Army as essentially One Army, with One Mission and One Message. It is important that a leader has a focus or else you can be occupying your time and everyone else’s doing a lot of things without the action being aligned with a common purpose. However, as Joel Barker wisely asserts, a vision not actioned is a dream. It can be an unrealistic platitude.

William Booth’s insistence, ‘Go and do something, will forever ring in the ears of Salvationists. So I/we have a vision, but we need to do something with it. Is there a vision plan? What are the priorities for our mission? The graphic on this page answers yes to the first question and gives the specifics of the second. But what is the journey to turn vision into action and where do we go from here?

Based on more than 40 years’ experience as an officer, it would be relatively easy for me to select mission priorities for my term of office that I believe are crucial for the Army’s present mission and future impact. However, I believe that the General needs also to own the priorities of the territories and commands around the world as much as possible. I therefore requested every Army territory and command to share their priorities or strategies with International Headquarters. The expectation was that common priorities would surface so that they become globally ours and not just theirs or mine. The response was very encouraging.

The challenge was how best to communicate them in clear and concise language that would be understood around the Army world. It is important that our people understand the priorities to which we are committed – priorities that are important to them personally where they serve. The process that took us from submissions to what you have before you involved many people, several drafts and much prayer.

These statements of action, though possibly worded differently, reflect the strategies from the territories and commands. The expectation is that every territory and command would continue to own its own priorities, adding (if they choose) any from the list that may be relevant to them. However, the International Headquarters leadership team and I will commit ourselves to doing something with all these 12 mission priorities.

The repeated words ‘we will’ are taken seriously.

It is one thing to articulate a vision. It is another thing to create a plan of action. But what needs to take place and must take place is to do something. Even a cursory glance will give you a sense that each statement, though brief, is not simple. Each requires dedication and decisions. There must be a determination to keep faith with what we believe has come from the leading of the Spirit.

In future issues of The Officer, I will address the vision and priorities specifically. This will be one way of updating you on mission developments. It will also keep myself and my fellow leaders accountable for what we promised.

Someone has said, ‘The divine moment is the present moment.’ The true visionary does not dream big dreams that reside in the future only. They, as one of our songs suggests, ‘make the future in the present’.

What is most important is that we continue to seek the Lord’s will as we move forward. Keeping in step with his Spirit (Galatians 5:25) is divine counsel that has become our desire. We just want to be his army of salvation, on our knees, on our feet and on the march. Humble but daring, we want to ‘let every detail of our lives words, actions, whatever be done in the name of the Jesus, thanking the Father every step of the way (Colossians 3:17 The Message).

The announcement of this Vision Plan is not about whether we got the words right or whether there are too many or too few mission priorities, or whether we missed some important ones. It is about doing something with what we have before us, making a positive difference. It is about seizing the day as One Army, with One Mission and One Message.

First published in The Officer, November 2011

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