The Power of Vision by George Barna: A Book Review
George Barna is the founder of The Barna Group, a marketing research company. Barna has written other books about leadership and church growth, such as, The Power of Team Leadership and Grow Your Church from the Outside In, however Barna stated in the introduction to The Power of Vision that he had never before, “had a book that seemed to be written through me rather than by me.” In this book, Barna stresses the importance for pastors and church leadership to discover God’s vision for their ministry and the church. Although, “vision” is a popular topic both in business and in church administration, Barna states that few churches, believers or even senior pastors have an understanding of God’s vision for ministry. This book contains simple, direct principles for discovering God’s vision, for casting the vision and helping others catch it and for implementing the vision for the glory of God.
Barna’s main purpose in writing The Power of Vision is to challenge pastors and leaders to discover God’s vision for their ministry and then to develop and implement the vision. In this writer’s opinion, Barna does a good job of accomplishing the intended purposes of the book. Barna defines “vision” as, “a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based upon an accurate understanding of God, self and circumstances.” He then breaks the definition down into four more detailed components: A clear mental image; a preferable future; a future focus; an impartation by God. Throughout the book, Barna refers to the different components of this definition but he continually stresses the most important component; vision is imparted by God.
Barna also paints a clear picture of a visionary leader by listing the requirements for catching God’s vision and describing the characteristics of a visionary. Vision requires knowing God, knowing self, and understanding circumstances such as needs, opportunities and barriers. Visionary pastors have, “an urgent need to seek god’s glory by doing His work, His way, according to His vision.” It is common for leaders to confuse mission with vision so Barna emphasizes the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement. A mission statement defines ministry and outlines the objectives. It is a general statement about what the church hopes to accomplish. A vision statement is, “specific, detailed, customized, distinctive and unique to a given church.” The vision statement puts the ministry objectives into action. There are many myths related to the development of vision so Barna list twenty of the most common myths and dispels these with the reality of true vision.
The book also goes into great detail to discuss the benefits to having vision and also covers the barriers and cost to implementing the vision. Most importantly, Barna reminds leaders that the vision should be God centered and not based on personal abilities because “man’s vision is flawed”. The values and desires of the leader must align with the heart of God. A vision produced by God will be perfect, blessed, and inspired and it has only one goal, which is to glorify Him.
The things about this book that I consider to be strengths are first of all, it is easy to read. The book is short and it written in simple language instead of being filled with confusing jargon. Second, the book gives detailed, precise information in a very direct, straight forward manner. Third and most important, Barna gives God the glory for the inspiration for this book.
Anyone with a serious desire to be an effective leader will look for ways to enhance their skills but few people have time to wade through large books cluttered with technical, confusing jargon. Barna offers relevant information in a simple format. Although the book is reasonably short in length, it is not short on substance. Barna begins with a definition of vision that helps to bring a better understanding of what “vision” truly means. Vision is having a clear idea, or picture in one’s mind of the future that they prefer. However, the key to vision is that it must be God’s vision given to a leader rather than just the preferred future that an individual may have for the church. All pastors want the best for their church and may have grand ideas and plans for the future but only God’s plans for the future will succeed. Barna not only explains the process of catching, casting and implementing vision, he also provides information about common misconceptions regarding vision. In chapter three, Barna explains the difference between vision and mission because the two are often confused. He then corrects twenty of the most common myths about vision. It is often easier to understand how to do something correctly if one first understands what they were doing incorrect.
Although, I am not a pastor, nor am a in a leadership position in a church, I enjoyed reading The Power of Vision. Anyone seeking for direction regarding God’s call for them in ministry should read this book. As a part of the body of Christ, all Christians have a purpose and a work to do within the ministry. Discovering God’s vision for life and ministry is important for all of God’s people. It is especially important for pastors because they are called to lead the flock. Having a clear vision imparted by God will give pastors direction to lead effectively. This book is inspiring and challenging and would make a valuable addition to any pastor’s library.
Barna, George. The Power of Vision. 3rd ed. Ventura, CA: Regal/Gospel Light, 2009.