Christian leadership books often quote Proverbs 29:18 as a rationale for a church writing a vision statement. The KJV version reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This wording fits nicely for those who want to persuade others regarding the need for a vision statement.
While it is good for leaders to communicate vision, churches doing a pastoral search and pastoral search committees should be aware that Proverbs 29:18 is not primarily talking about a leader’s vision. Rather, “vision” here refers to special revelation and the principle is that that apart from God’s Word, society quickly spins into moral chaos.
There are consequences for God’s people when the Word is not known. Indeed, Proverbs 29:18 submits:
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18, ESV).
The word translated “prophetic vision” refers to special revelation or God’s Word. The word translated “cast off restraint” carries the idea of there being a total loss of social order. It is the same word used in Exodus 32:25 to describe the Israelite’s frenzy during the Golden Calf disaster. The NIV translation reads:
Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies (Exodus 32:25, NIV).
If a people do not hear God’s Word, then we can expect society to break down and even local churches to cast off restraint. “Social harmony and restraint cannot be achieved without the exhortations of the prophets and the teaching of the law.”
Public morality depends on knowing the law of God. Fabarez argues that the reason there is so much immorality in evangelicalism today is because God’s Word is not preached. Again, pastor search committees must own our basic need for God’s powerful Word.
How have you seen the need for vision within your own church? How have you seen God’s Word (vision) shape the actions of your church?