By Bill Sunderland


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV


Vision: The Driving Force

Vision is the driving force of any collaborative effort. It must be owned by each member of the initiative. Our focus must be clear to run powerfully the race Christ has set before us.
Vision is the passionate purpose which answers the question of why we are coming together.

As in all great accomplishments, great vision motivates effective partnerships. Vision is the driving force! Without it, no lasting, effective collaborative initiative is born, much less sustained. Vision provides focus, motivation, a gauge for evaluation along the journey, and a basis for fulfillment at the end. Partnerships and networks are born when the vision is too big, too complex, or calls for resources too great for any individual or single ministry. Partnerships are not first about structure, or money, or theological statements. They are about vision. Born out of God’s character, vision of what can be is a driving force for His people and the Church.

There are different schools of thought about vision, purpose and mission. Some academicians and consultants will confuse us by interchanging these terms. BHAG is a term that author Jim Collins uses in his book “Good to Great” as a replacement for vision. BHAG is an acronym for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This is a goal that is so big, so outlandish that it motivates and drives the corporation ever onward and upward toward success. (Christian commentators have since modified the acronym to Big Holy Audacious Goal, which we will use here.)

As we view the great heroes of the faith, they too inspire us to big holy audacious goals. Abraham was a nomad who listened to God, moved to a new land, and was promised to be the father of a nation as numerous as the stars. Joseph had a dream that became reality as his brothers acknowledged that he was the chief administrator of ancient Egypt. Moses did the impossible or so it seemed to him. Jesus focused solely on his path to the cross. Paul knew he was to preach to the Gentiles and only go where the Gospel had not yet been preached.


Building the Vision

If we are serious about starting and developing a collaborative initiative, whether it is a network, a partnership or some other type of alliance, joint venture or coalition, we must first have the motivating force of a vision leading the way. We should not take this lightly. The development of a vision is serious business and requires time, thought, energy, and persistence.

Stephen R Covey, in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, made the phrase “start with the end in mind” a key ingredient for anyone who wants to be productive when setting out to accomplish a goal. Covey suggests making this a habit when we are planning and we’ll have a better chance to arrive at our goal. We had better know where we are going if we want to arrive.

It is one thing to establish a vision for ourselves or our family as we look out into the future and see where we would like to be in five or ten years. It is quite different when we are trying to do this with different ministry organizations which might be very diverse in culture, location, method and even areas of theological understanding. The objective is to see these disparate elements of the Body of Christ come together around a specific topic for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

For any type of collaborative initiative to begin, there must be a proponent who champions the vision. The champion needs to articulate the vision clearly and with passion. And this vision must be large enough to support the inclusion of those other entities which can be a part of the initiative. If the vision is held too tightly and is not promoted in an open and neutral manner, then the chances of beginning a partnership or network will be greatly diminished.

This vision-building process is critical to the beginning phase of your initiative. It requires the ability to clearly elucidate why other like-minded entities should want to sit down at the table to start the process of working together. As the different members come together to discuss what it is they can do together that they cannot do on their own, it is absolutely necessary that the proper amount of time be taken to have each member sense that this is their vision. It cannot be a vision that is pushed and promoted by the lead proponent or entity. The most viable vision is a shared vision, agreed to by each participant who is going to become part of the collaborative work. And this takes patience, time, trust, and prayer. It also requires that there is openness to God using the other partners in the effort to be able to speak into- and mold the vision. It is a delicate balance of protecting what God has given you, yet allowing others to share in the complete process of creating and empowering the vision through the people in the collaborative effort.

If we clearly state the vision, develop realistic, shared ownership and then from this point begin the work of the initiative, we will be off to a good start. As our initiative begins to grow, brings in new members, determines what actions will be taken by different participants, and we celebrate various successes, it is imperative that we clearly reiterate again and again the vision that drives us forward. It is this BHAG, the huge, holy vision, that each buys into that will provide a lasting, effective collaborative initiative. This shared vision provides focus, motivation, a gauge for evaluation along the journey, and a basis for fulfillment at the end.


Communicating the Vision

Once established, the vision must not be set on the shelf. It must be powerfully and consistently communicated effectively. This can be done in a number of ways which include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Newsletters
  • Personal emails
  • Stories of celebration
  • Introduction of each meeting
  • Personal conversations

With each of the above ideas, the concise, and powerful purpose can be integrated. The leaders of any collaborative effort share in the responsibility to share the vision widely and plant the vision deeply into members, supporters, and those who wish to know more about the network. The repetition and consistency of the message will allow people to begin to use the same language, and it will help them constantly evaluate if their actions and alignment of their thinking to the vision of the network. Alignment of actions must start with a clear vision. Creativity in communication is always necessary. Come up with new ways to integrate your vision into communication and to create new levels of buy-in. Remember, your vision is driving you. If it fails to accomplish this task, it must be updated, re-evaluated, and ultimately changed to guide the network or partnership into their new season.

Remember the verse where we started this … “throw off anything which hinders.” A clear vision will help maintain our focus on Jesus and allow us to succeed in our part of completing the race.



Bill Sunderland is Senior Advisor at visionSynergy. Bill has a diverse background including industrial sales, sales management, sales consulting, and the development of sports ministry partnerships in the USA and Asia. He and his wife lived in Korea for three years and coordinated the evangelistic outreach surrounding the 1988 Olympics. This experience led to his involvement in developing joint ventures and strategic alliances in China, Taiwan, and Papua New Guinea. For nearly 10 years, Bill has served with visionSynergy – working to empower the global Church’s commitment to Kingdom collaboration.