I would imagine that there are a great many of you who have labored in the vineyards of an organization that mired in the morass of the past? Far too many of you have worked for a fire department without a clue as to what their future might look like. If you cannot picture the future in your mind, you will have a great deal of trouble moving out toward that future.
It has been my experience that far too many fire departments stumble about without ever achieving any great focus or success. The leaders seem content to make every tomorrow an exact copy of yesterday. Quite simply, they lack any sense of the concept of vision. They state for all to hear that if the past was good enough for their fathers, it is good enough for them. Bull ----!
We need to have dreamers who can chart a course to the future. That means we need leaders who can dream and dreamers who can dream. We then need pragmatists who are able to take those dreams and translate them into a well-written roadmap. Finally we need people brave enough to follow the dreamer and the pragmatist. That is what this week's visit with you is all about.
In my time I have observed that one of the primary attributes possessed by a good organizational leader is the ability to create a vision of the direction in which they believe their organization should go. As a veteran of the trench warfare mentality of a large, metropolitan fire department, I am well aware of the problems which sailing about on a rudderless ship can bring.
As I recall, every aspect of our organization was continually in the crisis operational mode on a daily basis. Long-range planning seemed to be a decision on where to hold lunch. It was within this visionless agency that I developed my deep and abiding faith in the need for a vision to shape the direction of any organization.
Let me reach way back in time for an excellent example. One of the great Biblical stories, I have read is the one about Paul. We all remember him as a great person in the history of the Christian faith. But this seems quite odd if you look back into his personal history. He was a man who did not like Christians. His teachings and life experience taught him to seek them out and persecute them.
However there was more in store for him than he could ever imagine. It appears that the Almighty had a different view of things. It would appear that there was a vision for the future that had an entirely different vision of where Paul might fit in.
My research indicates that Paul was a man of tremendous intellect. He was extremely zealous in his approach to the faith of his fathers. Perhaps it was this drive and dedication that made him an attractive candidate for conversion, in spite of his strong stand against the Christians.
Anyway, one day as he was headed off to Jerusalem to persecute a few hundred of the faithful, he was suddenly struck blind by a great light on the road to his destination. Many of us can understand the strain of a man on the road with many things to do and many places to visit. That is how many of us live our lives today. Here again was a man who had lived the life of a fervent believer on behalf of his cause. He was literally a man of deep convictions, with the ability to create a vision and gather followers around that cause. While many would argue over the rightness of his cause, few would quibble over his talents and abilities.
Suddenly he was blind. He was a man who had to be led around. How many of us have felt like that? I would tell you that the important thing to note in this story is the outcome of that "blinding light." He experienced a complete change in his beliefs, his perspective and his life. He became a leading teacher and proponent of his newly adopted faith. And his ability to create a vision for the early church was critical in its growth.