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An Interview: Milton Jones

Questions presented by Fred Peatross
Thursday, May 30, 2002

Milton Jones

Milton Jones ministers with the Northwest Church of Christ in Seattle, Washington, and speaks frequently at seminars and conferences. His newest book, "Christ-No More, No Less," is a postmodern manual for churches threatened by "hollow and deceptive philosophies." Milton says the answer is the same today as it was then: Christ-No More, No Less. Milton has also written How to Love Someone You Can't Stand (1998) and Grace-The Heart of the Fire (1991).

1) Milton, the word I think of when I think of your ministry is the word vision. How would you define vision?

Vision is seeing what is before us. It is not focusing on what has been in the past or even what is in the present. Although these are important criteria, vision involves seeing the future. It is a look forward to see how things can be.

2) Can there ever be too much vision?

Maybe there is a difference between dreams and visions. Most of us have big dreams that probably arenít going to happen. A vision should have the possibility of occuring. That is not to say one canít have a vision that is beyond reason. Certainly, a good vision should take into account Godís ability to do more than we ask or think. But there are some visions that are just wishful thinking. They arenít going to happen because they are not planned, agreed upon, or anointed.

3) Can vision tire out a church?

Good vision should be encouraging, motivating and stimulating. If a vision is tiring out the church, maybe it is not a good vision. If it is unrealistic or not anointed by God, the church will tire out. If the vision is not caught by the congregation, they will simply be tired of hearing about it.

A good vision energizes because it helps people to have more faith. It takes them where they need to be. It gives them purpose.

4) What's the difference between a good idea and a vision?

It is a micro and macro matter. We need many good ideas for the day to day decisions that we make. But vision is the overall framework for how we are going to navigate in the church to find Godís unique place for us.

4) How can leaders improve their ability to understand and cast vision?

Vision should be born out of prayer. And good leaders will open up their eyes to see what God is doing around them. Earl Palmer told me that he often goes to the front of his church building and looks around to try to see what God is seeing from that vantage point. When he looked from his church property, he saw the University of Washington. Therefore, he works hard to have what some have called the most dynamic campus ministry in the country. Instead of always wanting to do what everyone else is doing maybe we should look out from our unique locale (physically and spiritually), evaluate our own particular giftedness, and then set a vision that is based upon Godís call to our specific congregation.

5) Why do good leaders with good visions sometimes fail?

Some fail because they donít have a good plan to go with the vision. Others fail because they are at a place that doesnít want to identify with that vision. A good leader can be in a place that has very little faith. The Bible is full of examples like that. As a result, that leader will either need to find different people to own his vision or create a more timely vision for that unique group of people that is not quite the leaderís dream but is still challenging for the church. Some good leaders will fail. We know that from history, experience and the Bible.

Most often leaders simply donít have the leadership ability to accomplish the vision. As sad as it is, many things depend more on leadership than spirituality. Which means to me that we have been evaluating success improperly. If success is only tied to bigness, then only gifted leaders will be successful. Truly some of the most spiritual men that I know donít have huge gifts of leadership. They will probably not be building big churches. And we all know of some big churches that have been led by people who were not spiritual. Those leaders will build something big anywhere they go. It can be with or without God. Our goal must be to be spiritual leaders casting a vision within the framework of the gifts that God has given us as leaders and a congregation. What is a great vision for one leader and one church may be very different in scope from another and still be based on great faith.

Another factor is anointing. God may not anoint certain visions. Our vision may not be His. He is the Lord, and He will have the last word.


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