Have We Lost Our Vision? (by Mark Johnston)
I heard an interview the other day with an up and coming band about the temptations that come with succeeding a little. They talked about the palpable tension that’s created when you’ve made enough progress to no longer be dropping tunes in your garage, but not enough to have your ambitions fully realized.
It’s the friction created by a congruence of forces: the drive to gain increased exposure and market share; the lure to settle instead for the safety of the consolation prize; the enticement of fame and money and the shortcuts that lead to them; and the fight to hold on, in the midst of all that, to the original vision.
If your original vision is to make great music that influences people and changes the world, then you have to leverage any success you experience to fuel your original vision. That means looking at every decision you make through that lens. The moment you don’t, you’ll either settle for the incomplete or chase the distorted.
In other words, moderate success is a lot like money: it’s a valuable tool, but falling in love with it leads to all kinds of evil.
Much could be written about how a little success can feed blind ambition and the prostitution of our original calling. But I think an equally dangerous phenomenon occurs when we put down roots too early; buy a plot of land at a rest stop rather than continuing on our journey. It’s what happens when we have enough to pay the bills, satisfy our self-esteem, and provide a reasonable amount of stories to tell about conquering the foothills (instead of taking on the mountains).
I saw it often when I traveled to preach in churches across the U.S: pastors leading “solid” churches who hadn’t changed anything significant in ten years. They told stories of the good old days complete with risks, miracles, spiritual battles, and monumental decisions. But the most important thing they’d done recently was hang a photo of themselves in the lobby.
This temptation to cave, to become satisfied too soon with a little success, is especially alluring if it has:
- Taken us longer than we’d thought
- Cost us more than we’d assumed
- Looking different than we’d hoped
My original vision was, and is, to reach an innumerable amount of not yet Christians and lead them into an authentic and flourishing faith in Jesus. I can pinpoint moments of my journey when that original vision has prompted me to say “no” to things that could have made me more successful in the short term and “yes” to things that have scared me half to death.
I don’t want moderate success to rob me of that original vision. So I’m willing to change everything again if I have to. I’m headed to the mountains.
How about you?
Mark Johnston lives in Newark (close enough to Maryland to hit it with a spitball) with his wife Susan and two kids, Madeline and Conner. He started The Journey and has led it from the beginning with passion and authenticity. What comes out of his mouth as he preaches here about Jesus and life is sometimes unexpected, occasionally provocative, and often outrageously funny… but always real. Mark likes watching movies in which a lot of things explode and reading books about how to be better at everything – and he digs Delaware in a big way (it’s a little bizarre how much, actually). Follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.