The Vision Handoff

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One of the problems with having a very efficient ACCS staff is that they request outlines from the speakers long before some of the speakers have any idea what they are going say. That means that you get a rudimentary outline, often bearing very little relation to what the speaker up front is actually saying. But enough about George Grant . . .

Actually, truth to tell, I only brought this up because my talk will only bear some dim relation to the outline you have in your notebook, but I will be like a fat man falling down the stairs—I will only be touching the steps at intervals.


One of the central problems that we see throughout Old Testament history is the problem of generational faithfulness. Jesus came in such a way as to enable us to address this problem rightly. Jesus came in order that we might be delivered from our sins, and this is one of the big ones. Failing to pass on the vision is a bad deal. Refusing to pick up the vision that your believing ancestors bequeathed you is even worse.

The Problem in Judges:

“And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (Judg. 2:7-10).

This is the same kind of problem that the Egyptians had when a Pharaoh arose, one who “knew not Joseph.” This is a matter of basic historical knowledge. The new Israelite generation did not know the Lord, or the works which he had done.

Seven Ways:

I want to list for you seven ways for you to accomplish mission drift, or vision slide. These are some of the things you need to do, and unfortunately it is about as difficult as hitting the floor with your hat.

1. Keep a death grip on your opinions. This is quite distinct from keeping a life grip on your vision. The only reason necessary for clutching at your opinions like that is that you are in a position where you can. Others have to put up with it, and with you. The reason faithful men hold to the vision is that they must. They hold to the vision when they are reviled, and they hold to it when they are applauded. Others, stubborn as the pope’s mule, hold to whatever it is because it is theirs. Opinions grow stale and wearisome. Vision is constantly fresh.

2. Assume that you personally are ten feet tall and bulletproof. The way things are must be the way things must be. You are a fixture. But Charles de Gaulle put it well when he said that graveyards are full of indispensable men. Not only will a day come when the school is getting along without you, it may well be that it gets along very well without you. Make your peace with God on this. We know that they will get along without us, on paper, but we insist that they must stagger along without us. Cultivate the demeanor that John the Baptist had—“He must increase, and I must decrease.” Surrender the point in your soul. Assume in the presence of God that future board members will associate the year of your demise with the time “we really took off.” And before you say “that’s sad,” keep in mind the fact that those who cultivate this demeanor are not the ones it happens to.

3. Allow the modern “professionalism” code to dictate to you a pretense of impersonal objectivity in board selection, or in hiring. Let the word nepotism panic you. Now this pretense of objectivity doesn’t make anything objective, but it does ensure a weird kind of hypocrisy. You do a national search for a headmaster, when everybody in the room knows who it is going to be. This is hypocrisy, or superstition, or something. At the same time, what if the founder’s son really is a blockhead, and everybody knows it except for the two of them? Here the modern professionalism code dictates you must pretend to stand up to them and say that it is not possible because of “nepotism,” because “he is your son.” This is a cheap and easy way out. But that’s not the reason at all. The reason is that he is a blockhead. Do the honest Christian thing and state the reason, which is the fact that he is not qualified. You don’t have to use the noun blockhead.

4. Forget how young you were when you started, and take an exceedingly dim view of any potential leadership that is ten years older than that. The glory of young men is their strength, Scripture says, but ignore this resource. Wait until the entire board is approaching seventy, and then try to recruit some young blood, by which you mean men in their fifties. Look. You know all the birthdays of all the board members. Why should it come as a shock and surprise when they all turn seventy? Recruit and train, and do so for the future.

5. Invest your ego into the school, instead of investing yourself. When you invest yourself, you are giving yourself away. When you invest your ego, it is tied up with thousands of little invisible tracer threads.

6. Assume that mastering the cant and the buzzwords is the same thing as perpetuating the vision. Think that attending conferences is the same thing as paying attention at them.

7. Come to believe that it is your school, instead of Christ’s. Give way to the spirit of mimetic envy.

Institutional Memory:

And the problem that Israel had is that they neglected the future by neglecting the past. What has God done for you as a school? Who knows about that?

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