Vision: “The act or power of seeing.” “A manifestation to the senses of something immaterial.” –Merriam Webster.
What are the qualities that a missionary evangelizer needs to be effective in his work? The key qualities of a successful evangelizer are in fact quite similar to the characteristics that a business person or entrepreneur needs to meet with success. Vision is one key quality of both the successful business person and the successful missionary, so let’s investigate it more deeply.
Vision Sets a Goal in Motion
For the importance of vision in the entrepreneurial life, just turn to the Wright Brothers or Mark Zuckerburg as examples.
The Wright Brothers’ successful first flight was the product of an incredibly focused and carefully calculated pursuit of a vision. The Wright Brothers realized success in the air had more to do with knowledge than power. Rather than look to more powerful motors for success, the Brothers looked to prudent practice and overall airplane design. It’s also notable that Wilbur Wright focused his energies less on talking about his vision, more on enabling it through preparation and action: “Well, if I talked a lot I should be like a parrot, which is the bird that speaks most and flies least,” he once said.
Or, consider the example of Mark Zuckerburg’s vision for Facebook. Something that started in a dorm room quickly transitioned into an ambitious vision for affecting world community. In a recent manifesto, Zuckerburg described his vision for Facebook as one of “developing the social infrastructure for community— for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.” Regardless of whether we agree with Zuckerburg’s vision for Facebook, we can appreciate the integral role that vision played in developing the social networking site over the years.
Vision gives the business leader or missionary evangelizer eyes to see a plan in the distance, orienting himself and others for how to get there. The Vocation of a Business Leader describes that the business person’s role in the life of the Church and the world has to do with vision: “Business leaders are called to conceive of and develop goods and services for customers and communities.” The business person’s role of having a vision is a beautiful and necessary one in society!
Properties of Vision
If we begin to dissect vision, what are some of the main properties we find?
Knowledge of Where to Go
Vision provides us knowledge of where we need to or ought to go. In the case of the Wright Brothers, vision allowed them to decide where to practice (on the soft sands of Kitty Hawk beach, only to certain heights) and where to seek innovations (in knowledge, not power). To draw a Scriptural parallel, consider how Christ gave us His law (Matthew 5-7) before giving us the ability to fully embody it. In giving us the law He gave us a vision, showing us where we need to go, giving us the destination to look toward on the horizon.
In Blue Ocean Shift, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne provide business persons advice on how to shift their organizations out of highly competitive “red oceans full of sharks” and into the clear, wide “blue oceans,” which represent new, open markets. Guess what component the authors mention first in their list of the three key components of successfully shifting into the blue ocean? Vision or perspective! The authors list vision first because it provides a path, showing a new way forward. Business persons who are able to make the blue ocean shift see differently than others. According to Kim and Mauborgne:
With an expanded field of vision, they can, for instance, imagine creating a national youth orchestra worthy of global praise, even though it lacks highly trained musicians or quality instruments, by reconceiving it as a showcase for bridging cultural divides and promoting peace. They can imagine building rehabilitation centers on military bases for petty criminals, even though that defies the historical separation of the military, police, and prison administrations. They can imagine creating a new kind of home French fry maker that produces fresh, tasty, and healthier fries without frying.
Again, vision conceives where to go, allowing a leader to orient others in a specific direction.
Confidence & Newness
As Kim and Mauborgne’s description hints at, vision not only sees a path forward but sees a path forward to something new. Confidence oriented to newness is a property of vision: We are not there yet, but we are going to be there. Business leaders who have a clear vision— such as Zuckerburg’s vision of spreading Facebook across the globe—also have confidence that they can get there. The passion of successful leaders stems from preserving their vision at the center of their work or enterprise.
Bishop Robert Barron has a powerful homily on breaking free from the paralysis of sin, in which he reflects on Isaiah 43: 18-19: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new!” Bishop Barron points out that our God is forward-looking, a “God of the new.” He mentions that a more accurate translation of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, commonly translated at “I am Who am,” is actually “I will be Who I will be.” God is always ahead of us, calling us into a deeper life. Human leaders are called to have the confidence to step out ahead as well, inviting others to enter a new depth.
Capacity to Inspire
A third property of vision is that it is inspiring! It is a source of hope and motivation for others. The story of the Wright Brothers is so memorable because of the Brothers’ character and strong sense of vision. Or consider how, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went forth and shared the vision of the Gospel because they themselves had been affected by its hope. Vision inspired the Wright Brothers, and in a much more profound way, it inspired the Apostles.
Vision: Just What We Need?
Isn’t vision a key quality trait for the New Evangelizer?
Seeing the Vision
Kim and Mauborgne say that becoming a “blue ocean strategist is like looking up at the night sky at the single constellation your industry has long been focused on and then turning your head to see the vast expanse of the universe that hadn’t been in your field of vision before.” For the New Evangelist, the gift of faith does the same thing: It opens a vast expanse of goodness to us that we hadn’t been able to see before.
Faith gives us a new viewpoint on our world: We begin to see it as God sees it. The vision for Abraham was the Promised Land. But for us, it is no longer about the Promised Land of Israel. It is about the Kingdom of Heaven, which is so much more vast as an inheritance! The vision of eternal grandeur God calls us to is incredible, and the ladder we climb toward that vision is the ladder of gratuitous gift— of experiencing our earthly life as pure gift. The more we can see life through this lenses that knowledge of Jesus gives us, the more we see with an eternal perspective, the perspective we must have to go forth as missionary evangelizers.
Sharing the Vision
While secularism tempts people to do crazy things for ninety seconds of media recognition, saints have a keener perception of reality and how to use earthly goods for the sake of eternal glory. Given the gift of vision, missionary evangelizers want to share it with others. Our world is waiting for saints to tell it of God’s plan of hope for it! Effective evangelization is the fruit of personal conviction that Christ sets hearts free from evil and death. It is the fruit of conviction that, as Pope Francis has puts it, there is an infinite love to cure our infinite sadness. Pope Francis wrote:
We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint… This is why we evangelize. A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise. Unless we see Him present at the heart of our missionary commitment, our enthusiasm soon wanes.
The world is desperate to see this vision of Jesus; and if we see this vision, we will be desperate to share it.
Missionary Evangelizers with Vision
As missionary evangelizers, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can point others to what needs to be done and where they ought to go. This is not about our glory or personal interests. Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, “In union with Jesus, we seek what he seeks and we love what he loves… In the end, what we are seeking is the glory of the Father; we live and act ‘for the praise of his glorious grace.’” He continued, “If we wish to commit ourselves fully and perseveringly, we need to leave behind every other motivation.”
Finally, as missionary evangelizers, we are sources of renewal in the Church’s confidence in herself – by furthering her spiritual motherhood! We deepen the Church’s identity as we deepen our own identity in relation to others.
As evangelizers, we need to support each other to maintain confidence in the vision God has given us. Conversations with friends, spiritual directors, and mentors along the journey can also refine our vision, helping us to see more clearly the path God is calling us to walk forward on. Think about your call to business or your call to sanctification in terms of vision. When has your vision been most clear? How clear is it today? What can you do to ensure that seeing Jesus is at the center of your life and work?
For more on the New Evangelization, click here.