I think there are four key dimensions to a vision—not four separated visions, but four dynamics at work to produce an abiding sense of vision in us…
First, a foundational vision. We sometimes call it a dream. We can see that dimension in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. If you haven’t read it in a while, now might be a good time to Google it. In some ways, it is the essence of a vision.
Second, there is a formational vision. By that I mean what Mother Teresa described as her little-by-little principle. The dream must be operationalized. And that almost always means in stages produced by concrete decisions and actions. Mother Teresa’s Brothers and Sisters of Charity began with the foundational vision that no one should ever die alone (brought about by her actually walking past a dying man), but it had to be “activated” by actually taking the man back to her convent and staying with him until he died.
Third, there is a firing vision. I think of it as that part of God’s vision which comes to us to provide what Dr. Dennis Kinlaw calls “a fresh stimulus” to keep us in pursuit of the foundational vision. Vision enactment is hard work. God knows that. So, from time to time, we are given subsequent visions that validate and reignite the vision. I call it God giving us just enough confirmation to be hopeful, but not so much as to become prideful.
Finaly, there is a fulfilling vision. It simply means that a vision from God will almost never be fully realized by one individual or group. We never “completely accomplish” it. Wise leaders always include some kind of succession plan, so that the vision does not cease to exist when they move on, or die. It’s what Paul did with Timothy as he commissioned him for ministry in 2 Timothy 4:1-8. In fact, one of the surest ways to undermine God’s vision is to think that “I” am the completer of it!
In these ways, God weaves these threads of vision together into a tapestry that glorifies God, exalts honors Christ, serves others, and continues (in some fashion) after we are gone.