"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29:18
I can't count the number of occasions I've heard this verse misquoted to explain the importance of articulating a clear and compelling vision for people to follow. Immature leaders with vibrant, personal charisma are especially at risk for misuse of this verse. Taken in context, the original word translated as vision refers to the kind of revelation that comes from God. The weight for fulfilling His Revelation remains in His hands. It's not about motivating others to fulfill a compelling vision—it's about articulating a clear revelation coming directly from God or His leading through Scripture. To be led by God in our leadership means being purposeful in making room for Him to share His heart for us and the kinds of things He'd like us to join Him in.
This type of revelation only comes from spending time quieting with God—listening and connecting to him. Doing so promises us joy, wisdom, comfort, and direction. It is the source of vibrant, sustainable ministry. The relationship and revelation required to lead must flow from here. Without relationship and revelation, we will wear ourselves out on needs and strategies that are not God's. Like the stagger after a blindfolded spin to "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," we will struggle for our balance and bearings. Searching sightlessly for a target, we risk a fall.
"Codependency" means that we carry the weight for making sure that people behave, emotions are resolved, outcomes are favorable, or plans have the kind of outcomes we desire. We're carrying weight that only belongs to God or bear false responsibility for burdens others are designed to carry. By definition, attempting to fulfill our ministry vision and plans - if not birthed and steadily nurtured through our connection with God's heart - is codependency. It is a huge leadership problem. We must learn to manage weight properly and allow God to show His part, our portion, and the segments that belong to others.
Codependency is spiritually disorienting and unchecked, it will break the best leader. Dizzied by the blur, burnout happens when the misplaced weight of what we carry exceeds our capacity to stay connected with God and others. Before long, replenishment becomes difficult, if not impossible. Instead of slowing down to reconnect with God and His People, some of us tragically rely on charisma, gifts, and personality to push forward. The result is a deficit in our souls. Adversely affected, our emotional and mental health is damaged, impacting relationships and increasing a sense of distance from God. After a while, hopelessness and despair slink into our thought life. Soon, the bottom drops out. It is a setup for depression and exhaustion as our coping strategies become addictions. Our joy gets hijacked. Things that bring worldly thrills or false peace vie for the affection that rightly belongs to God.
Read more in my upcoming book, The Weight of Leadership: How Codependency and Misplaced Mercy Undermine Life and Ministry, launching this September.