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Mission vs. Vision: Has World Vision’s Mission Overshadowed Its Vision?

world visionThe World Vision debacle is the latest and hottest scandal in Christendom. In spite of their faith statement claiming to be an organization of individuals dedicated to the Bible as “…the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God,” and to Jesus Christ as “central to who we are,”[1] the organization recently changed its Christian code of conduct to recognize same-sex marriage. The backlash was instantaneous and the president of the organization quickly retracted the changes.[2]

The biblical position on homosexuality is rather plain, save in the minds of those looking for loop holes to justify their sin and the sins of others, but there are plenty of people wading into the immediate issues involved in World Vision’s actions and retractions, both for and against the legitimacy of homosexual unions and homosexual practice as a whole… so I won’t.

Instead, I’d like to consider the roots of such a choice. What would actually lead to such a seemingly obvious controversial decision? I think World Vision, like many organizations around the world, has allowed its mission to overshadow its vision.

There is a difference between an organization’s vision and its mission. Vision has to do with a larger purpose that an organization sees itself helping to accomplish in the world. Mission typically defines the specific function that an organization sees itself playing in the accomplishment of that vision. Mission is what you aim to do as an organization. Vision is why you do it.

It is easy to get them confused and pit against one another when your organization’s mission is narrow and its proposed vision wide.

I, for one, desire to see God’s Kingdom advanced in the world. This includes the making of disciples, which in turn includes a myriad of tasks worldwide from missions and evangelism to scriptural education. The task is great, global, perpetual and multifaceted… far too much so for any single group to accomplish any more than a small part of it. My function is as an educator. I train people to be better interpreters of Scripture, to be better thinkers. In the whole scheme of my vision (The advancement of the Kingdom of God in the world) my actual mission (training leaders to be better interpreters of Scripture) is rather narrow and specialized.

If you go onto the World Vision website, you will see a vision statement that is short, catchy, and lacking any reference to their original vision of doing what they do as part of the fulfillment of the Christian commission. They still make claims of such a vision in their “Faith in action” statement and in a variety of other places, so, perhaps they intend to keep true to their original vision. But let’s be honest. The practical work of helping the poor in the many ways that World Vision seeks to help them can easily block out the long term vision of why the organization originally decided to help the poor.

If an organization like World Vision claims to have Christian designs, Christ’s designs, then the practical elements of doing the work should always lead to the fulfillment of those designs. It is common however for the immediate demands of doing tasks to take precedence over the more ethereal reasons for taking up the tasks to begin with. The tasks (feeding, educating, healing, clothing, rescuing, etc.) as noble as those tasks may be, easily become ends in themselves. I’ve seen it in counseling ministries, addiction ministries, medical ministries, educational ministries, and even churches. The demand for money and the challenges of practical confrontations with material and human limitation can easily cause one to violate the vision to accomplish the mission.

World Vision needs to decide what their real vision is. Does it reach beyond the meeting of physical needs? Do they intend all that they do to be done for the glory of God and for the advancement of the Divine Kingdom in the world? Do they really believe that a commitment to biblical faith is foundational to their work with the poor? Is Christ truly their example?

If so, then, it would behoove them to learn something true about him and not to allow fictitious but popular platitudes about LOVE and THE POOR to dictate their policy changes.

Just a suggestion for them and a warning for you. Don’t violate the vision to accomplish the mission.

[1] See their website @ http://www.worldvision.org/our-impact/our-faith-in-action.

[2] http://www.worldvision.org/press-release/world-vision-us-board-reverses-decision.

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