A few times in my lifetime, I’ve hung a couple signs over bathroom urinals. It’s the one place people pause for a minute or two. I figured it’s a good time to give them a message while they wait. In my younger years I may have pushed the envelope a little further than I should have with a few of the urinal sayings taped to the wall, but I ran across a quote by Robert Schuller a few years back I had to put in the office bathroom at our YWAM campus. It said this:
“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
While spinning toilet paper off the roll, I figured this was a good message to inspire my team to not let fear of failure deter them from stepping forward in whatever God was speaking to them.
As I reflect more about this little maxim by Schuller made more popular by all the Ted Talks sporting the phrase in their titles, it implies more about being visionary than fearing outcomes.
Think about it. “What would you attempt …” assumes something basic. To attempt something implies there is something you see which you haven’t previously experienced. To see something ahead and desire to acquire it is vision.
Late Fall of 1996, God spoke to me about reaching Generation X. Twice actually. The first time I was sitting at MANU in the Smith Building where all the religion students had classes. A guest professor was lecturing about the “next generation” and I wrote in large graffiti style letters across two full college lined notebook paper — GEN X.
The second time, I was running late to class. Approaching the campus building, I saw through the double glass doors students with books under arms hurriedly racing to class. I was impressed with the phrase, “These are your people.”
Amy and I began dreaming. What would it take to reach the next generation of X’ers? How would we do it? Where would we go? For us, this was the beginning stages of vision. It was something we could see though we’d not experienced it yet. We envisioned a church full of what society called the “slacker generation” fully committed to following Jesus. With this vision in our hearts, we planted a brand new one-word-named church, ReaLity.
Those seven years starting ReaLity defined us as people, a family, and our calling in ministry.
It’s not surprising we are now missionaries with Youth With A Mission. Look at this value YWAM has listed as number 5.
YWAM is called to be visionary, continually receiving, nurturing and releasing fresh vision from God. We support the pioneering of new ministries and methods, always willing to be radical in order to be relevant to every generation, people group, and sphere of society. We believe that the apostolic call of YWAM requires the integration of spiritual eldership, freedom in the Spirit and relationship, centered on the Word of God. (Num 12:6; 1Sa 12:16; Pro 29:18; Eze 1:1; Hab 2:2 3; Mar 1:35-39; Luk 9:1-6; Act 16:9-10; Act 26:19; 2Pe 3:9-13) (YWAM Foundational Value #5 ~ Be Visionary)
Before we said yes to full-time, volunteer missionary work with YWAM, we knew in our heart a few simple things. We wanted to be engaged with a ministry reaching the next generation. We wanted an emphasis on discipleship. We wanted a global, interdenominational ministry. Yeah, we said the same thing, “Sounds like YWAM.” It was vision which enabled us to let go of everything and do something radical.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Vision keeps us moving forward. It keeps us from wandering aimlessly. It calls us forward into uncharted waters toward a set destination. It is the one thing when all others things fail to sustain which can continually motivate and move you to overcome the most difficult of obstacles. It draws fellow friends and laborers closer together. It aligns all the work, thoughts, and plans for teams. Vision is the key to supernatural growth and experiences.
Jesus gave us the grandest vision of all time. “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations …”. Jesus saw something no one else at the time could. All people from all nations, loving God and their neighbor, with deep sincerity and conviction. He could see a day, way out in the future when it would become a reality, and He equipped us to figure out how to make it happen. It’s from this grander vision, we dream and envision our part of the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20.
In 2017, I sat in a circle of leaders at YWAM Tyler and we dreamed. We saw in the future 200 students enrolled in our entry level discipleship program throughout one single year. It seemed a bit audacious, but isn’t this how vision begins? It’s a big, hairy, audacious goal ~ a BHAG in the words of Jim Collins. Vision must also be coupled by purpose and meaning. Our 200 student vision is motivated by our passion to discipleship. We truly believe discipleship is the key to transforming nations. (Do you know what’s happening in the Middle East right now? It is a current example. Ask me privately, and I’ll blow your mind with stories of what’s taking place there today because of discipleship you won’t hear anywhere else.)
So here we are now, the end of 2022 — attempting to reach our vision destination. We can see it out in the distance. We will know when we get there. Trust me. We will celebrate next Fall. October of 2023, when our final school begins for the year, I’m putting a slide on the giant screen in our main meeting hall for our staff to witness. On the slide, of course, will be all the 200 students who we will have discipled throughout the year. It will be an accomplishment only with the help of God we will be able to achieve.
Along this journey toward our vision, we will fail. Already have. We’d like to believe from the quote at the beginning of this article we can’t fail. But that’s not reality. In some regards we must fail. In our failure we learn what not to do so we can focus on what works. In our early church planting days, we failed a few times. Ok, maybe lots, but we learned important lessons about our leadership and following Jesus which I’d not trade for anything.
At some point soon you’re going to be headed to the bathroom. What a concluding statement, right? I had to frame this article somehow. You may not have a sign posted in front of you, inspiring you to dream big as you spin off the toilet paper. However, it’s important you know this: You can have vision! Ask God for it, and when it comes to you, chomp down on it and don’t let go until you get to where you see you can one day be.
Thank you to everyone who has stood behind us in the endeavors God’s placed on our hearts. We couldn’t do what we do without you.
Don’t tell Tracy I used this picture. She’ll kill me! (John Wayne spotting)
Some students and staff I’ve been working with.
We believe in the next generation to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth.
A recent promotion calling the next generation to missions.