The Paper Pulpit
One of the greatest tragedies in Christian history took place in 1271 AD. In that year Niccolo and Matteo Polo, the father and uncle of Marco Polo, visited Kubla Khan, who was considered at the time to be the ruler of the world. He had authority over all of China, all of India and the entire East.
The Kubla Khan was attracted to the story of Christianity as Niccolo and Matteo shared it with him. He said to them, “You shall go to your high priest and tell him on my behalf to send me a hundred men skilled in your religion, and I shall be baptized. And when I am baptized all my barons and great men will be baptized, and their subjects will receive baptism, too. So, there will be more Christians here than there are in the part of the world from which you come.”
Wow! What a fantastic opportunity! At no time in Christian history had such a tremendous opportunity been presented to the followers of Jesus Christ. The tragedy lies in the fact that almost nothing was done in response to what the Kubla Khan had requested. Even after thirty years had passed only a handful of missionaries were sent — it was far too few and much too late to take advantage of a marvelous open door to share the good news of the gospel. That door on such a grand scale would never be opened again.
Can you imagine what a tremendous impact might have been made nearly eight centuries ago on that part of the world if Christians had had the vision to see the entire East won to Jesus Christ? The mind boggles at the thought of how the history of the entire world could have been changed if thirteenth-century China, India and the other areas of the Orient had been converted to Christianity.
Lost opportunities are very often lost forever. We may regret and obsess over them, but it does not alter the fact that they are lost. The important thing is that we learn from lost opportunities. I believe that vision is the Aladdin’s lamp of the soul. It is the capacity to create a compelling picture of the desired state of affairs in a way that inspires people to respond. It is that which is worthy — that which could be, should be, and is attainable.
A vision without a task is a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task combined is the hope of the world. If you or your church lacks vision, ask God for it. Vision is the ability to understand the history, the present condition, and the potential of a church, and to conceive a plan for action that will maximize its ministry potential.
Vision is the result of having spent much time absorbing the facts about your community, knowing the resources upon which the church can call — people, funding, facilities, equipment, etc. — and devising sound but creative strategies for moving forward. Vision always entails progress; it is never satisfied with the status quo. Too many churches today are totally satisfied with the status quo.
As we reflect on the opportunity that was lost in 1271 AD, it is important that we ask ourselves these questions: “What opportunities to share my faith in Christ with others have I missed for lack of vision? Are there persons within my current circle of influence to whom I could share what Christ means to me?” And if there are such persons: “When might I set aside a specific time to do precisely that?” If you will first talk to God about those you know who aren’t Christians, you will be better prepared to talk to them about God.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). It was true in 1271 AD. It is also true today when Christians and/or churches fail to accept and meet opportunities for lack of vision.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.