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Quantum Servanthood:

knowing how to lead in chaos - Visual

By John O’Keefe


[Relating to, or used in vision; attained or maintained

by sight; producing mental images; done or

executed by sight only; relating to, or employing

visual aids]


I have to admit, I am a total visual person, I think in picture.   Image, imagination, visual, pictures are the language I speak best.  For me, thinking in picture seems more natural, freer and less reactivate; I am able to connect with the world around me in image and imagination.  I love sitting in the park, or mall, and watching the people; heck, I love sitting in any crowded setting and watching people.  When I watch people I see so many different stories, so many different truths, and so many different realities.  I love watching people, getting a “visual” of whom they may be, and when we meet to see if my “picture” meets the reality.  I have often wondered why I think so clearly in picture, and in dimensions; I see things others miss, and even when I view a 2D picture, I can see it in 3D (neck, sometimes I think I am seeing things in 6D).  It was hard figuring out that mess[i] because I am dyslexic[ii].  For me, seeing something is far more important the hearing something.


When I was a child in school the counselors and teachers told my mother that I had this “handicap,” this “disorder,” that would limit my ability for higher education and profession; I thank God my mother never listened to the advise given by the experts.   About fifteen years back I started to do some reading on dyslexia[iii] and what it means, to get a better understanding of this gift in my life.  After all, why was I the way I was and why did I think the way I did.  About five years back, I was given the biggest surprise in my life, that is when I found out that those who have this gift think very different then others.  We think in pictures and dimensions, we grasp things better visually and we are able to translate that image into story, what we see can be “spoken” in layers of the story.  Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to meet some very cool people who also pastor postmodern/emerging church, and while I would not say that all “visual” pastors are dyslexic, those I have spoken with over time have admitted to having this wonderful gift.  For me, visual is powerful and meaningful.  I love watching God move in his people.  To see what so many in my past told me was a “disorder” or a “handicap” turn into one of the greatest gifts God could give a pastor today.


While those of us with the gift of dyslexia think, live and breath visually, it has been said that 95% of what people learn generally is visual, “regular” people learn best when they connect the words with picture (and even other senses), to place words and actions together.  Even those without this gift think in terms or picture.  Think back on your High School math class.  I am sure it was much easier to understand what a rhombus[iv] was with a picture.  Basically, everyone gets a better connection on things when we think in terms of picture.  Given that we are a visual people, and a “servant” in the 21C thinks in terms of visual – why do we still insist on “writing” our “vision” statement?  Why do we place into words, a vision given by God?  Why nor connect that “vision” with being visual?


In our expression of image we need to take “vision” and add the “visual.”  Being “visual” is being able to place imagination into worlds with pictures, sounds, smells, tastes and more.  Have you ever smelled a smell and a picture pop into your mind?  That’s because we are visual.  Have you ever tasted a taste and a picture pop into your mind?  That’s because we are visual.  When we express in images, visual, we express in terms people can remember.


To be honest with you, I think we have spent too much time on “church vision statements;” after all, what do they truly mean?  Most of the time, they are empty, hollow words with no action connected.  I have found that for most people, a “vision statement” has been used to control others and not empower them.  I know of Pastors who use the “God gave me a vision for this church” over the heads of people and subject them to their will.  I think every church I have ever consulted for, visited, spoke at, walked past or saw in a phone book has some kind of vision statement.  Yet, I would venture to say that 99% of the people in the church have no idea what that vision statement even is, and if they do they have no idea what it means or how to put it into action.  Why?


Over the past few years that I have been interested in emerging “servanthood” I have been fascinated by the fact that Jesus never had a vision statement; yet every book I have ever read on modern church leadership sell the importance of a vision statement.  Still, over time, the people caught on to his ministry, why?  What did he do that was so different from what we do today?  Simple, Jesus was visual, and not interested in a vision statement, he was interested in living a visual life.  “Come and you will see?” are the words Jesus shares, not “read my vision statement, see what God has called me to do and if you can buy the vision you are welcomed to come along.”  Jesus just said, “Come and see.”


When I was a kid my Father use to say, “do as I say, not as I do.”  Being a visual learner this drove me crazy, because it just did not connect in the brain cells.  In fact, I still did many of the things he did – no matter what he said, because I am a visual person – I will do as you do, not as you say.  Visual “servants” keep this in mind.  They know that people will do what they do, and act the way they act.  Our words must equal our actions.   For those of us who think in visual terms, “casting” vision simply means sharing, in story, the visual of the ministry.  Brining to life that which God places in our hearts and giving voice to picture.


But the question still remains, how do we move from Modern Vision Casting to a Postmodern Visual Casting approach?  I believe the answer is found when we look deeply at who we are, what we say, how we say it and what we truly mean by it all.  We need to change the operating system of the church to allow people to express themselves in open and dynamic ways.  We need to remove any and all traces of the Institution that forms our views and center directly on the image of Jesus Christ.  Billy Graham once said, “I do not love Christianity, I love Jesus Christ” and we must develop the same idea.  The institutional Church needs to redefine what it means to share story and image.  Those who are servants need to know that “leadership” in the 21C requires visual images and compete imagination to express the love of Christ and the movement of the Spirit to render the church useful in the 21C.


Elements of being Visual. 

What I would like to do is explain what the elements of “visual” are and how they work to give those in service the edge they need to truly reach a people who think in image.  Each one of the sections needs to be expresses with an open, loving heart.  It is what I call “being transparent.”  Be ready to express your humanity, accept your flaws and the flaws of others.  We are a people who desire to “become” and not live in “one is.”  We desire growth and learning, not dogma and doctrine.  Transparence means that there are no secretes in the Postmodern world.  Everything is open and expressed.  We do not judge others for there faults; we confess our sins and not the sins of others.  It needs to be expressed at this point, that for some visual is not just pictures, it is also the art of using words to spin a tail, a story that excites the mind and stirs the imagination. 


Visual is creative:

Visual is a creative reality, art, graphics, paintings, style need to be used express the visual of the community of faith.  In servantship one must be more poet then CEOs, more painter the CFOs, more artist then manager, more servant then supervisors.  Visual people are creative people; it is in their DNA.  They create, because they have a need to create.  If they do not, they feel like they will explode.  I have found that most visual people are also very optimistic in their creativity.  Where some would see an obstacle, they see an opportunity; where others see a problem, they see a possibility.  I remember once interviewing with a church planting organization in Arizona.  In our “interview” I was asked by the one of the “leaders” of the group (he pastored one of the larger churches in the Phoenix area) what I felt were some of the “problems” facing the church today?  When I answered that I did not see them as problems, but rather as possibilities he lost his cool and started to tell me how silly I was and how “out of touch with reality” I was.  Needless to say, I did not get the planting position, but I did learn a valuable lesson that day.  Never tell a pessimist that the day looks great.


Servantship means being a “story tellers” (or as I like to think “narrators” and an “illustrator”) of life – story is words expressed with a mind towards the visual, as you speak images flash on the screen and your words are made stronger by the images.  Visual does not drive the image, just the imagery.  One of the most moving expressions I have ever been part of was when for ten minutes, images of the poor, war torn, hurting, homeless and sick were flashed over head as a group of people read passages of scripture – no sermon, not “lesson” spoken.  But the power of the images and words together caused hearts to open and lives to change.  It is in that ability to paint with words, images, ideas and expressions that reach people today.  People need to “see” the church in action and not just hear the words of action.  A servant is one who models what a follower is (not perfect, but forgiven) – it’s “do as I do, because I do as I say.”  If all you do is preach how we need to feed the homeless, and you have no “visual” ministry (a “do” ministry) than all you have are empty words.  Creativity and visual are both “do” – and not “talk.”


When we think in terms of “doing” – creating, being a visual creator – we think in terms of God.  God creates[v]; God creates because he loves us and wants us to enjoy our lives[vi].  Not because He wants us to live like gray zombies, but because his nature is to create that which is visual to us.  When we visualize the creation account we see a picture that is much more then the simple words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  We get a picture that is of a wondrous event.


“In the vast expanse of nothingness comes a voice, a word that creates; a voice that speaks of love and unity; a voice of authority and grace, judgment and forgiveness; a voice that creates.  From this nothingness this voice gives the expression of all and with a word, a single, pointed, meaningful word, the voice creates all that you see, all you feel, all you know, all you sense, you do not see, and all you question.  With one word, this voice, God’s voice, a vision of creation is formed.


God simply speaks a word, "Light!" and throughout the universes light shines and the warmth of the day begins.  Then, God saw that the light he had spoken into was good, so He separated the light and the dark, creating day and nigh, evening and morning and He called it “day one.”


What we need to remember is that to a first century mind, the words became images in their minds – they “saw” what was being spoken to them.  The more “creative” the narrative, the better the pictures.


Visual is empowering:

Being visual is very empowering, for all parties concerned.  People see the visual reality of what it is about and they run with it.  It is not organizational or institutional, it is people based and person driven – it is shared and not controlled, visual empowerment is very organic; I remember when I first started in ministry, I found that people would share their faith with others, if I did; they came to study groups, if I did; they worked in community ministries, if I did – my visual empowered them to ministry.  It also empowered me, because others started to get involved in different ministries, and my time became free – and freedom is empowering.


When people are empowered to do ministry, a great explosion in ministry will happen.  I know of many different churches that claim, “we empower our people to get involved” – but the problem is “we” do not empower – we example and God empowers – empowerment is not “giving permission” to be in ministry.  Empowerment is you doing ministry and others seeing you do what you say is important, then they will do as well.  I know of many pastors who talk about fellowship, but seldom join in fellowship activities; many who say, “make honest friendships with non-believers” yet all their friends are believers; others who speak about feeding the poor, but only show-up to “make an appearance” at a feeding event.  Keep in mind, people do not need permission, they need a visual.


Visual is process:

Never expect visual to happen over night.  Because it is “see and touch” it could take longer, but a servant knows that and allows the process to take hold.  The modern idea of “saved and service” seems a bit out of place today, service takes time and people need to see the visual before they get hooked into the action.  Servantship takes time and it is an investment in time and people.  And it is a reality; when we deal with people (organic) things take a while, when we deal with program (mechanic) things can be faster.  When we understand that we are dealing with people and not a program we come to the realization that this will take time.


Jesus worked with his disciples on a regular basis, and worked to correct them on a regular basis.  Look at how Jesus interacted with his Disciples, at some level it’s like a Three Stooges movie, they just did not seem to get it, but Jesus kept working with them – even when you can tell he was tired of their missing the boat.  Servantship today requires that we be willing to truly invest in the people God sends our way.  It is not what we teach them, it is what they learn in the process.  To truly get to the visual of a person one needs to truly love them, and show that they truly care.  Keeping in mind that words must equal actions.  If people only see you as “talking a good game” they will not want to play.  Take the time to truly get to know the people in your life – those who are striving in the process.  Remember it is not a numbers game.  If you live in process with people, numbers will come – but never count the people, count the time you spend with each person.


All of the postmodern/emerging pastors I know spend a great deal of time with the people around them.  While I would never suggest you make it a mechanical thing, keep track of the time you spend with people – not at church, meetings, or other church things – but truly with people – at home, watching TV, playing video games, walking, riding bikes.  Don’t create a program around the idea of getting to know people – just get to know them.


Visual personal (micro) and tribal (macro):

Seeing the big picture in relationship to the smaller picture is central to visual.  The “smaller” picture is how we as individuals act, while the “bigger” picture is how we all interact together.  Many of the modern books on “leadership” suggest that you take one or the other, while in the emerging visual is a “both/and” reality.


This modern system does not take into account that there can never be enough available information to make a “right decision.”  If the “right decision” is based on meeting future goals, you automatically limit the possibilities because the decision is based on a desired outcome, and not what is currently happening.  Since modern leadership is motivated by meeting goals based on an uncertain future, we must admit that it is impossible to meet the plan because we are moving to an uncertain future.  There are several problems with a modern leadership concept:  being zero flexibility, failure blamed on one-person (usually the Pastor, after all it is his vision, and never the Board – I call this “failure motivation”) outcome is usually measured on hard numbers and not human involvement.  We can see this system as a “modern-planning” system, but we need to understand that long range planning that excludes the organic is dead?  The idea that the “macro” (the big picture) is more important then the “micro” (the little picture) is not a central idea in a postmodern/emerging reality.  In servantship the idea that people count and that helping people is far more important then budgets, is a very important reality.


With visual being both personal and tribal it is highly collective in nature and function – the servant needs to be “empathic” at a core level, and listen to the hearts of the people; it is a very spiritual connection.  The narrative of the visual is not a concrete plan with rules designed to get us to a place we may not desire to be; but rather an organic collective of ideas and conversations that bring us to where God desires us to be.  When we think in terms of the organic, we think in terms of the reality of people and we strive to see the people in everything we do.


Visual is flowing:

Because of it’s tribal nature, the idea that visual must changes on a regular base to truly be valid is a driving force – it “goes with the flow,” if you will; personal and tribal requires an organic look at life and not a stagnant mechanical look.  Flowing, or “going with the flow” means we are able to change directions as the flow changes direction.  It is also an understanding that the personal needs to the tribe are best supplied by meeting the personal needs of the individual.  For example, a local neighborhood Italian Food Store, noticing a change in the neighborhood, starts to add other items to meet the changing needs of the new people in the area.  If they did not understand the flow of visual they could become a “great Italian food store” and close to the competition in the area.  But they get it, and they add different items to increase sales.  When we see the narrative of visual we see a different way of sharing the gospel, we can repeat the story – we can even add to the story – but the bottom line is this – we share the story, and we share our story.  Our visual is to share the gospel, with everyone we know and meet – not just the select few we believe fit the image of our church, or the numbers of our goals.


Visual is Clarity

Visual is clarity vision can get blurry.  While I will never say that visual is concrete, it is not quicksand either.  Being visual allows for clarity of mind, sprit and life.  If the visual gets blurry, it is you and not the picture.  For example, you are looking at a picture.  If the picture gets blurry, it is your eye – your vision – that is getting blurry, the picture stays clear.  Visual stays clear vision gets blurry.  The picture is clear, not overly fuzzy (it can have fuzzy edges).  But just because groups of people do not see the “big picture” does not make it unclear.  It could mean they are in need of a good set of glasses to correct their vision.  What I have found is that when modern minds strive to see a postmodern picture, it is always blurry.  Not everyone will see where you are going, and that’s all right; not everyone needs to get it.  I remember talking with an individual who came to me and said, “I have been coming here for about three weeks and I have to tell you I feel out of place.  Everyone seems to know where we are going but me, I just don’t see the vision of this ministry.”  After a somewhat long conversation, it was determined that the ministry was not where he needed to be – so we helped him find another community of faith were he can “get it.”  To this day, if I see him around town he is thankful for his experience with us and thankful that we found him a place where he fit.



Being visual is one of the key areas for “quantum servanthood” in the 21C.  It allows for people to connect, and express, with others who they are and how God is using them.  Being visual means that you will need to place much more on people and less time on program.  It also means that people will have to be the first and foremost in all ministry areas – over budget and over building.  Modern churches will have a hard time with this thought because they still believe that money drives the ministry.  The central concept of modern leadership is to dictate from the top down what the church will and will not do.  While it “allows” some to suggest certain ministries the “approval” is still “at the top.”  Being visual requires that those “at the top” be truly at the bottom for it to work.  It requires that you take a chance and move past the comfort of “being the boss” to the exciting and meaningful role of getting down and dirty.


[i] - It is suggested that many learners with dyslexia have right-brained dominance. They find that the range of subjects and the style of teaching in school do not play to their strengths and can leave them with a sense of frustration and failure.

[ii] Dyslexia is estimated to occur in about 4-8% of the population

[iii] - Dyslexic people are visual, multi-dimensional thinkers. We are intuitive and highly creative, and excel at hands-on learning. Because we think in pictures, it is sometimes hard for us to understand letters, numbers, symbols, and written words.

[iv]  A quadrilateral with both pairs of

opposite sides parallel and all sides the same length, i.e., an equilateral parallelogram. The word rhomb is sometimes used instead of rhombus, and a rhombus is sometimes also called a diamond.

[v] Genesis 1:1 – it all starts with creation.

[vi] Philippians 4:11-13:  Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”





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