Scripture Reading Challenge (#36)

There are situations that are beyond our control and happen without our permission.  However, there are many other situations that occur as a result of the choices we make.  David was a man after God’s heart.  He was a wise and efficient leader.  However, there was one choice that he made that would impact the rest of his life.  This decision was to have a man killed after choosing to commit adultery.

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25

I preached a message once and called it the giants of David’s life.  We know that David only faced one giant, Goliath in the Bible.  But, metaphorically, there were more encounters with impossible odds and extreme situations.  David’s battle with Goliath was a fantastic display of faith.  However, if it teaches us that faith can take us through the daily spiritual fights that rise and go down fast, then we can allow King Saul to be a giant that David had to endure.  David didn’t cause Saul to seek his life.  He only lived after God and kept doing the right thing.  However, he had to endure for a long time the bloodthirst that possessed Saul.  Still, these giants were not caused by David.  They were just parts of living life in a broken world.

The third giant, however, was David’s only doing.  It was the most dangerous to his soul because it was his sin.  David’s withdraw from the battlefield only illustrates he had let down the defenses of his soul.  Temptation caught him off guard and became entangled to lust for Bathsheba.  David impregnated her and then tried to cover it up, only to have Bathsheba’s husband killed.  David was caught up in sin and couldn’t get out on his own.  In fact, the effects of sin would still be felt by David after he repented.  The sword of conflict would never leave his home.  Sin can be forgiven, but we will reap what we sow until Christ takes us from this broken world.

In conclusion, remember the warning my parents consistently gave me, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).  This isn’t a warning to live your life in fear.  It is a reminder to live your life in holiness and the personal hurt and regret that accompanies sin won’t harm you.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#33)

One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is that of David and Goliath.  This is a story of a young teen facing impossible odds and through the grace of God was victorious.  The stance that David made is admirable.  The faith that he displayed is inspirational.  The commitment he had to God is challenging us to us.

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-18:16

The Spirit can leave a person. Saul is a testimony to this. Scripture reminds us,“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬). The Holy Spirit is the testimony to our soul that we are a child of God (Rom. 8:16). Saul grieved God so deeply and for so long that the Holy Spirit moved away from Saul.  This is the sad condition of many people, and like Saul, they do not repent of their secret or open sins and errant thinking.  Instead, the chasm between them and God widens.

God will raise up leaders after his heart.  The Scriptures substantiates our hopes at this point.  These leaders may not always replace toxic leaders, as in the example of David and Saul.  They may challenge leaders in the wrong, they may only offer a new direction to follow, or they may inspire and bring hope to those while enduring a difficult situation.  God would remove Saul from leadership and David would step up into the position of king.  However, David was leading the people long before he was king.  You lead from proximity and manage from a position.  David spent time with the people while Saul became separated.  Leaders today must guard their relationships if they hope to remain a good leader.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#32)

Did you know that Israel was tempted in keeping up with the Joneses. They were still on the roller coaster of morality and obedience that we found in the book of Judges. Even Samuel, who was a great person, could not keep his children in the fear of the Lord. The people who had not given themselves over to other forms of worship asked Samuel for king. God was not pleased with this but gave them a king. He would eventually use the kingship of Israel in his plan of salvation beginning with the second king. However, God gave them the king they wanted. This is the beginning of Saul.

Read 1 Samuel 8:1-10:27

There is more to be said about wanting to be like someone else. As a nation, Israel wanted to be like the other nations that had kings. There is nothing wrong with being unique and not copying what others are doing. At this time Israel was a theocracy, meaning that God was understood as their sole ruler. They wanted a monarchy, a visible representative of God’s authority in human flesh. Samuel represented God’s holiness, and now Saul would represent God’s divine rule. We can look forward from this point to where the fullness of God was wholly invested in Jesus. In fact, the Greek title, “Christ,” or Hebrew title, “Messiah,” means the “anointed one.” Jesus was the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.

Saul looked the part of a king. At least in everyone’s eyes. He was bigger than anyone else and God even gave Saul a heart to lead. Apparently, Saul could even preach, to the surprise of everyone. However, when it came time to announce him, we are given a hint about his true character and why God had to work in giving him a new heart. First Samuel 10:21-22, noted that after Samuel proclaimed Saul as king, they couldn’t find him. God answered their prayer and told them, “he heath hid himself among the stuff.” Deep inside this man who would be king, was major personality issues that would continue to surface. He did not have courage in several occasions when leading his army. He was jealous, angry, and conniving. He would even compromise his integrity and the Word of God by seeking help from a practitioner of the dark arts. God worked on his heart in the beginning and gave him a fresh start. It was hopeful, but, Saul would not always seek the Lord and it ended up costing him the kingdom.

Scripture Reading Challenge (#6)

Many of us remember, “Father Abraham had many sons.  Many sons had Father Abraham, and I am one of them.  So are you.  So let’s just praise the Lord.”  and all the accompanying motions.  The next section of the Biblical story focuses to Abraham. We first learn that before God changed his name, it was Abram.  We also learn that God gave Abram and his descendants three promises: (1) give them a land, make them a great nation and name, and finally bless the world through them.  Abraham’s story sets up the trajectory for the rest of the story.  Namely, how God would bring redemption to a broken creation.  We see in Abraham the roots to the nation of Israel, but even more, we see the roots of the people of faith.

Read Genesis 12:1-20

Sometimes, Satan is no bigger than 6 inches tall.  Enough to stand on our shoulders and whisper words of doubt and discouragement in our ear.  Abram lived in a place that was the equivalent of a modern-day metropolis.  It also seemed feasible that he had a sizeable inheritance coming to him.  He also had his entire life set up in the land of Ur of the Chaldees.  Still, in an amazing act of faith, Abram packed up his house and family to follow God’s direction.  Perhaps, Satan sat down on Abrams’ shoulder and whispered, “That’s that.” He was leaving a luxurious world for the unknown.

Abram lived in faith, and eventually, God would change his name to Abraham as a reminder that God would keep His promises.  Abraham did not seem to doubt God, but he did have trouble understanding how God would fulfill his plan.  Sometimes he tried to help.  We see an instance of this at the end of our reading today.  Abraham would lie to Pharoah about Sarah in an attempt to preserve their life.  We also see two other times where Abraham would try to help God out with fulfilling the promises of having children (since he and his wife were childless and super old)!  He decided to seek to adopt one of his servants as his son and then had a child with another woman that his wife gave him.  Whew!  Finally, God gave Abraham and Sarah, their son.  God keeps his promises but fulfills them in ways that are beyond our understanding.  We are just called to be faithful and live a life aligned to what we believe.

Christian Planning

The default Christian mixture of planning minimizes the role of people and lifts up our dependence on the leading of God.  The problem is when those that are carnal find themselves in positions of leadership and espouse a spirituality that is a cover up for a laissez-faire attitude toward any type of preparation and planning.   There are those who actually feel unspiritual if any kind of planning takes place in regards to worship or programs that would require planning.  Too much planning is believed to cut God out of the picture and elevates man’s locus of control.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, we see those that plan all the activities of the church in a way that could easily ease God out of the life of the church.

God wants us to search for His will

In First Chronicles 15:1-14 there is a record of David’s preparation for the ark of God to be brought to Jerusalem according to God’s Word.  David lived in a time where the past King (Saul) did what he wanted and had forsaken the counsel of God.  Alfred Edersheim wrote, “It was surely time to restore the ancient worship which had been so sadly disturbed” (Vol. 4, p. 170).  This was a massive undertaking for the new king and ended up being a failure on his first attempt.  This was mainly due to a lack of consulting the written law of God and relying solely on human effort.  David made a second and fruitful effort after seeking God’s will for handling the ark.

In the New Testament the same understanding of seeking God’s, will first before planning and doing.  However, it would also seem that there is still a significant focus upon human involvement in the planning of the life of the church.  As such, much of the New Testament shows that people from different cultures had different understandings of how to planning would take place in the early church.  Such as who should take leadership in the church and who should be taken care of (Acts 6 for example).  Ken Schenk shared, “It makes perfect sense that the concepts of order and peace would play themselves out differently in different cultures, as well as in various groups and denominations today” (p. 201).  Those approaches considered decent in one culture may not have been the case in another.  Culture seems to be an inevitable part of the human side in organizing the life of the church.

Led by the Spirit

Primarily concerning worship, John 4:23-24, transitions our understanding of the mixture of planning in the church by the Divine and human elements.  This passage sets up a strong implication that worship has a high degree of freedom in the Spirit.  Joseph Dongell pointed out that, “Only through divine assistance – through the Holy Spirit – may a person worship God appropriately” (p.80).  If we understand that all of life is worship to God, then the Spirit must also lead any time spent in organizing the life of the church.

What would this mean for an individual such as Charles Grandison Finney, who has made such an impact on the revivalist movement (he popularized the use camp meetings, revivals, choirs, and the altar call)?  Finney pointed out, “That a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means. The means which God has enjoined for the production of a revival, doubtless have a natural tendency to produce a revival” (part 1, paragraph 4).   He was intent on the human side of the mixture, maybe so much that it betrays His understanding that God was the instigator of movements whether they are a revival or other projects the church concerns itself with.

It would be interesting to have seen such an individual of Finney and his method of bringing revival and Anne Hutchinson, a puritan, that led a movement engrossed with the idea of simply being led by the Spirit alone.  Hutchinson wrote, “a believer possessing the Holy Spirit was not bound by laws of conduct but was moved by inner spiritual compulsions” (Noll).  Finney promoted a certain way of doing things and actions that had to complete to prepare the way for the Spirit to take control.  Hutchinson taught that actions flowed from being led by the Spirit.

Balance is the key

It would seem that a balanced understanding of the leading of the Spirit and the importance of human involvement is the necessary approach.  John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “It was cold and lifeless to represent God as a momentary Creator, who completed his work once for all and then left it” (paragraph 1).  To leave God entirely out of the equation would be dangerous and foolish.  Therefore the organization of the life of the church has to be founded upon Him.  James 4:13-17 shares God’s frustration with those who plan and leave Him out of the process.  As it is written, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15).

Yet, it would seem fair to surmise from scripture that the human element of planning is entirely done away.  Our plans and preparations should be made but also allow for the spontaneous change of plans by the Spirit.  Such is the case of the Apostle Paul in Acts 16:6-10.  Paul had a desire to go one direction, but the leading of the Spirit pointed him toward another direction.   It would be essential for any Church leader is that planning is part of the calling but that it is subject to change by the leading of the Spirit.  The leading of the Spirit takes precedence over all organizing.

Conclusion

Saint Augustine wrote that we are to “Pray as though everything depended on God.  Work as though everything depended on you.”  The balance that should be sought in having the right mixture of divine and human elements is one hundred percent on both ends.  God is the author and finisher of everything that we do.  We ought to seek His will on all matters of life, especially as it concerns organizing and making decisions regarding the church.  We also understand that it is impossible to remove the human element of decision-making and even such things as the cultural context on the person.  It is also the will of God to use people to accomplish His divine plan for their life and the local congregational context.

Decisions making, planning and organizing rest upon the leading of the Spirit.  It is up to us as leaders to seek God’s will.  In times where He allows us to have a greater say in the matter, we still pray, “God this is how we see you leading us in the matter.  But, if you desire to change this, we pray that you change it up and lead us by your Spirit.”  There needs to be a confidence that God’s will is being accomplished, even when it seems that human minds and hearts have seemingly done a majority of the planning.  There must also be a surety that God’s ability to bless or change the agreed upon plans by people may come.

References

Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Accessed March 27, 2014, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xvii.html

Edersheim, A. Bible History: Old Testament (Vol. 4, p. 170). Oak Harbor: Logos Bible Software. 1997

Finney, Charles, Lectures on Revival.  Accessed March 27, 2014, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/finney/revivals.iii.i.html

Noll, M. A. Hutchinson, Anne. In (J. D. Douglas & P. W. Comfort, Eds.) Who’s Who in Christian History? Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House. (1992).

Schenck, Kenneth. 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students. Indianapolis, IN, Wesleyan Publishing House. 2006

Preach the Word

In 2011, the deacon of the church I pastor, Jack Roberts, received his eternal reward. He was a praying man, and he loved to pray for his pastor. Many times throughout a sermon, you could hear him praying for souls to be saved, believers to be strengthened, and for the sermon Holy Spirit to continue working through the minister as they preached. In many ways, he was a great encouragement to me in my early years.

When he finished his race, I had a great sense of loss. He was a partner in ministry that regularly lifted me up in prayer, and it made such a difference. I came to a place where a felt burnt out.  It seemed that no matter how much I studied, prayed, and preached, there was a barrier that could not be overcome. That continued for several months, and the Lord reminded me of Who called me to ministry and why. In a dark hour of the night, God illuminated His Word through a book I came across in seminary written by Peter Adams, “Speaking God’s Word.”  Now, I would like like to share my thoughts from Scripture and the theology of preaching with you.

First, God spoke (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Verse 21 is especially enlightening, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Second Timothy 3:16 is also important to keep in mind, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Inspiration in the Greek literally means, “God-breathed.” We serve a God who speaks. Along with several of the Old Testament prophets, the Psalmist pointed out that a difference between the Christian God and the idols of the world is that our God speaks (cf. Psalm 115:3-8; Isaiah 41:21-23, 25-28).

Yes, we serve a God who speaks, and when He speaks, things happen.  This is important for preachers to remember.  The Apostle Paul worded it in 1 Corinthians 2:4, “And my speech and preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of Spirit and of power.” It is important for the minister to study and prepare their sermon, as to preach clearly and with authority.   Do not forget that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

As the Word of God is proclaimed, work is being done in the hearts and lives of people. The minister is to be faithful to perform their God-given task. God will do the rest. Even as we preach to a congregation that seems unmoved, God is at work. When people are confronted by the Word of God, it penetrates deep into their soul. It brings them into the presence of God, and they will either rejoice, repent, or reject His Word. When God spoke, the world was created.  When Jesus spoke people were healed, and sins were forgiven. Today, God’s Word is still potent.  

It was written down (Jeremiah 30:2).

We do not preach our opinions and make religious speeches.  Preaching is the proclamation of what God has revealed to holy men of old. Paul wrote in Romans 15:4 that, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The Bible is our preachment. God has given His Word authority over our lives.  Any sense of authoritative preaching comes from the power invested in the Word of God from on high. It is because God has spoken it and because it is still alive and active today.

God spoke and revealed Himself to specific people, in specific places, at specific times, for specific reasons. His revelation was written down to be preserved for future generations.

Scripture is full of God’s commands to write His Word down (cf. Exodus 24:4-7; Joshua 1:7-8; Isaiah 30:8; Jeremiah 36:2; Habakkuk 2:2; Revelation 1:11). When we preach, we may use our Words to interpret, contextualize, and teach, but it is God’s own Word that convicts and comforts the hearer. Though it was written down thousands of years ago, Scripture remains incredibly relevant.

Moses, the first writing prophet, and many other may have had their focus on their current situation, but God’s instructions to write down His Word was also intended for future generations. In other words, when the writing prophets and apostles received revelation from God, they may have thought they were receiving mail intended solely for them. Instead, the Word they received from God was our mail too. God spoke to their situation, and because that Word was written down, we know that it is for our time as well.  

The Bible is God’s very own Word. It is trustworthy as God has preserved it throughout the ages.  We can know beyond doubt that the Bibles that we hold in our hands and preach from is the Word of God. Jesus taught, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).  First Peter 1:2-4 and 25 states, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”  

As ministers, we are to submit to the authority of God’s Word.  We this because it is right but also as an example to our congregations. Many times the meaning of a passage of Scripture is plain and straightforward. Yet, preacher after preacher will undermine the simple teaching to change what was said.  The problem with a pure and simple meaning is that it often goes against our current lifestyle. Instead of submitting to the authority of God’s clear instruction, we change the Word by inserting wrong opinions and interpretations until Scripture agrees with us. Imagine that if this is taking place in the pulpit, what it does in the pew.  

Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Paul’s charge to Timothy is something many ministers are familiar with from study and their own charge at ordination. Those three words, “Preach the word” are emblazoned on my pulpit as a reminder to the minister of the task before them. God has spoken, and it is written down forms the foundation for us to Preach the word.  The Gospel of Christ’s kingdom has been given, and we are the Kings heralds.  

We have discussed the theological foundations for preaching, but there is one thing to still add.  Preaching is a calling from God.  In my own experience, I had to remember that God is the one that called me to preach the Gospel. It was not the denomination that ordained me to preach, and neither was it the local church.  Our calling is not the result of a nightmare and should not be the result of selfish ambition. God calls us into the ministry and enables us to carry the Gospel, His spoken Word that was written down.  We are charged before God and man to bring God’s Word. Ministry is a high calling because it deals with eternal matters: the Word of God and the souls of men and women.

To preach the Word, once again, we must personally submit to its authority and power.  The Bible lays claim to us, and we are held accountable to it.  Whether we agree with that or not speaks volumes to how we will interpret the Bible. If we are prone to feel that the Bible has a divine authority over our lives, then we are more likely to live by its standards whereas if we feel that the Bible has no teaching rather than living accordingly to our fleshly desires.  

There are typically three views on the Bible as the Word of God.  There is the view that the Bible is the Word of God, another states that the Bible becomes the Word of God. The last says the Bible merely contains the Word of God. While Most Christians would agree that the Bible plays a unique role in connection with the relationship between God and man. They question what kind of role it is, and what the precise nature of the Bible’s consequent authority is. Depending on a person’s presuppositions will determine how they interpret and apply the Bible to their personal life, regardless of being a minister or laymen.

The view that the Bible just becomes the Word of God as we believe it or contains parts of God’s Word to us argues that the text is nothing more than another human writing. Another way of understanding this particular viewpoint is that the preacher or student of God’s Word takes it upon themselves to determine what passages are Scripture and what pieces are not. This view can only lead a person to wrongly dividing the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).

To view that the Bible is the Word of God gives the scripture great authority over our lives. If we think for a moment what we are actually saying when we use the phrase authority of scripture, we must surely acknowledge that this is a shorthand way of saying that power belongs to God and God has invested that power in scripture. The scripture has authority because God claims it as His Word.

So, what does this mean for me?

As we preach the Word as God’s Word, the authority has over our life is passed on to those who hear us. God’s authority lays claim to them, and they are responsible for their reaction to Him.  If we are not faithful to preach the fullness of God’s counsel from Scripture, the blood of people is on our hands. If we are faithful to preach the fullness of Scripture, the consequences of their response are upon themselves. This is a strong message from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel (3:17-21, 33:1-9).

This responsibility upon the hearer is also recorded in the New Testament as Jesus concludes His sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:24-27). The story of the wise and foolish builders relay to us the importance of what we do with God’s Word. Those who do God’s Word are like a wise man that builds on the rock, “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (vs. 25). Those individuals who hear the Word of God but do not obey are likened to the foolish man who builds his house on the sand, “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (vs. 27). As far as we know, the two men used the same blueprints for their homes and were identical in every way except one, their response to God’s word (the foundation) was different. In the judgment, we will give an account to our response to God’s revelation of Himself through the written Word.  We will stand if we build on God’s Word, but we will fall if we do not.

Preacher, remember the Words of Paul to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can trust that God’s Word is His Word.  We can rest that as it was transmitted through the years that the Holy Spirit preserved it for us today. Hence, now to every preacher I say with the apostle Paul, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2:1-2).

Related Posts

The Preacher’s Library

Studying Scripture and the role of the Holy Spirit

Reference

Adams, Peter (2004) Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching. InterVarsity Press.  Downers Grove, IL

Nehemiah – God’s Change Agent (Ch. 3)

Projects are sometimes complicated and slow.  However, the organization of a group can prove to be a useful companion in accomplishing tasks.  Chapter three shares in a detailed log how the people were divided into groups (primarily by families) and the particular area that they rebuilt and repaired.  It is the first of four lists of names found in the book (3, 7, 10, and 11-12).  Skipping over these lists is tempting.  However, in our approach toward leadership and change, we find two critical lessons from this chapter: appreciation and strategic change.

Appreciation

I usually consider it dangerous to recognizing people during a church service as either guest or for appreciation because often someone is left out unintentionally.  Still, people like to feel appreciated.  The reward for faithfulness is great for strengthening people’s loyalty, the direction they are going, and for their personal encouragement.  This can take place with sending a letter, an uplifting word, public recognition, a gift or something else befitting the work and person receiving the appreciation.  For these people, Nehemiah is giving them an enduring legacy in God’s Word.

Strategic Change

We have already talked about burden, vision, and mission but we now change direction toward putting things to work.  For leaders to create movement from the present reality toward the future vision, the intentional creation of a strategic plan for change is needed.  And, there are plenty of good, solid theories about how change takes place.  However, when it comes to Churches, they have a unique and spiritual design.  This happens because of the focus of the church is on worshipping God and making disciples.  The goals of the church are different than that of other non-profit or profit organizations.

How should Churches proceed?  Well, the first step forward has been created in the previous two chapters.  Prayer, carrying a burden, speaking with other leaders and creating a shared vision, understanding the resources available, and the size of the task have all been important pieces of change.  First, let’s look at Scripture and its encouragement to planning as a wise endeavor if we seek to keep God first.

  • “Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel.” (Psalm 20:4)
  • “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15)
  • “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.” (Proverbs 14:8)
  • “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” (Proverbs 14:15)
  • “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
  • “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness, but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5)
  • “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28)
  • “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:15-18)
  • “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:14-15)

So, what is a strategic plan?  Basically, it is a tool for keeping an organization focused on whatever is considers to be its vision and mission.  For churches, this is making disciples. Helping individuals and families follow Jesus is our great commission.  It is easy to become distracted, and the main thing is no longer the main thing.  It helps a group become aligned in their particular gift sets, personalities, and the resources accessible to them.  It is the road map between the present reality of the organization to the preferred future.

Developing a Strategy

What does the strategic plan include?  Well, that will be different depending on the congregation.  It’s not that the goals are different (each church should be trying to fulfill the great commission) and it is certainly not that God is different anywhere else.  He is always the same.  What is different is the people, who have each been created with their own gifting.  The resources available to that group is also different.  However, each congregation has equal access to the Holy Spirit, and none should be paralyzed by the thought of the impossible.

The strategy begins with an understanding of where the organization is currently.  SWOT is a useful tool to analyze with, and surveys can help leaders gauge where the organization stands.  Some of my personal favorite surveys have focused on church health.  Church health surveys, in my opinion, are more geared toward the dynamics of ministry rather than church growth perspectives.  The ABC’s of church growth (Attendance, buildings, and cash flow) have their place in helping a church understand what it available to it but can mislead leaders and volunteers to lose their way.  A church health focus helps a church stay centered on impacting lives for eternity.

From this point, leaders can then create the actions steps as they feel the Spirit leading.  With the end in mind, the leaders will typically plan for where they envision and desire for the organization to be in ten years.  At this point, return to thinking about one year out.  What action steps will you need to be taking in one year to aim towards the ten-year goal?  You can either go year by year or even look at every couple of months.  However, I will look at just another year for example.  You can put new goals for that year, but there is another perspective that needs to thought of in each subsequent year.  That is the progression of the previous year’s actions.  If your organization keeps practicing the previous benchmarks behaviors, what will be the results?  It is important to keep evaluating and realigning along the way.  We will see this in the next chapter of Nehemiah.