Part 2 of series: Planning and Goals: Is There Room for the Holy Spirit?
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As I explained yesterday, strategic planning can be perilous for Christians and Christian organizations. It can be a time to project our personal goals onto God. And once we have our goals, they can keep us from being open to God’s guidance in our lives. But I do believe that there is room for the Holy Spirit to work in strategic planning, especially if we do nine things. Today I’ll begin to spell these out.
1. Acknowledge the sovereignty of God.
God is King of kings and Lord of lords. His will is always best. Thus the goal of strategic planning for Christians is to discern God’s will. If a planning process is going to be a context for the Spirit to work, then participants need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, not just as a theological truism, but as the guiding principle for their work.
Practically speaking, when we enter into a planning process, either for our own lives or for a Christian ministry, we need to offer ourselves to God afresh. In particular, we need to lay our personal agendas before the Lord, submitting ourselves to him without reservation. I realize, of course, that this is virtually impossible, since we always hold back parts of ourselves from the Lord. But to the extent we are able, we must own that he is sovereign over our lives. This kind of admission should be made privately, but also by the planning group as a whole.
2. Listen for the “bass note” of biblical theology.
The bass note in a musical ensemble, whether a classical symphony or a contemporary rock-and-roll number, provides the basis, the frame, the solidness in which the other notes resound. If the bass note is a C, for example, then the other notes will only sound right in relationship to this fundamental C.
So it is with biblical theology and strategic planning. Most planning processes won’t include a great deal of explicit Bible study. But the “bass notes” of Scripture must echo throughout the process if it is to be guided by the Holy Spirit. For example, one of the deepest and loudest bass notes of the Bible is the mission of God to redeem his creation, including humanity. The strategic planning of a Christian organization, therefore, must have a missional ring to it.
Therefore, participants in a planning process must look at their work from a biblical perspective. They should let the Scripture fill their minds and hearts as they plan. In the end, they should be able to show how their goals are consistent with biblical values and priorities.
3. Respect the ways God has led in the past.
The point of Christian planning is to discern God’s future and make appropriate steps to realize it. Planning, by definition, is a future-directed enterprise. But planning that makes room for the Spirit will take seriously what God has said and done in the past. By this I’m speaking of the biblical past, but also of more recent times as well.
For example, when I became Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, it was not my role to discount everything God had done through our founding pastor, Ben Patterson, and his colleagues. Even though Ben might not have done everything perfectly (and which of us does?), I needed to respect ways that God had led him in the past. So, for example, I did not do what sometimes happens when a new pastor comes to town and jettison all worship traditions, replacing them with the hottest new thing. Rather, I worked within the traditions Ben had left for me. This wasn’t only to keep the people in the congregation from casting me off the nearest cliff. It was also a way for me to respect what God had done in Ben and other leaders in the past history of the church.
Respect for the past doesn’t mean being bound by it. I’ll have more to say about this in my next post in this series.