Part 6 of series: Planning and Goals: Is There Room for the Holy Spirit?
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What We Can Do to Make Room for the Holy Spirit in Strategic Planning and Goal Setting: Section E
So far I’ve outlined six attitudes and/or actions will help us be open to the Spirit’s guidance in the midst of our strategic planning and goal setting:
1. Acknowledge the sovereignty of God.
2. Listen for the “bass note” of biblical theology.
3. Respect the ways God has led in the past.
4. Recognize that God’s new wine requires new wineskins.
5. Acknowledge that God uses all we are for his purposes.
6. Be open to the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.
Today I’ll add yet another item to the list.
7. Recognize that the gifting and discernment of the Holy Spirit happens primarily in Christian community.
In the period of the Old Testament, God spoke to Israel primarily through inspired individuals. Moses was the singular lawgiver (with Aaron as his spokesman). Similarly, the prophets delivered God’s word in what was often a solitary, lonely occupation. (Photo: Charlton Heston, who provided on of the great cinematic portrayals of Moses, died two days ago.)
To be sure, God continues to speak to and through inspired individuals. But, in the New Testament era, the context in which the Spirit of God speaks and leads is the community of gathered Christians. This point is assumed throughout much of the New Testament, and made explicit in several places, most obviously in 1 Corinthians 12-14. There, the gifts of the Spirit are given through individuals for the community. The community discerns what is authentically from the Spirit.
Practically speaking, the communal context for the Spirit’s guidance means that if a planning process is going to be successful in the effort to clarify God’s will, then each person involved needs to be willing to participate, both in giving and receiving. Ideally, each individual will own the possibility of being a channel of the Spirit’s guidance. And, each individual will be open to hear and to discern what the Spirit says through others.
The willingness both to speak and to listen doesn’t come naturally to most people, in my experience. Some folks are comfortable with speaking but not very good at listening. Others are great listeners, but reticent to speak out. To some extent this is fine. But extremes are to be avoided. Those who are more inclined to speak must learn to quiet down and listen attentively. Those who are afraid to speak must develop the courage to let others know what God might be putting on their hearts.
The fact that every person can contribute to the building up of the body of Christ, whether in a worship setting or a planning meeting, is suggested by Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26:
What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Actually, the original Greek of this verse lacks the telltale word “or” in “or an interpretation.” In Paul’s view, every person can add one or more gifts, according to the leading of the Spirit.
This verse also suggests the attitude that is necessary for such a group process to be successful. Those who participate, either in speaking or in listening, must seek to “build up” the body. If they’re too wrapped up in themselves, seeking either their own glory or their own safety, then the process will be impoverished. When Christians gather in unity, seeking most of all to build up the body of Christ, then the planning process can be an effective vehicle of the Spirit’s guidance.