STRATEGIC PLANNING – THE MISSING STEP – PASSION

By Dr. Ray Ellis

John 4:35 – Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest?’ I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

Zechariah 4:6 – “Not by might, nor by power but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

As we plan for the future the organizational steps of strategic planning are helpful.

We need to study and know culture. We need to know church growth principles.

It is helpful to debate the homogeneous principle taught by Dr. Donald McGavran.

We should be committed to studying relevant and cutting edge methods and technology. Part of our strategy is finding out what the Holy Spirit is blessing and get in on it.

Often the missing step in strategic planning is PASSION. It is paramount that we don’t leave out the work of the Holy Spirit in our planning.

We constantly need to rekindle and renew our passion for lost people. We dare not lose our first love as we hunger and thirst after the newest church growth program out in the market place.

I agree with the authors of Marketing for Congregations by Norman Shawchuck, Philip Kotler, and Bruce Wrenn: “The best marketing plan in the world cannot compensate for spiritual lethargy or confusion, so that none are able to listen in the silent closets of the heart where God awaits to communicate with us. Nor can a marketing plan counterbalance a lack of vision.”

I would add, a marketing plan can not compensate for a lack of passion and love for people who are not yet members of the Family of God.

The Apostle Paul reminds us: “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making a meaningless noise like a loud gong, or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love, I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.” I Cor. 13:1-3

If we are culturally relevant, but have not love, it profits us nothing. If we preach great sermons, but have not love, we are making noise like a loud gong. If we take mission trips and pay out tithe, but have not love, we are like clanging cymbals.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in their recent book, Total Church, A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community have a good word to say about passion: “Attendance at meetings, involvement in evangelism, an ability to handle the Bible, starting new initiatives, a reputation for being sound or radical, all of these, in and of themselves, indicate nothing unless they are a heart response to the deep, passionate love of God and emerge out of a deep, passionate love for God.” P. 204

Jesus said, “Look on the fields they are ripe unto harvest. John 4:35 – What is our response, “So what?” or “Who cares?” The farmer who planted the seed has great concern. He looks at his field with passion.

Are we planting and sowing seed? Are we planning on a harvest? What is our vision in planting?

I saw a drawing of vision. One picture was a fisherman with a hole cut in the ice to catch a fish. The hole in the ice was about a foot wide. The other fisherman had cut a hole five feet wide. Who had the greater vision?

The right vision attracts commitment and energizes people.

The right vision creates meaning in workers’ lives.

The right vision establishes a standard of excellence.

The right vision bridges the present and future.

We are committed to prayer and fasting and coaching congregations toward health and implement outreach ministries because we are not satisfied with little or no harvests.

Preparing for harvest whether harvesting wheat or adding to the Kingdom of God is hard work. To have a great wheat harvest of 40-50 bushels per acre take lots of preparation. First you plow the fields, then disc and harrow the ground. At the right time you drill and plant the grain. You wait for adequate snow and rain and sunshine.

Then at the right time, not to early or to late, you start the combine and harvest the wheat. You spend long days in the field. You use the latest equipment available to harvest the grain before it rains or hails and ruins the crop.

Jesus said, “Look on the fields, they are ripe unto harvest.” The “look” is a look of passion.

A church planter can drive through a city and see great potential for Kingdom growth. He knows that where there is little vision people perish. People of vision and faith are not problem minded, they’re opportunity minded. They feed opportunities and starve problems.

As leaders God is calling us to have the “look” of passion as we plan to go to the next level in our churches.

Louzes and Posner in Leadership Challenge write: “Leaders are pioneers. They are people who venture into unexplored territory. They guide us to new and often unfamiliar destinations. People who take the lead are the foot soldiers in the campaigns for change. The unique reason for having leaders – their differentiating function, is move us forward. Leaders get us going someplace.”

As we lead our churches and conferences to the next level we are open to making changes to sharpen the sickle for a greater harvest.

As we develop our spiritual strategic plans and future mapping let’s not miss the step of passion.