Churches and Christian organizations live in the overlapping of two worlds—the secular and the sacred. On the one hand, their mission is from God, but on the other, the work is done in the practical world. When a decision needs to be made, what should the Christian leader do? Should he or she plan, or should they pray?
A Christian organization is made aware of a cash flow crisis that will land the organization in bankruptcy in 90 days. The board chairman dismisses talks of strategy, fundraising, and communication and insists that board members should pray and wait on God’s provisions, since man’s plans will not be sufficient. No attempt is made to plan.
A Christian organization is facing declining membership, participation, and donations. A board member responds by insisting that the solution to their problem will be solved with a comprehensive strategy of giving surveys, soliciting member feedback, developing a marketing angle, and then reorganizing around what their constituents want to see. No call to prayer is issued.
Each scenario represents the extremes that churches and Christian organizations resort to in tumultuous times. Christian organizations rightfully depend on prayer, since it is an exercise of their faith—at the core of their values and beliefs. In a board or council setting, skilled business leaders will attempt to assess, think through, and strategize—and rightfully so, since they see these best practices work every day in their vocational setting.
In the Christian organization there can be a real tension between planning and prayer, strategy and supplication, and intelligence and enlightenment. Is the more spiritual choice the better choice, or should pragmatism rule? Is there a compromise, balance, or mixture—a ratio of sacred to secular that represents both God’s will and a solution in the “real” world?
1. The Faith of Prayer
I have assumed the Christian worldview and I am writing from that perspective. For a majority of readers I am preaching to the choir, since you may be a Christian. If you are not, then it will be a glimpse into practical Christian belief.
It stands to reason that leaders and managers in Christian organizations will be people of prayer since their vocation and volunteerism is organized around the Missio Deo—the mission of God. Over and over in the Bible, believers are commanded, encouraged, and exhorted to pray. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and rebuked them when they fell asleep during prayer over a crisis. Jesus took a whip into the Temple and drove out the secular businessmen shouting, “My house shall be called a house of prayer!”
You would not anticipate it, but many times even believers and Christian organizations can fail to adequately and appropriately make prayer the key component in their decision-making, vision, and strategy. Every church, Christian school, Christian business, Christian university, and Christian organization should have a designated intercessor—a person who will pray for the organization and require other leaders to diligently seek God in prayer—even before any ideas are discussed.
Do not forget! Prayer is important to the believer since this is how he or she may find the right direction with very limited time, information, and resources. Prayer is a priority!
2. The Function of Planning
I am huge on ideas, vision, planning, and strategy. I love it. I do not apologize for it. The harder the better! Planning has a real and serious function in any business or organization—even those who are Christian, religious, and/or non-profit.
Consider the examples of Scripture. First, Moses listened to his father-in-law, Jethro, and took his organizational advice on how to oversee and resolve disputes through delegation and prioritization. Second, Nehemiah went through a process of assessing the walls of Jerusalem, presenting his vision to the king, recruiting leaders, and organizing a workforce to rebuild the walls. Third, Joseph not only interpreted Pharaohs’ dream for him, but he also recommended a strategy of appointing a leader to manage the resources of Egypt and save for the future. Finally, Jesus—our Savior—stated,
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Even our discipleship requires careful deliberation, thought, and planning!
Planning, strategy, and plans of action are not completely secular or business-oriented. Planning is very biblical, since much design and precision is inherent to Creation. Additionally, planning is a function of the intellect and logic God has generated in the human mind. Just like each Christian organization ought to have a designated intercessor, each should also have a designated interrogator—someone willing and able to ask “what” and “how” so that ideas discussed in meetings are implemented for the success of the mission and the glory of God. Remember, God’s work is too important to neglect strategy and planning.
3. The Fusion of Both
So do we pray or plan? Which way should we lean as believers and business leaders? In my opinion, both are warranted and necessary. To pray and wait on God to do something you could or should do is spiritualized laziness—I believe the Bible teaches God will not honor that attitude. To plan without serious asking God for guidance is making an idol of your ideas—again, contrary to the Christian life.
The solution is found in the fusion of prayer and planning. In the examples given of Moses, Nehemiah, Joseph, and Jesus as planners, they were also serious men of prayer. Prayer and planning are not enemies, they are brothers who when synchronized result in God’s will accomplished in any situation.
So how does it look? Start first with prayer. Let God speak to an open mind, let God grip a tender heart, and let God paint on a clean canvas. Let the vision flow from God. Then, as you begin the process of assessment, ask God to help you see the real issues and guide you to the right people for advice. Then, as you plan, continually pray and ask God to provide peace and confidence in the direction and choice that accomplishes his purposes.
I would love to hear your comments or thoughts of prayer and planning in Christian organizations.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2017
Pastor, leader, designer, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Over 20 years of leadership experienced earned by making mistakes and learning from them. He regularly consults and provides leadership development for leaders and organizations who want to grow. To schedule, click here: CONTACT