There is certainly nothing “unspiritual” about planning. But, it is very possible to do “unspiritual” planning. In other words, it is very possible to plan purely from human wisdom and experience and gifting and leave God out of the process.
So, what does it look like to make sure my planning is “spiritually” energized?
There is an Old Testament story that gives us some insight into that question. In Exodus 18 the people of Israel were headed to the Promised Land. Moses had been separated from his wife and boys, so his father-in-law, Jethro now brings Moses family back to him. The following day Jethro tagged along and went to work with Moses.
Moses took his seat and from morning until evening settled disputes and served as the only judge for more than two million people. Think of all the wasted time spent waiting in line to get a few minutes with Moses. It was worse than the DMV office.
Any dispute that could not be settled was brought to him, no matter how small or big. When Jethro watched this for a day, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” That’s a nice way of saying, “Have you lost your mind?”
Listen to Moses’ response: “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.” What was painfully obvious to Jethro wasn’t obvious to Moses at all. It’s like he says, “That’s just how we roll here. There are a lot of needs, and people come to me looking for help. I just stay at it and work until everyone gets an answer.” Sometimes we are so accustomed to doing things one way that we can’t see how broken the system really is.
Jethro responded, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” Moses was the bottleneck of a system that was broken and creating dysfunction, wasting time, and wearing everyone out.
When we have poorly devised and poorly functioning systems, we will wear out ourselves and our team.
Pray. Teach. Delegate.
Jethro proposes a three-pronged solution: Pray. Teach. Delegate. Moses was to pray and take the people’s needs before God. He was to teach the people so they would know God’s laws and be able to settle most disputes themselves. And, he was to find faithful men and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundred, fifties, and tens.
This passage is very reminiscent of Acts 6. As the numbers and needs of the early church were increasing, the apostles began to see a potential problem. They were increasingly being drawn into solving problems and meeting needs, both of which are important in every church. But the problem was that it would take them away from their primary focus of prayer and the ministry of the Word.
As spiritual leaders their first and primary calling was to talk to God on behalf of people (prayer) and talk to people on behalf of God (ministry of the Word).
That is a good reminder for us. As you think about planning for the next ministry season, don’t neglect to include prayer.
Here is a question worth considering: How do we meaningfully integrate prayer into our planning process?
I love how the story concludes in Exodus 18. Jethro offers the hope of a preferred future, “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
When we do ministry God’s way we are better for it and so are our people.
Lance Witt is the founder of Replenish Ministries, an organization devoted to ministering pastors to help them become healthy, holy, and humble. He also serves as the Pastor for Strategic Development at Thomas Road Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. replenish.net