Can You Predict the Future?

Can you predict the future? Think about the last time you made plans for an outdoor event or activity. Did the weather work out the way you hoped it would?

No matter how hard we may try, we cannot predict the future accurately. Sometimes we get it right, but just as often we get it wrong. This can leave us with a sense of dread.

Instead, it should push us towards faith – faith in the One who can predict the future. We should acknowledge our limits and lean on the one Person who knows our past, our present, and our future. We should trust Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ’s ability to predict the future was highlighted during the weeks that led up to His death, burial and resurrection in Jerusalem. Just before approaching the capital city, He took His followers aside and explained to them that He was about to die. He told them He would mocked, scourged, and crucified, but on the third day he would be raised back up to life (Matthew 20:17-19).

Jesus had made many other hints and declarations of His death and resurrection; this was just the most direct. Not only does it underscore His dedication to God’s plan for redemption, it also helps to explains why He made it a point to tell His follows about His death and resurrection before it ever happened (Matthew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 27:63, 28:6).

This last prediction was meant to help His followers find their part in God’s plan for redemption. In Matthew 20:18, Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem.” The rest of His statement implies that He was sharing more than travel instructions. He was sharing how His followers would be involved in and affected by the coming events. The Jewish officials would condemn Him to death. The Roman authorities would carry out that sentence. And His followers would have a front row seat to what happened next.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a historical fact, it’s the focal point of God’s plan to redeem the world. The clues that the Savior dropped along the way to Jerusalem were shared as request for all His followers, past and present. They were meant as an invitation to share in His death and His resurrection.

Easter is a reminder that “He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6). It is also an invitation to put our faith in the Savior who defeated sin and death on our behalf. It’s an opportunity to follow the One who knows our past, our present, and our future.

A Fresh Way to Craft a Strategic Plan for Your Church

There are several ways to build a strategic plan for your church. Here is a fresh way that may help you achieve clarity and buy-in.

A strategic plan is a document that establishes the mission, vision, values, and strategy for a church, organization, or business. Instead of being framed and hung on a wall, a strategic plan is meant to shape what happens down the hall and in every corner of the organization. A biblical strategic plan for a church is theology in action.

There are two approaches that churches use most often in establishing their strategic plans. The first is what I call “the leader on the mountain” approach. This is where the senior leader (typically the senior pastor) gathers his thoughts and ideas and shares them with a select group of leaders in a meeting or the whole congregation in a sermon series. The “the secret committee” approach is where the church elects a select group of members to research the options, formulate their recommendations, and then to share them with the congregation.

Each of these two pathways has their own strengths, but they also have weaknesses. This blog post about a fresh way to craft a strategic plan that features both clarity and buy-in from the congregation. This way could be called “the open invitation” approach. Here’s how we used it recently to establish a strategic plan in the church that I serve as senior pastor.

First, I gathered information about the basic components of a strategic plan for a church: mission, vision, values, and strategy. I found a biblical background for each component and reacquainted myself with today’s “best practices.” Care was taken to search out the best goals and ministries for our particular context.

Second, I announced that our church would gather for a series of meetings to “rediscover” our purpose and plan as a church. These meetings were held over a period of five weeks and open to anyone who wanted to attend. I used the idea of “rediscovery” to tie our future plans back into our history and legacy as a a congregation.

Each meeting included some form of collaboration and feedback in the form of question and answer, round-table discussion, story-boarding, or written comments. I engaged with several participants one-on-one after the meetings and in-between meetings during the week. Ongoing feedback was incorporated as we moved closer to our completed plan.

Third, I shared a summary of our shared results in a public message to the church body the Sunday following our last weekly meeting. The message was framed as plan for a “new season of ministry” at the church, rather than the end of series of meetings. Since that presentation, I have been working with the church staff and other leaders to implement our new strategic plan.

Strategic planning is a must for any organization, especially a church. The “open invitation” concept certainly has its weaknesses, but its strengths seem to loom larger in a church and season of ministry that requires a great deal of trust and thoughtful interaction. Church leaders who are looking for a fresh way to craft a strategic plan should consider this approach.

Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Are You Carrying a Bronze Shield?

bronze sheildAre you carrying a bronze shield?

Revitalization is tough.  When difficult times come into an organization, there is a temptation to ignore reality and pretend things are just fine.  That’s what Judah’s king, Rehoboam, did. When his nation fell on hard times, Rehoboam went into denial and built a set of bronze shields.

To understand the significance of this, we need to rehearse a little Old Testament history.  In 1 Kings 14:21, we learn that Rehoboam was the son of Solomon.  Because Rehoboam acted foolishly during his coronation, God split the nation of Israel and only allowed Rehoboam to rule over the much smaller nation of Judah. As king, Rehoboam took evil to a whole new level, leading his people to do everything that the Canaanites had done that had gotten them kicked out of the Promised Land (v. 22-24).

When Solomon was king, he had so much gold, that silver was worthless.  Solomon lined his palace with 200 large and 300 small golden shields that eventually became a symbol of Israel’s prosperity and security.  These shields were passed down to Rehoboam, but not for long.  In Rehoboam’s 5th year as king, God allowed Egypt to defeated Judah and take away all their treasure, include the golden shields.  This loss signaled the end of an era and the loss of God’s blessing and protection (v. 25-26).

Instead of facing reality and admitting his sin, Rehoboam had a set of bronze shields made to replace the golden shields that were lost.  In order to show that things were just as spectacular as they were in his father’s day, Rehoboam had his palace guards carry the bronze shields out in public whenever he went to the temple.  But when they returned to the palace, they put the “show” shields away (v. 26-28).

Rehoboam will forever be remembered as the king who spilt the nation of Israel and lost Solomon’s treasure.  His legacy should be an eternal warning to Christian leaders and even churches today who construct and carry a “bronze shield.”  Instead of being open and honest about their present difficulties – and changing – some people would rather recreate things that were successful in the past so they can preserve their reputation.  Ministries, programs, or emphases can all become “bronze shields” when they become excuses for going through the motions.

Here are 3 warning signs you or your church is carrying a “bronze shield.”

  1. Consequences, conclusions, and change are avoided.
  2. Energy is expending to recreate the past.
  3. Things that are done in public are not repeated in private.

Does that describe you or your church?  If so, are you willing to put down your “bronze shields” for a chance to be restored?