The Man with a Plan
Some pastors are good at planning and setting long term goals. They have specific objectives for 10 years out and a plan for getting there. And then there's me. I could plan the next decade too. That is, if I can do it one day at a time. The only date on my calendar next month is Buddha’s appointment to get neutered. And I only scheduled that after a threat from my ex-military neighbor with 9 blind poodles.
I have an extreme dislike for planning. I also have a serious allergy to mission statements. I break out with a fierce urge to go west. On a horse. Now. Just the word ‘vision’ sends me into a coma. But one Saturday in 1993 while clipping Buddha’s nails, I began thinking about our church’s future. Why? I saw my wife’s calendar which informed me our annual vision meeting is tomorrow night.
And what does a leader do if he’s in a panic? Call Mom. Her advice: ‘Look over your goals from past years. Then read past ministry logs to see how you did at reaching your goals. Maybe it’ll stir up ideas.” Or 'my fear of commitment' I thought. Or it'll stir up my allergies and we could cancel! What I first noticed is that our vision meeting was postponed every year. Not much has changed. It’s April and I'm still unsure what our aim should be this year. Here’s what I found in past ministry logs.
Planning session for 1993: Our goal this year is to zero in on evangelism. Our motto for this year will be ‘Set the world free in 93’. We will present our vision and plans Sunday night, January 17th.
Daily Ministry Log for 1993: (Highlights)
Sunday night, Jan 17: Tried to launch vision. Forgot about AFC playoffs and the team we all root for is playing. 20 in attendance. Counted 12 hand held radios with earplugs. One belonged to Ralph, the organist. Who unintentionally picked up the pace in ‘Rock of Ages’. Everyone left early. Except Buddha.
Sunday, Jan. 31st: 2nd attempt to launch vision for setting the world free. Didn’t forget about the Super Bowl. But I knew our team wasn’t in it. What I didn’t consider is America’s devotion to this sacred holiday. Attendance: 5 women and Buddha. Identified only 1 handheld radio. My wife’s.
Sunday, Feb 14: 3rd attempt. Sermon title: ‘Set the world free in 93’. I forgot it was Valentines. The ladies expected a Valentines sermon. So I quickly titled it “If you love something, set it free”. And preached my original sermon about vision. The women weren't happy. Especially one. And the men were frantically trying to make Valentine cards out of the bulletin. (It doesn't work. I've tried.)
Sunday, Feb 28: I had to abort my 4th vision night attempt after the Gideon speaker went on and on about his neighbor’s goat ‘Billy’. Who ate two pocket-size nurse editions he left on the back porch. Claims it reformed the old goat. Hogwash! I know that goat and he hasn’t changed at all!
Sunday, March 7: A full house! Why? Promised a potluck and a short vision presentation. Here it is.
There are sheep. Then there are goats.
Thank God, the goats are fewer.
So let’s pave the parking lot and get a new sewer.
Gus told our deacons ‘Best vision night ever! Let’s do it every year. Just cut the vision part shorter.’
Planning session for 1994: Focus: Discipleship. Motto: ‘Your soul needs more in 94’. Plan: Small groups that are designed to foster spiritual growth and promote accountability with each other.
Daily ministry log for 1994: A typo in the bulletin said our focus this year is ‘Accounting Ability’. And I'm not the one to teach on accounting. (I use the envelope system. Without envelopes.)
So I preached a Valentine’s sermon. (It was still January.) The ladies loved it. Only problem: they think this year’s focus is romance. A few men balked. They said ‘accounting ability’ is the theme we need. Claimed no one is held accountable for our accounting. So I asked for an example. They asked ‘Did you know we'll need to pull from your salary fund to pay off the parking lot and sewer?
I wanted to change our motto to ‘Your pastor needs more in 94’. But I decided to trust God and those managing our budget. In all the confusion, I decided to not even present a vision this year.
No one noticed it’s absence.
We had a great year. 'Our souls found more in 94'
I know there's a lesson here. Just not sure what it is.
Planning session for 1995: Focus: Community. Motto: ‘Hi-five in 95!’ Plan: Bi-weekly potlucks.
Plus the men want a Fall class on Monday nights. To watch video sermons or whatever else is on.
Daily ministry log for 1995: Attendance doubled. Every other Sunday. Men’s group has tripled.
Planning session for 1996: Our plan this year is to not plan anything.
Daily Ministry Log for 1996: Everything went exactly as planned.
After reading all this, I realized why I don’t like planning. For years, I painstakingly wrote out my plans for the coming year. A script of what I think should happen. The problem is no one sticks to the script! Not my family, not the church, not the weather. Not even God! He keeps missing His cue. In fact, I’m not even sure He reads the script! Why bother planning my life if life won’t stick to the plan?
In hindsight, there is one thing I might stop planning.
And that’s for everything to go as planned.
So am I ready for tonight’s vision meeting? (Which I was reminded of by this morning’s bulletin.) To my surprise, I am. I finally found a plan for my own life. To follow the man instead of a plan. Who is 'the man’? Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. We're wired to follow a living person. Not a static plan.
If I’m lost in the Himilayas, don't give me a map. I need a veteran sherpa who knows the mountain. Jesus is one ‘sherpa’ I trust. A leader worth following. And I'll lead others well if I follow Him well.
But a church needs a plan! Yes, but whose? Shouldn't the head of the church lead it? My Mom said
‘Don’t ask God to bless your plans. Find His plan. That’s the plan He’ll bless.’ And His plan is Christ.
This was my topic this morning and will be our focus this year. Motto: Follow the Master. So I asked, “Are you following the Master?” Gus thought I said ‘masters’ plural. So he said out loud 'I think our pastor loves golf a bit too much! Pete cheered and said 'It's a sign from God! The Masters are on tonight! So Art said 'Let's grill burgers and watch the Ten Commandments. Or whatever else is on.'
I'm confused. How is that supposed to win friends and influence people?