Monday, October 31, 2005


Proverbs 16:4,9 says, “The Lord works out everything for his own ends….in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

There are opportunities that the Lord brings for which you cannot plan. Because of this we spend less time in formal planning and goal setting, and more time trying to be ready.

Our approach to planning at Christ the King is less like a canon ball being fired at a fortress and more like a heat-seeking missile tracking a moving target. When the pillar of cloud and fire moves, we’ll move with it. We are continually looking for the genius of the Holy Spirit as we chart our course.

Instead of predicting what will happen, we try to find things to exploit. Instead of forecasts, we feel we need instant decision making. Instead of trying to hit goals, we try to increase our willingness to take chances. The importance of speed means a shift from prediction, foresight, and planning to building in flexibility, courage, and faster reflexes. Intended results and useful tools are more important than a detailed plan. As General George S. Patton observed, “Successful generals make plans to fit circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans.” This distinction may be particularly important in the kingdom of God, where our plans - no matter how big – are too small for God.

We are trying to attempt something so big that it is doomed to failure unless God is in it. The question we want to ask is not, “Can we afford to do it?” but “Is it a great thing for God?” We want to let go of the arrogance of knowing and move toward wonder and reverence. We want to move from the black and white zone of control toward the gray zone of greater openness.

A lot of planning that goes on in churches pushes the present into the future. The better and biblical approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction.

Long range planning can be an attempt to turn life into a predictable science. Sometimes complicated plans can be a subconscious attempt to avoid doing, to avoid growing, to avoid faith.

At CTK we live with an emotional paradox. We revel in the joys of accidental discovery. On the other hand, being human, we don’t want to feel “out of control.” Yet real control is the ability to respond automatically to altered and unpredictable circumstances.

As Galatians instructs us, we want to “keep in step with the spirit.” Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind – it blows unpredictably. It is critical that we continue to ask, “Where is God at work, and how can we join him in that?”

I have been visiting car dealers recently, in hopes of “trading down” our SUV for something smaller and more economical. Recently I found myself having conversations with a salesman. As we haggled over price, he would occasionally get up and leave the room to “check with the sales manager, to see if we can do that.” It is a familiar ruse, and if you’ve ever purchased a car I’m sure you are familiar with it. In the end, I walked away from the deal, but I had a good feeling about the salesman who was trying to “help” me. I guess if I had to blame anyone for the deal not getting done, I’d have to blame the man behind the curtain - the invisible sales manager. It reminded me of something that I think we have going for us in a multi-location church.

When I launched CTK in Skagit Valley I had some well-meaning “pre-processed Christians” show up who wanted to recreate their past church experience at CTK. At the time I was still under the umbrella of CTK in Bellingham, so I often used Steve Mason (the pastor in Bellingham) as my foil. I would say to people who wanted to start up “arrows in” programming, “Let me check with Steve in Bellingham, and see if we can do that.” Steve would usually say, “You don’t want to do that.” So, I would go back to the people and say, “I checked with Steve, and Steve really doesn’t want us to do that. I’m sorry.” I ended up wearing the white hat in the story, and Steve got the black one.

When bad news has to be delivered, it is sometimes helpful to be able to say, “I checked, and they won’t let me.” Feel free to use me in this way, if you’d like to. I kind of like wearing the black hat.

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