For a number of years before we had kids, my wife and I had a tradition of joining 6-8 of our closest friends and head deep into the foothills of the cascade mountains and spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at a remote cabin. Away from television and internet and all signs of civilization, we entertained ourselves with a closet full of classic board games. At least a few New Year’s Days were spent battling out an epic, many hour contest of RISK. If you’ve ever played RISK, you know that everyone has their own unique strategy to the game of world domination: How will I deploy my soldiers? What kind of alliances should I build? What priority should I give to defense or offense? Strategy games have grown in popularity in recent decades, but RISK is the granddaddy of them all.
When it comes to the ministry of the church, there is sometimes a temptation to think of “strategy” as a bit of a dirty word. After all, shouldn’t we be “Spirit-led”? Doesn’t “strategy” sound too much like it belongs to the world of business, politics, or warfare? If the mission of the church is to love God and love neighbor, how much strategizing do you really need? These are fair questions, but I would argue that a careful reading of the New Testament actually shows us that the Apostles and even Jesus himself worked and ministered with strategy in mind. The Bible even has good strategy for a game of RISK:
“What king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.” Luke 14:31-32
We absolutely depend on the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit for leadership and guidance, but it would be presumptuous to think that the Holy Spirit could not be a part of careful planning and strategy.
In the next few months, our church’s Strategic Planning Task Force will be meeting regularly for the purposes of prayerfully drafting a revised strategic plan to give direction to the ministry of Bethlehem in the coming years. In our pursuit to be a welcoming neighborhood church with a heartfelt devotion to God, the strategic plan will provide guidance to our ministry by identifying critical success factors that will give direction to the many ways we seek God and God’s will in this body.
Like a board game, there are elements to ministry that can be leveraged by good strategy, and other elements that our entirely out of our hands. Unlike a board game, those elements are not mere chance at the roll of the dice, but the mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit. The Bible invites us to trust that God is working his purposes out, and it is our opportunity to share in God’s work with our head, heart, and hands. Consider reaching out to the task force with your own thoughts and ideas. Most importantly: pray for the task force and the entire church as we consider how we will pursue Christ and Christ’s priorities, how we will be healthy and missional, and how we will love God and love neighbor not only this new year, but many years from now.