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Planning: a revitalization faith-walk

May 23, 2016 | by Jim Barber

Church leaders sometimes have an aversion to planning. My personal consulting observations and the anecdotal reports of many others reveal that this aversion is often bolstered by an assertion that there is little or no biblical support for it. Indeed, in some settings, planning is ironically seen as a lack of faith.

This is troubling. With the American church in need of significant revitalization, such an aversion is not just an entertaining theological dispute. It is a barrier to some of the most significant steps any church can take toward turnaround. Planning is an essential ingredient for any leadership team seeking church revitalization. It isn’t the only thing. But, it is important to see that it does meet the biblical test of walking by faith.

Faith-walk test #1: hope for the unseen

In Hebrews 11:1, we are given two parallel definitions of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (NASB). Real faith hopes for things that we cannot now see. Among the biblical examples we are given, we see that: Abel hoped for God’s approval; Noah hoped for God’s preservation of man; and Abraham hoped for the resurrection of his son Isaac.

In my ministry years and consulting, I have experienced this type of real faith. For example, my church was at one time a church of 200 “maxing out” in a church facility on three acres of land. Through a generous gift, we also owned 21 vacant acres on the other side of the road. The church leadership team hoped for a new facility on the other side of the road. Much more than that, we hoped for God to make the most of the resources He had already given us for reaching our community for Christ.

Faith-walk test #2: action-prompting conviction

Real faith not only hopes, it expresses confidence and assurance about what cannot be seen by taking action. The remainder of Hebrews 11 goes on to provide clear evidence of such action-taking: Abel gave generously; Noah built an ark; and Abraham obeyed God until God intervened to save Isaac.

In my church example mentioned above, our leadership team did much more than hope. To mention just a few: we prayerfully planned; cast vision; provided biblical teaching; held communication forums, and challenged the church to give more generously. Eventually we built, and built, and built again until we are now on 54 acres with an 80,000 square foot facility where over 1,500 today call this church home.

In my consulting, I have seen other leadership teams plan and take similar faith-walk actions. Some have changed their worship services. Others have changed their staff and organization structure. Still others have sought ways to become more prayerful. Some have changed several aspects of their ministry leadership. Real faith takes action to see the unseen become seen.

Planning meets both tests of faith

In planning terminology, the unseen of Hebrews 11 is called mission, vision, and values. Biblical action and conviction is often referred to as strategies, goals, and metrics. These common elements of planning meet the test of having a biblical faith-walk. Such a faith-walk can take a church from today’s reality to revitalization.

Jim Barber

Jim Barber is the President of both the Society for Church Consulting and Barber Church Consulting. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the Society, facilitates training conferences, conducts webinar training, and coaches those aspiring to become consultants. In his consulting, he conducts various church assessments, facilitates strategic planning, and coaches churches through changes in leadership structure.

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