Over the years, I have been asked by people to give my five year and ten year plan for the church. This has never really sat well with me. The question honestly is a bit confusing to me for two particular reasons. First, I am unsure if they are asking out of concern for the future of the church or just to understand my skill in planning. But the second confusion comes in the ambiguity that we all understand to be the future. I believe that there is a misunderstanding in the role of pastor for anyone who asks for the five year plan for a church or who proposes a five year plan for the church.
Jesus, who taught us all to pray for DAILY bread, was nowhere near as concerned that we plan out well in advance. Jesus, who said that today has enough trouble, also encouraged us to avoid worries about tomorrow. Jesus also tells us a parable of a man who makes ambitious plans to expand his farming empire, only to find that his soul would be required of him that very night. And the book of James is clear that we ought to use the words “if the Lord wills” over our routine travel plans.
I do not oppose planning for the future. And I am not confident that Jesus was against any and all planning. But I do believe that we have removed both the husk and the kernel from the truth of what Jesus meant to teach us about planning.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, God seems much more concerned that his people live out lives of love for Him and for others in the PRESENT. As a shepherd of a people, my task is to FOLLOW Jesus. And I follow Him as a model for others to follow. God rarely warns me in advance of a hard left or hard right on the road of life. If you had asked me four years ago what my five year plan was for ReCAST church, it would not have involved a pandemic. It would not have involved a need to calm fears. A five year plan, as most think of it, would not have spoken to this current moment in time.
Am I advocating a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants model of leadership!? Not at all . . . I am rather advocating a fly-by-the-Word-of-God-hard-on-the-heels-of-Jesus style of leadership. Pastoring is an adventure. Every day brings new challenges along with new opportunities.
There is a lot of talk about “vision” in church leadership today. And what is often meant by this is a growth plan, a building plan, and an outreach agenda that will take the church to the “next level”. My vision for the church does NOT include building projects, Microsoft Project Gantt charts, nor does it include long-term programming commitments.
My vision for the future looks like this . . . I keep loving Jesus. I keep getting up early in the morning to hear from Him in His Word. I trust it and live it. I pray to Him and lift up the needs, worries, and concerns of my church, my family, and my life to Him. I serve people by studying to proclaim the Word of God into our current cultural context. I continue to engage and live in this current week in this current world in a way that helps me to find bridges for the Truth into our current moment. And I keep inviting people into that. The days become weeks. The weeks become years. And then one day, I am buried and go to be with my Lord, where I hope to hear a “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
My vision is to follow after a Lord who rarely tells me where I am going to be tomorrow. He has never told me where I will be next year, let alone in five or ten. It may be unsettling to some, to know that their pastor doesn’t have a five and ten year plan. But let me be clear that I DO KNOW where the church is going. All who have their hope placed on the rock of Christ Jesus will be in glory in the end. But Jesus Himself said, “Even the Son doesn’t know the day or the hour, but only the Father in Heaven!” I know where we are heading, but I certainly have no idea WHEN we will get there. So be faithful today. That is enough work for you and me.