When we look at strategic planning biblically, we keep God’s purposes at the core and use processes that follow His design. Certainly, then, when we do that, we should arrive at an outcome near to the heart of God.
Outcomes Important to God
The following verses clearly show what God considers most important:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mk. 12:33)
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hos. 6:6)
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isa. 58:5-7)
From these verses we must conclude that the outcome of our strategic planning must go beyond the activities themselves to people expressing love for God and one another. If our planning efforts merely result in great programs and events but leave people’s hearts unchanged, we must question what we’re doing.
Jesus’ Great Commission Brings Us to This Same Outcome in Strategic Planning
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt. 28:19-20)
We “go” … the activity part … but that going results in making disciples — people who identify with Him through baptism and who are learning to obey everything He commanded. What are the greatest commandments Jesus taught? We are to love God with all of who we are and to love people as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).
Consequently our strategic planning should lead to the fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission. If the outcome of our strategic planning fails to lead to fully devoted followers in love with Jesus who in turn love others, then we need to question if we are on track.
Arriving at God’s Desired Outcome Through Our Strategic Planning
To get on track, and stay on track, with God’s desired outcome, our strategic planning must do the following:
1) Start with God’s purposes.
As we see in the context of the giving of the Great Commission, Jesus has full authority (Matt. 28:18) to determine what the outcome should be. Strategic planning must be about aligning with Him, not our own agendas or following the ways of the world. If we don’t start on the right foundation, we might plan a lot of organized “churchie” activities but will undoubtedly fail to arrive at God’s desired outcome.
2) Maintain God’s perspective.
We must see strategic planning as more about planning for an environment conducive to the growth and discipleship of people into fully devoted followers of Jesus who love Him and others. We plan ways to plant and water in line with God’s purposes and watch Him bring the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-9). When we get to where we view strategic planning as building a well-oiled machine of programs and events — a set product rather than a responsive environment — we will undoubtedly fail to arrive at God’s desired outcome.
3) Seek God’s presence and power.
To stay on track with the right purposes for and perspective in our strategic planning, we must get beyond our own abilities. We need an awareness of our Lord’s presence who promised, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). When we think we can plan without seeking after God first as well as during the process, we won’t be pulling on His wisdom and power, and undoubtedly will fail to arrive at His desired outcome.