Be Careful How You Plan

While I was at LifeWay Christian Resources, I participated in a leadership retreat that was led by Neil Anderson.  It was at this retreat I learned some valuable principles that need to be followed when planning for the future.  I want to share these principles with you as many Christian school leaders will be planning for the upcoming school year.

Anderson shared with our group the typical planning process that Christian ministries follow.  He patterned this process after the planning process Joshua followed when Israel was going to defeat Ai.  Here is what Joshua did in planning an attack on Ai.  Keep in mind that they had just come off of the amazing victory at Jericho.

Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.  And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai.  And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.  Joshua 7:2-5 (NKJV)

Many times we plan for the future much like Joshua did in the passage.  The steps, according to Anderson, go like this.

  1. Do extensive research
  2. Develop a plan based on the results from the research
  3. Execute the plan

When the results turn out negative, leaders tend to think that the research must have been faulty.  So additional research is done and these steps are repeated.  Anderson pointed out that God wasn’t mentioned in the planning process conducted by Joshua and his leadership team.  As we discussed this process, we noted that many times Christian leaders add a fourth step.  The process looks like this.

  1. Do extensive research
  2. Develop a plan based on the results of the research
  3. Pray and ask God to bless our plan
  4. Execute the plan

However, if the results are not what we expected or wanted, we go back and do further study or research.  It was at this point that Anderson suggested a better process that Joshua followed after this terrible defeat(Joshua 7:6-8:35).  The second planning process resulted in victory.

  1. Expose and confess any sin in the camp
  2. Ask God for His plan
  3. Execute God’s plan completely
  4. Praise the Lord for any victory achieved

If Christian leaders are told that they are going to be involved in a major planning retreat, the first two things that they grab to take with them is a calendar and a calculator.  However, it may be more advantageous to take two other items with them when participating in a planning retreat — a Bible and knee pads!

Unfortunately, the Israelites did not learn from their disastrous plan on how to capture Ai.  Right after the Lord gave them victory over Ai they fell prey to taking action after their own reasoning once again.  In Joshua 9, Israel was tricked by the Gibeonites.  Again, the results were devastating.  God’s Word records why they failed again in executing a plan to deal with this group of people.

Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.  Joshua 9:14 (NKJV)

As we plan for the future, lets not make the same mistake that Israel made.  Research can be valuable but it is primarily based on human wisdom and opinion.  There is nothing wrong with being data/research informed.  However, our plans must be from the Lord and Bible-driven.  Here are some additional verses that provide us with good counsel as we plan for the future.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.  Psalm 33:11 (NKJV)

Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts (plans) will be established.  Proverbs 16:3 (NKJV)

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV)

May God direct each of you as you strive to fulfill His plan for your life and ministry.

Glen Schultz

Author Glen Schultz

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Jim Wing says:

    Praying today that this blog might motivate some administrators be more intentional in their approach to spiritual development in their student body this year. Keep up the good work!

  • Bradley Dunn says:

    Thank you, Glen, for being so in tune with the heartbeat of Christian school administrators. This is such a great reminder and formula to always be using.

  • Mark Kennedy says:

    The old adage, “People make their plans, and the angels laugh”, bears more than a bit of truth for Christians and Christian organizations that think they can control the future through their own brilliant strategic planning. During World War 2, when Britain was facing imminent Nazi invasion, King George quoted this poem in his Christmas address to the Empire,
    “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
    “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
    And he replied:
    “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
    That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
    Britain did of course plan for the possibility of invasion but the King had the nation’s first priority right.
    Maybe we need to be less willing to blindly follow secular business planning models and more eager to seek first the Lord’s guidance.

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