Monday, July 11, 2011

Principles for Progress in the Church, Part 4: Goals

In writing these posts on strategic thinking for progress in our churches, it has crossed my mind more than once that there have been many, far more eloquent and astute thinkers to write about these ideas. So in adding my two cents, I’m essentially encouraging my church and any who read here that this type of intentional strategy is absolutely necessary to move us forward to where we need and want to be. There are certainly great resources available to help you think through effective goal setting.


Previously we looked at developing a godly vision. Now, with a godly vision guiding you, set realistic goals for what you pray your church will become by God’s grace and ability. This is the next logical step: Ask God to help you establish legitimate, measurable, attainable, faith-filled goals.

By legitimate I simply mean reasonable. God may choose to work miraculously on your behalf, but your mid-term goals shouldn’t bank on the miraculous. Don’t illegitimately presume upon the grace of God. Your goals should also be attainable, but that doesn’t mean without faith. In fact, without faith it is impossible to please God (see Hebrews 11.6), and whatever is not done from faith is sin (see Romans 14.23).

How can our goals be full of faith? On one hand, there are times when God’s vision for you will be bigger than your expectations (or goals) for yourself:

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— (21) to Him be glory.... (Ephesians 3.20-21, HCSB)

In those cases, follow Him in full faith that He will accomplish whatever He promised, just as Abraham learned to trust through near-unbelievable circumstances (see Romans 4.18-22).

On the other hand, there are times when it is as thought God is silent on a particular concern. It is in those times when God does not give specific answers that we must obediently follow His principles, again, in faith. So in goal setting, whether God seems to give specific paths or not, He requires our faith.

Either way, think of your goals as intermediate steps to obediently fulfilling God’s longer-range vision for you, your family, or your church.

What does it look like to set clear goals? I think a couple of examples from Paul’s life are instructive. Paul had set a goal of going to Rome. He was determined to get there. He wrote to them and expressed that desire (see Romans 15.20-32). Eventually he got there, but not by taking the path he had hoped: he was taken as a prisoner. In another instance, Paul had clearly communicated his intention (goal) of going back to Corinth, but when he was unable, he wrote a brief explanation to let them know he was sincere and not fickle (see 2 Corinthians 1.15-18).

Goals are to be put in place to act as reminders of a larger direction and directive. We’re following God, who always puts our steps in order:

A man’s heart plans his way,
but the LORD determines his steps.

(Proverbs 16.9, HCSB)

In the final post, we’ll talk about plans to accomplish the goals.

[This is part 4 of 5 in the series, Principles for Progress in the Church. Here are the previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.]