In seminary I wrote a paper on how to rightly or wrongly apply some of Peter Drucker’s business principles to the ministry of the church. I compared the seeker sensitive appropriation and application of those principles to the way I believe they should be applied. The paper boiled down to this: the seeker sensitive crowd identified the wrong “customer” in asking Drucker’s well-known questions, “Who is our customer?” and “What does our customer consider as value (or what do they need or want)?” The church growth, seeker sensitive crowd view the customer as the person in the pew, or the unchurched person they want to get in the pew. Apply those questions to that customer and, yes, you can very effectively find ways to fill the pews. Rick Warren learned his purpose driven approach directly from Drucker and, sure enough, there are a lot of people at Saddleback Community Church every Sunday.
But is this the right way? I argued that the real “customer” (as inadequate as that word is in this context) is God. What we do when we assemble in the pews to worship God on Sunday morning is not what we want, but what He wants. It’s simply an application of the regulative principle. Drucker’s questions still “work,” but only when viewed from a biblical perspective. God, in His Word, tells us how He wants us to worship Him. And how He doesn’t.
I believe a similar mentality applies to strategic planning, and would like to offer a very preliminary framework for how to approach strategic planning from a biblical perspective. To see strategic planning, to borrow from Calvin, through scriptural spectacles.
At the heart of the framework is looking at the issues, difficulties, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, etc., facing the PCA in a way similar to what Dr. Bryan Chapell instructs preachers to do. In Christ-Centered Preaching, he tells us to focus on the fallen condition focus of the text – the FCF. What is the sin, what is the consequence of sin being dealt with in the passage and how does the preacher show that from the text and then apply it in the hearts and minds of the congregation? A clear understanding of the FCF helps in preaching a clear sermon. The FCF helps us understand the Spirit’s purpose for the passage.
In my previous two posts I argued that effective strategic planning involves a brutally realistic understanding of the data involved and the root causes of issues in an organization. You can’t figure out how to fix something unless you have the proper data and analysis to tell you why it’s broken. It is also essential to have good, agreed upon assumptions. I’m not convinced we have those currently in the PCA.
What do we have? The Bible, God’s Word. We also have what we believe are faithful, accurate summaries of that Word in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and the BCO is our guide to good order. We have mutually agreed to be governed by these standards.
Why would we even attempt to do strategic planning without these close at hand? We should pepper every analysis, every assumption, every conclusion, with Scriptural support. That doesn’t mean we proof-text a strategic plan. But it does mean we apply sound, biblical principles properly derived from God’s Word to what we’re attempting to do.
My assertion is that for strategic planning to be of any use – which is to say (at least for me) for it to be biblical – we should be attempting to understand what the FCF is for every issue or problem we find in the PCA. Scripture speaks to the problems we’re having. The principles and precepts are there. We just need to use them, rather than try to be clever in our human understanding.
We can ask the kinds of questions strategic planning methodologies suggest we ask: what are our strengths?; weaknesses?; opportunities?; threats? But those have to be analyzed and answered in a biblical context. Why, from the Bible’s point of view, is thus-and-such a strength? Why a weakness?
So. Does the Bible address “safe places?” Sure it does. First, in general, we are all sinners: prideful, judgmental, fearful, our reasoning ability impaired by sin. What’s the biblical remedy for these sins? The more spiritual, the more mature, you teach and admonish those who are weaker; in love and humility speak the truth to one another. Those who are stronger are not to offend those who are weaker. We are to submit to one another in love. Why don’t we have safe places (if such is truly a problem in our denomination)? Because we are sinners who fail to practice biblical submission and humility toward one another. Because we don’t want to accept correction from another. Because we want to do things our own way (we’re smarter and cleverer, after all). Because we’ve arrived and refuse to learn from one another. This is the FCF approach, in my opinion. All the themes and steps and ideas and programs in the world won’t fix the lack of safe places until the sin abiding in every one of us is first beaten into submission and driven away.
And of course the way we believe this is done is through the preaching and teaching of the Word, the application of the sacraments to us, prayer, biblical discipline (something we are far too afraid to do – all of us!). In short, we apply Christ to each other. We preach Christ to each other. We hold up Christ before each other.
Christ-centered preaching doesn’t just need to happen on Sunday morning (and sometimes Sunday evening). It needs to happen all the time and everywhere. How many session discussions would take a radical turn if we stopped and asked ourselves some Christ-centered questions? Or how about presbytery meetings? Or GA? What if we couched every debate, every discussion, in the context of how our relationship to Christ and what He has done for us impacts what we are doing? What does the Word tell us about this or that situation?; this or that doctrine?: this or that practice? Not “what would Jesus do” so much but what does my (and your) union with Christ, status as His brother, filling with the Holy Spirit, and calling to shepherd His people (and each other) by His Word teach us we should do? And the beauty of it is we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We have great guidance from men who in most cases far surpass most of us in their biblical wisdom and piety. We don’t we listen to them?
Do we want the PCA to grow? Yes!! May God grant that our churches be full of vibrant believers hungry for God and His Word, clinging with joy and thanksgiving to Christ, and eager to share His Good News with all around them!
The current, proposed Strategic Plan reads too much to me like a call to be more like the Evangelicals around us. Meh. Not interested.
What would our churches look like if we vigorously applied God’s Word to everything we do? What would our presbytery meetings and GA gatherings look like to visitors and fraternal delegates? To see the leaders of the PCA as humble men who love one another and submit to one another and winsomely yet firmly hold one another accountable would be an amazing thing.
It won’t happen with clever ideas derived from a flawed strategic planning process.
It will happen if we let that process – and ultimately let ourselves – be driven by God’s Word, filled with the Spirit, and pointing one another to Christ – and Christ alone.