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a theology of strategy development
Photo by hp koch on Unsplash White dove just about to land on the pavement beside a canal in a European City.

In a Christian ministry, everything about the organization should align with its Christian faith, including how it develops its strategy. That means, as ministry leaders, we need to think theologically about the way we develop strategy.

Here are four theological truths that can form the basis of a theology of strategy development. Feel free to add additional truths you find meaningful and relevant to strategy formation.

1. Christ Continues to Work in the World Today

Luke says his gospel concerns only what Jesus “began to do and teach,”1 and yet his gospel and its sequel, Acts, show that Jesus’s time on earth came to an end shortly after the close of the gospel when he ascended into heaven. So how does Jesus continue to do his work?

Luke shows that Jesus continues his work through the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew and Greek words for the Spirit mean “invisibility, movement, power, and life” and convey the idea of “God in action.” The dynamic Spirit actively guides the church and our ministries, meaning that our strategy development process needs to take the Spirit’s leadership seriously, just as Paul did when he changed his plans and went to Macedonia.

Because Christ continues to work in the world today, developing a strategy for a ministry is a cooperative spiritual endeavour between God and the ministry’s leadership team.

2. Leadership Has a Prophetic Role

People act in a prophetic capacity when they speak God’s truth into a situation. They might be speaking truth to power regarding an issue of justice, or they might be making sense of things such as Peter did in his Pentecost sermon when he effectively said “This is that”2 and explained what the people were seeing and hearing that day in Jerusalem. Ministry leaders need to act as Peter did: discern God’s leadership of the ministry and then make sense of the ministry’s circumstances based on what God is doing.3 This is the leader’s prophetic role, and it is one very important way they lead the ministry.

Leighton Ford offers a specific process to incorporate God’s leadership into strategy development:

“We must observe carefully and prayerfully where people are hurting and suffering and longing, and what God is doing in the world, until in our hearts we are drawn to an area which may be God’s vision for us. We need to reflect on what we have observed, praying and reading, thinking and talking, and perhaps writing in a journal, until our sense of call begins to emerge and we “see” what it is that God would have us do. Then we must begin to act on that vision.”

Leighton Ford4

Ministry leaders can then bring their prophetic understanding of what they’ve discerned to the ministry team for testing, just as Paul did with the dramatic call to Macedonia, by leading the team in a group exercise of discernment and reflection.

For example, at CCCC, we feel strongly led by the Spirit to serve all Christ’s ministries in Canada. In observing that Christ left the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep, we understand that every ministry, regardless of size, is important in God’s eyes. For some small ministries, our membership fee, as low as it is, may be a barrier to them receiving our help, so we created the Web Membership to care for these small ministries.

Leaders, make sure your prayer time includes listening prayer and time for meditation on God’s word as it relates to your ministry.

3. God Honours Human Intellect

The Bible shows that God respects humanity, delegates to humanity, and equips humanity with intellect and skills so that we can participate creatively and meaningfully in his mission. God has given us the what to do and usually leaves us to decide how to do it. There is room in Christian strategy development for both divine wisdom and human wisdom. It may surprise some people that divine and human wisdom do not have to be in conflict. The tension between them is resolved in another post, From Human Wisdom to Godly Wisdom.

Two proverbs show that we should use our intellect when making plans:

The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.

Prov 14:15

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counsellors they succeed.

Prov 15:22

Jesus affirmed the value of human wisdom when he told a parable in which a master commended his steward for using human wisdom to act shrewdly when he was called to account for his wasteful ways. The steward protected his future by forgiving people of most of their debt to the master, thus ingratiating himself to them for future benefit. Jesus commended the steward, saying, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” 5 He similarly approved of kings who consider whether they can win before deciding to go to war.6

God expects us to use all our human abilities in his service to discern the specific plans the ministry will act upon.

4. Self-Reliance Impedes God’s Work in Our Ministry

If we believe that our ministry can only accomplish what we ourselves can do, we will only try those strategies that we know we can do and we will not see what God wants to do through us by adding his capabilities to ours.

For example, our weakness is not a limiting factor in God’s eyes:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness .”

2 Cor 12:9

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:19

We do need to work hard at making ourselves the best possible servants of the Lord (“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” 2 Tim 2:15), but we should not be driven or consumed by our weaknesses. We should improve what we can, but our best mission progress will occur when we build on our strengths and actively trust God for our areas of weakness. Consultant Jim Galvin says that sometimes we need to start doing something, anything, just to change where we are and help us to find a way to go.

Honour God by actively seeking his guidance and help when developing and implementing strategy.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.

Isaiah 50:7
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Conclusion

As we engage in strategy development, we must stay open to the Spirit and the contributions God wants to make to our ministry’s work, making sure the entire process is in alignment with God’s ways.

From a Christian point of view, it is only when the direction and the method are in line with God’s purposes, character, and ways of operating that godly leadership takes place.

Robert Banks and Bernice Ledbetter, Reviewing Leadership

  1. Acts 1:1.
  2. Acts 2:16.
  3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. 1989. pp. 85, 86.
  4. Leighton Ford, Transforming Leadership: Jesus’ way of creating vision, shaping values and empowering change. 1991, pp. 116-117.
  5. Luke 16:8.
  6. Luke 4:31.
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