Vision + planning + hard work = success in ministry

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At the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix I talked to a young pastor who was recently called to a church that was founded in the 1950s and within the last ten years had transitioned from a traditional style of worship to a more contemporary style of worship.

The young pastor indicated that he was going to add a more traditional worship service to accommodate a sizable number of older members who were longing for a worship service that “met their needs.”

This editorial is not about traditional worship versus contemporary worship. It is about vision, planning, and implementation, because the same principles would apply to a pastor who wanted to add a contemporary worship experience for those who preferred that style.

In fact, the principles outlined in this editorial would apply to any vision whether it pertained to worship, Christian education, growth in stewardship, creating an evangelism strategy, or just about anything else.

First, a pastor must have a vision. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Some pastors are very attuned to the will of God and are able to get a heavenly vision for their church or their church’s ministry rather easily. Some times it takes prayer, fasting, searching the scripture and wise counsel to determine what God wants for the church.

I realize that the lack of achieving the goals or desires I had as a pastor came from a lack of a clear vision. Once I had a clear vision in precise detail I could then move on to how that vision could be accomplished.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc., said, “Define your vision down to the smallest detail. Many people find this is the time to write it down. Write it down until you can’t describe it anymore, and then write some more.

We have been told that Walt Disney was fired as a cartoonist from the Kansas City Star newspaper, because his editor concluded that he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he found the right filament for the light bulb.

In 1978 Michael Jordan, a high school sophomore, was just another kid in the gym and cut from his school’s basketball team.

What led these successful and talented people to press on despite failure and rejection? They were motivated by a vision.

Vision gives us an idea of what is possible. It creates a desire to grow and improve. It feeds our hopes and dreams. It establishes a purpose.

Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”

Second, a pastor must have a plan to achieve his vision. Once the vision is articulated, planning must follow. The planning process provides the information the church leaders need to make effective decisions about how to allocate the resources and people in a way that will enable the church to reach its objectives.

The Time-Management-Guide states, “A plan is like a map. When following a plan, you can always see how much you have progressed towards fulfilling your vision and how far you are from your destination. Knowing where you are is essential for making good decisions on where to go or what to do next.”

When I was pastor of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church in Norcross Bill Bryan was our minister of education. He knew how to grow a Sunday School. He had experienced success at First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Oklahoma during the ministry of Bailey Smith, at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta during the ministry of Nelson Price and he did the same thing at Peachtree Corners.

Bryan knew how to create a roadmap for achieving our goals and equipping the people to help accomplish the desired objectives. While every church must depend upon the Holy Spirit to undergird their efforts and while our omnipotent God can still work miracles, there are few fantastical stories of instant success. Growing churches generally require vision, planning and – hard work.

So, third, a pastor must work hard and challenge his people to work hard in order to accomplish their objectives. In most cases the people won’t work, if the pastor doesn’t lead the way. The Bible says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Laziness never built a strong church. In fact, God tells us to consider the work habits of an ant in order to find out how to be successful (Proverbs 6:6).

For example, those of us who knew Dr. R.G. Lee regard him as a peerless pulpiteer, but according to E. Schuyler English’ biography of the famed preacher (Robert G. Lee A Chosen Vessel), in addition to preparing matchless sermons, caring for the sick and administrating a large church, Dr. Lee made ten visits a day to those who were prospects for Bellevue Baptist Church. He was a tireless worker.

Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

A vision doesn’t become reality through fanciful dreams or vain wishes, but through sweat, determination and hard work. Ignatius, early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch, reportedly said, “Pray as if everything depended upon God; work as if everything depends of you.”

The point is that God will bless vision + planning + hard work and use it all to help build up His church.

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