Friday, May 2, 2014

Preparation vs Planning

The cartoon would be funny if it weren't so true and painful. We go to such great lengths to plan out our life and God rearranges it all making reality nothing like what we planned or desired. The best laid plans...

Dwight Eisenhower said, "In preparing for battle I always found that plans were useless, but planning was indispensable."  

Wise words from one who was in leadership most of his life. This perspective cuts both ways.  To the planner, who has to feel as if they are in control, Dwight would say that all of your detailed plans will be useless once you are on the battle field.  And for the non-planner, the let's just wait till we get on the battle field type, Eisenhower would say you will be sorely at a disadvantage if you have not prepared appropriately. 

The principle is that daily preparation is much more important than making detailed plans. The soldiers prepare for war by training and repeating the disciplines so that on the battle ground they are able to adjust to whatever the situation calls for.  Sure there is a plan, but things change in battle and you have to be able to adapt. 

"You need a plan ... but don't become consumed by it. Winds change." --Joseph Ehrhard.  The principle is applicable to ministry also. I experienced it over and over while leading my many mission trips. I quickly learned that our planning for the trip, more times than not, was altered or totally scrapped once we were in the country.  This can be really difficult for one who is task oriented and doesn't feel as if they are successful unless they have accomplished all their well thought out plans. 

So I learned to make a broad plan but did more preparation than planning. I discovered that it was important for each person going on the mission to be prepared to share their story.  So, whenever we needed someone to preach or teach, our stories were the foundation of the teaching. We also needed to prepare our heart and get our attitudes right, understanding that we were there to learn, to build relationships and share God's love more than to change their culture or teach the people the 4 step "western" way of doing things.  Prayer and preparation were the key for us.  

Mike Breen writes about the importance of preparation for pastors in his book, Leading Kingdom Movements. "What I always teach my leaders and teams is that preparation is vital.  If you are not speaking out of the overflow of what God is already doing in your life, you're not giving anybody anything." This preparation Breen calls excavation and it is not the cramming for a sermon, but the daily spiritual disciplines of a believer.

John Wesley put it this way, "Every Christian should be prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moment's notice."  So it's not a matter of whether you've had enough time to plan, but whether yesterday you have spent time with God in the Word, and the day before that, and the day before that.  If you have been doing that long enough, if you have been abiding in Christ, you'll have plenty of material to draw from.  And if you have been putting your faith into action, serving, going and ministering to people outside of the church, you'll have plenty of stories to tell. 

So set your goal, make your broad plan to accomplish your goal, then prepare, prepare, prepare.  And in carrying out your plan, always remember that the most important thing is to accomplish your goal, not to carry out all plans.  

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