In previous posts, I reflected on the passage in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40 that describes how David became king of all Israel, from which I identified three characteristics of spiritual leaders. Spiritual leaders must: (1) pursue God’s agenda in unity, (2) understand the times and (3) know what God’s people should do. These three characteristics also imply three questions that can guide a spiritual leader through a process of missiological thinking, providing a basis for effective leadership of the Body of Christ. So let’s look at the three questions and then consider how they work together in the process of missiological thinking.
- The Vision Question: What does God want? What is His Agenda? This point is drawn from 1 Chronicles 12:23 where it says that Israel’s leaders acted “according to the Word of the Lord.” Answering the vision question enables a spiritual leader to communicate to the Body of Christ the end we all are working toward, God’s desired future. This is discerned primarily through prayerful theological reflection upon scripture or revelation.
- The Status Question: What is the present state of affairs? What is God doing? The Status question follows from the description of the leaders of the tribe of Issachar, who understood the times. For our missional purposes, answering this question requires a detailed description of the Harvest Field, that is, the country, community or people group where disciples are being made. Second, also requires a thorough description of the Harvest Force, this is the Church, God’s people. Third, it also involves perceiving what the Lord of the Harvest has done in the past and is doing in the present. The three perspectives help us to “understand the times”. Research one of the primary tools used to understand the times.
- The Mission Question: What should God’s people do? What is it going to take to do what God wants? These questions also follow from the description of the leaders of Issachar, who knew what God’s people should do. The insights gleaned here will describe what steps are necessary to align with God’s agenda and join the Lord of the Harvest in what he is doing. This involves the use of reason in theological reflection and strategic thinking.
The Process of Missiological Thinking is as easy as One, Two, Three
The Vision, Status and Mission questions outline the process of missiological thinking.
First, we start with the end in sight contemplating the Vision Question: What does God want? What is His agenda?
Second, we seek to answer the Status Question, striving to understand the times.
Third, we use the Mission Question: What should God’s people do?
Starting with an understanding of what God wants and also the present state of affairs, discerning leaders will perceive a gap between to two realities. In response to prayer (James 1:5), God will provide wisdom about the steps that are necessary to transform present situation to that which God desires. It will be difficult to develop an effective strategy if there is not clarity about what God wants. But it will be just about impossible to develop an effective strategy if we do not understand the times.
The outcome of the missiological thinking process will be a number of action steps that provide direction to the Body of Christ in the short term (up to two years), medium term (two to five years) or longer term (more than five years). The process of missiological thinking therefore needs to be regularly revisited, as the status changes and new plans are needed relevant action is needed.
“I love it when a plan comes together” –Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, leader of the A Team
Some object that strategic thinking is not a biblical concept, rather it has been wrongly imported from the secular business world. In our understanding, strategy thinking – or, more appropriately named, missiological thinking – is a highly spiritual process. First of all, because God reveals what he wants. Second, He gives insight and understanding about what we should do, and third, He works in us and through us to bring hope and transformation to individuals, nations and communities.
I also approach this question from a unique strategy perspective. Because every church, every community, every context is different, what “works” as an effective strategy in one place or time does not necessarily mean that the same strategy will be effective in another place at another time. The vision is the same; but because the status is different, the strategy also must be contextualized to be effective in the different situation.
The Old Testament in particular seems to affirm God-centered human planning. A casual reading of the book of Proverbs will yield many verses that frame God-centered human planning in a positive light. Also I came across this golden passage in Isaiah 32:7-8 (NASB) that affirms devising noble plans.
As for a rogue, his weapons are evil;
He devises wicked schemes
To destroy the afflicted with slander,
Even though the needy one speaks what is right.
But the noble man devises noble plans;
And by noble plans he stands.”
So I find it difficult to argue that God would forbid us to devise noble plans that result in his will being done on earth as in heaven.
That said, we need to humbly confess that we humans can and do err in making plans, even ones that claim to honor God. (Read through James 4 for perspective on this.)
The application is up to you!
So here we have a biblically-based model for missiological thinking. Ponder how this process applies in your context. The application is up to you!