When a plan comes together

May 20th, 2020
This article is featured in the Growing Spiritually issue of Ministry During The Pandemic

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of articles from the author related to the release of Gospel Discipleship: Participant Guide and Gospel Discipleship: Congregation Guide (Abingdon Press, 2020). Read previous posts here and follow the six-week Wednesday night webinars beginning May 6.

“If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’” (Luke 14:28-30, CEB)

The best laid plans…

Gospel Discipleship was developed to give individuals and churches a path for their discipleship that made sense for who they are and how they understand discipleship. It can still serve that purpose. Each of the discipleship types has a template based on their own understanding that people can use to make a plan for their next steps in growth as disciples.

The plans seem to work well on an individual level. When it comes to putting a plan together for a church, however, I have to admit I have a number of churches who have not actually gotten around to that step yet. I do have some, though. Almost without exception, they are churches that test Matthean.

Mattheans love a good plan. No, I mean really, they LOVE a good plan. They love having a defined order of worship. That’s a plan. They love doing mission work that is focused on step-by-step response, like building a house or digging a well. That’s a plan. There is an order to how things should be done, and that’s how we do it. So they love a good discipleship system. That is a plan for growing in faith.

Right now, Mattheans are in crisis. There is no clear plan. Every time they turn on the television, there is a new announcement that has shifted the ground under their feet. They were just starting to get a routine in place, and that routine is disrupted—for like the millionth time in a week!

"Gospel Discipleship" by Michelle J. Morris. Order here: https://bit.ly/GospelDiscipleshipParticipant

I have a friend who tested his church on Gospel Discipleship. He has been frustrated by someone in his church who keeps texting him asking when he is going to get X set up, and when will he announce about Y. She is keeping him from getting work done by asking so often when he is going to get work done.

So I said to him, “Is she Matthean?”

“Yeah, she is.” Then we both sighed and stopped. We both knew what was going on. She wants a plan. She needs a plan. She is desperate for a plan. And he is the only one who can help her see one right now. She needs him to put something solid under her feet instead of all this shifting sand. He understood, then, how he needs to respond as a pastor. Even though he can’t fix the ground, he can recognize where she is coming from and respond with care.

And that points to the value of this understanding. When the plans fall apart, as they sometimes do, having a greater understanding of who we are in the midst of a crisis allows us to plan to make room for each other.  It is giving the pastors who have this understanding of their people a way of anticipating what their people are going through. It is also giving them the means to put them to work in ways that are meaningful for them.

In a sense, it is a plan for when plans don’t work anymore.

In the above passage, Jesus is telling his disciples that they need a plan for following him. He is sharing with them that without a plan they will look foolish and they will stumble. But he is telling them to have this plan because they will need to take up their cross and follow him. He knows the road ahead is going to be one that involves arrests, trials, and death… and ultimately resurrection. But the ground is quite literally going to shake under their feet in the process. No matter how much he has prepared them, he knows that their idea of how things should be is going to fall apart. For those fall apart days, they need a plan. They need a plan to be the disciples they are called to be. They need to plan not for the events that are before them. They need a plan to be the people of Christ.

We need that plan now, too. So if you are struggling to see your purpose in this time, let me invite you to focus less on the what that is to be done, because the what is a moving target right now. Instead focus on the who you are called to be, and know that who will have a way to be a disciple. Knowing your who will point to your path. Knowing your who will be your plan when the best laid plans seem to fall apart.

To learn more about who you are in this moment, take the Gospel Discipleship assessment at ministrymatters.com/gospeldiscipleship.

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