In the late 1980’s and early 90’s many pastors in America hung out in the business section of their local bookstore. In those aisles stuffed with business knowledge were books that drew their titles from subjects like swimming with sharks, searching for excellence, creating wealth and a one-minute approach to business, health and everything else. All the titles were verb-oriented. We all wanted to get things moving.
One book that stood out, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, was written by Stephen Covey. Covey helped guide people into more productive lives. Most of us read the book and implemented its concepts into our personal lives and ministries. Covey’s points made sense. For many years these principles served us well and still do in some circumstances.
There are many life-plan programs out there. Covey is now one among many. What I have come to realize about life-plans is that they work long-term if they are built upon a word from God. The development of a plan must follow a word of revelation that is only available from God by His Spirit. If the plan is to work it must rest on revelation. In the middle of the night when doubt and fear come visiting, it will be the word, and not a plan, that will bring us comfort.
One of Covey’s classic lines was, “Begin with the end in mind.” Stephen Covey asked us to imagine the finished product before we began to create a plan to make our vision a reality. With that finished product in mind we would then return to the present moment and create and define measurable steps of a process that would lead us to the realization of our desired goal.
While Covey was right about developing a plan, there is something going on in my heart that is shifting the process around. Many of us have done life and ministry for a long time and we are looking for a jump-start to reignite our vision and calling. We want a plan to finish well.
To finish well requires that we make adjustments now for a strong finish later. This way of planning for a strong finish has us start with the beginning, not the end, in mind. Some of us will need recapture our beginning if we are going to experience fruitfulness in our ending.
Several years ago, I was in Indianapolis for a training event and had the pleasure of having lunch with Dr. Bob Logan. Bob is well known in church circles for developing leadership training and church planting materials that are considered some of the best around.
During one of the lunch breaks, I sat at a table with Bob and several others. As the lunch conversation continued I asked a question. “Bob, what advice do you give to individuals or organizations who have plateaued or are in decline – how do you help them get moving again?” I asked this question knowing that Bob is very gifted in evaluating the effectiveness of individuals and corporations and his advice is utilized with great confidence.
Bob's answer was interesting. He said, “The first thing I ask is this, 'What was your original vision.'” He went on to say that most leaders are able to recite their vision in great detail. Bob would then ask a set of questions to determine if the leaders were still functioning in their original vision. Within plateaued or declining corporations and ministries there was a common reality - each one had stopped doing the very thing that brought them success in the first place. They had ceased doing their original vision.
Bob then shared a deep nugget of truth with me, “Each time someone rediscovered their original vision, and began to do it once again, in each case, without exception, they began to move forward and grow.”
When those words of wisdom were shared, I sat there wonderfully stunned by what I just heard. The lunch conversation continued to move around the table, but I was still processing the words, “in each case, without exception”.
When God does an original work in our lives there is more going on than something new and refreshing. In these times foundations are being built and vision is being cast. Those first few years when God is doing an original work in our lives is the place where He develops and defines the DNA structure that will carry us into the future towards a fruitful end. Most of the decisions I make today are sourced in the original truth and wisdom I learned in my first few years of ministry.
My wife and I had a recent discussion about our years in ministry. The times of personal renewal and redirection that have taken place over the last 30 years have always centered on the rediscovery of that original DNA and reengaging it.
At this point in our lives we are living out those basic truths in deeper and wider applications that many years of service can bring. Our vision for life and ministry may be deeper and wider now in its application, but it is all based on the original truth revealed to us in those early years of our calling.
What did God give you as a vision or direction when you first began your journey of faith? Are you doing that now? If not, chances are your life and ministry has either plateaued or is in decline. You might be scrambling around for a new word or some fresh concept to grasp. Maybe your answer for a jump-start is already in your life and simply needs to be revisited, redefined and reengaged. Go back to the beginning and take a new look at that original word, embrace its truth and new life will begin to flow once again.