God doesn’t work on our calendar.
He created days, weeks, months, seasons and years. Those are real things.
People designed minutes, hours, decades and New Year’s Day on January 1. Those are made up things.
That’s why I don’t trust New Year’s resolutions or decade-long church plans.
What are the odds that God’s plans for my life, my church or my denomination will match our artificial calendar?
God’s Plans Seldom Start on January 1
For years I tried to do what I saw virtually every other church leader doing. I assessed my church one year at a time, starting new plans in January.
But reality kept interfering. I’d make a plan for January through December, convince myself and my congregation it was from the Lord, then God would speak something special into my heart in March. But I couldn’t implement it because I’d already told the church that God had spoken a plan for the calendar year.
How would it look if God changed his mind two-and-a-half months in?
That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to use the turn of the calendar to remind us about the need for planning, or to launch a fresh theme for an upcoming year. And there’s a lot to be said for the balance that comes with planning church events and preaching on an annual basis.
But we need to avoid the temptation to add “God said it” to our ideas and schedules – as good as they may be.
We Have Ten Fingers and Toes – God Doesn’t
How many great movements in history lasted exactly a decade? A century? A millennium? Not one.
Yes, the Bible has the 10 Commandments and the 1,000 year reign of Jesus. And the number 40 is quite popular. But there are non-zero numbers everywhere. 3, 7 and 12 come up a lot, for instance.
The zero numbers occur in the Bible with about the frequency of a random draw. Not that God is random. He’s just not tied to our system of counting.
This upcoming generation is savvy and jaded. They’ve heard enough smooth promises to be as distrustful as I am about plans that seem too perfect, too ordered and too artificial.
So if God lays a 9-point plan on your heart, don’t feel the need to pad it up to 10. (Or to trim it back from 11). Just say what God lays on your heart and let him take care of the numbers.
Get On God’s Timetable
We need to be careful, in our zeal to plan and prepare, not to tie ourselves down to numbers that God may not be using.
I’m not some sort of New Year’s Grinch. I like the feeling of a fresh start that comes with putting a new calendar on the wall. So if January 1 can help us pause, reflect, assess and plan, that’s a good thing.
But when someone says God has a plan that starts on January 1, color me skeptical. On the other hand, when a church leader says the Lord laid something on their heart in mid-July and they’re going to follow it until they see where God takes them, I’m a little more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Also, if we’re listening especially close to God in December about the upcoming year, why not do that every day? What are we doing the rest of the year? Coasting on January’s plan?
Innovators Are Not Clock-Watchers
None of this excuses us from proper planning and stewardship of our time and resources. Financial reports and building plans need clear start and end dates. But mission, vision and innovation happen on a different time clock than our annual budget reports – or they should, anyway.
If we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and pay attention to the seasons he works in, we can do special things.
That starts with planning, of course. But those plans must be adjustable and adaptable as circumstances change, ideas arise or we feel a special nudge from the Holy Spirit – no matter what the calendar on the wall says.
Innovation has more room to breathe when we’re operating within God’s seasons instead of on our schedules.
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