A well-known cartoon by Sidney Harris shows two professors looking at a chalkboard on which a complicated mathematical proof has been written. A critical step in the middle of the proof has the words, “Then a miracle occurs.” One professor says to the other, “I think you should be more explicit in step two.” I’ve often thought of this simply as “Poof” – when someone justifies their hopes and plans through unexplainable and magical means.
Therein lies the tension in ministry leadership. On one hand, I am a very rational person whose training includes an MBA and business experience. I think that plans should be clear and logical, and that the steps should add up to the expected outcomes. On the other hand, I am a Christian, and my faith is shaped by and based on the occurrence of miracles.
This tension is magnified because of the amount of time that I spend helping churches and ministries with their plans. A good plan answers the questions, “Where are we going?” and “How will we get there?” “Where are we going?” is a classic vision question that typically has a high-level, inspirational response. “How will we get there?” can be more difficult. It’s where we look at the specific steps that need to be taken. It’s where the tension with “Poof!” occurs.
Imagine a plan that is centered on a new initiative that will have a major impact in the community. It requires a substantial financial investment that is not in the church’s budget. Is it best to scale back on the initiative to something that the church can afford? Or to develop a supporting plan for fund-raising? Or to simply believe that God will provide the needed resources?
Some of you will quickly go to the last option, while others will just as readily choose one of the first two. I don’t know what the right answer is for your specific context, but I’m confident that it’s a question that you should wrestle with. God calls us to be both dependent and “wise.” I like the old saying, “Pray as if everything depends on God; work [and plan] as if everything depends on you.” I don’t know about you, but this nudges me toward a little more prayer and a willingness to accept some “Poof!”