Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
I am not a sailor. Maybe you are. So, forgive my ignorance of the whole experience, and please forgive my stealing of this illustration…but it seems to me that sailing involves a whole lot of hard work and attention to details, on the one hand, and a lot of being still and waiting on the wind to blow, on the other hand. In that way, it is a lot like the church.
I once heard one of the important spiritual mentors in my life say: “I don’t like 5-year strategic plans for the church…I am always afraid we will reach the 5-year goal and have missed out on what God wanted for us.” When I was a young leader in the church, that truly spoke to me. It pretty much rocked my world. I learned that God does want God-sized things for His people. He does want to show us great and amazing things of which we cannot even conceive. We really do get so wrapped up in our planning and our business-like approach to spiritual things that we end up missing God completely…sometimes. I think those were valuable lessons for me to learn as a young leader. I definitely needed to expand my vision of God and of His sovereignty.
But there is another side to scripture. There is a very practical side to it. There is Jesus asking the question, “What kind of man sets out to build a building without first counting the costs?” There are the apostle-fishermen who were asked to do the very practical part of tossing their nets onto the other side of the boat before they would experience the impractical, God-sized results. And there is Paul’s instruction above to the Corinthian church about systematically and methodically implementing a savings plan in order to join God in His work in Jerusalem. Being a “more seasoned” leader in the church now (at least more so than I was 20 years ago), I am quickly developing an appreciation for the balance between the hard work of planning and detailed implementation and the important vision for what God is doing.
It seems to me to be a lot like sailing a ship. There is so very much planning to do and so very much hard work to do…so much cleaning and scrubbing and trimming and tying and storing and lots and lots of communication all along the way. We all have important jobs to do, important tasks to fulfill. But in the end, what we are really doing is just preparing to wait…for the wind to blow. You see, once the wind of the Spirit begins to blow through our church, it is too late to do all that planning and that work. The wind blows and it is wasted on us, because we have not planned for it. We are not ready for it. But, by the same token, we can work and work and work and plan and plan and plan…but until the wind blows, none of it amounts to much. “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5 There are points in time, seasons in the church, when we really are just making preparations without any real knowledge of when God will show up or even how He will show, for that matter. We toil away with great faith that His winds will blow…and then we be still and listen and wait. And maybe we work some more and then wait some more. Both “modes” are important…the working and the waiting. Never grow weary of either.
When the wind does eventually blow, it is a life-changing, unforgettable experience. But if we have not planned and worked and prepared…we are not ready for the wind, and we miss the rush.
Which mode is your church in today? Feeling the rush of the wind or doing the hard work to prepare?