Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Spirit vs. The Plan

There's a false dichotomy that I've often seen in the church, which assumes that "planning" and "being led by the spirit" are mutually exclusive. The idea is that if we plan something out, give it a structure, then we are necessarily excluding the Holy Spirit from the event. Phrased differently, some people assume that being led by the Spirit, means that you go into an event without any sort of real plan; that being led by the Spirit and doing something off-the-cuff are one in the same.

My problem with this philosophy is that it actually limits the Spirit, while appearing to fling wide the doors for Him. This mentality limits the Spirit by assuming that He only works when we don't have a plan. It excludes Him from the planning phase. Can the Spirit of God work suddenly in the heart of a leader, causing him or her to do or say something off the cuff, something that wasn't planned? Yes, of course. By the same token, the Spirit of God is big enough to work in the planning phase of an idea, to move in the heart of a leader to plan exactly what God desires be accomplished in a sermon / event / worship set. 

I've known people in the past, who believed that if everything went according to plan at any given event, then the Spirit wasn't involved... as if our plans shackled the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. They actually said it this way - "if nothing unplanned happens, then I'll be disappointed that we limited the Spirit." As if the Spirit desperately wanted to work in the ripened hearts of potential converts, and our plans kept Him from it. The Spirit is just outside the doors, looking in, crying out "WHY? Why did you make a plan?!? Now I can't do anything!"

However, I personally believe that a prayerful, careful plan can be just as Spirit led as a sudden inspiration to prophesy over someone. It may be less ecstatic, but the Holy Spirit isn't limited to twitchy, ethereal moments. He works also through seemingly dull, well-executed planning. 

So, here's where the rubber meets the road. How can you ensure that the Holy Spirit is going to be present and move at your event? Understanding that He's God, that His ways and thoughts are higher than our own, that all our ministry is dependent upon His moving, and that we can't simply conjure him up as a magi might a jin, here are 4 steps you can take toward having a more Spirit led event: 

1) Ask: If you want the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of those in attendance at your event, ask Him to. When our Kingdom-oriented, missionally-minded desires align with God's own, He answers our prayers with a fervent "YES!" If you seek God's will, and ask that He accomplish His own stated goals at your event, He will. 

2) Plan: Yes, God can work without one. No, He doesn't need one. However, those moments when He moves mightily, without warning or preparation are the aberrations. Most people you know whose lives have been transformed at a church service, event, conference, small group or even through random evangelism, were influenced the way they were because someone sought God's will, was led by the Spirit and had a plan. A car is a lot easier to steer when it's moving. Get the car moving, and let the Spirit do the steering. 

3) Preach: This doesn't mean someone needs to get up and talk for 45 minutes straight. Just share the truth, in love. Share the Gospel with those in attendance. This could mean anything from a few sentences to a 90-minute lecture. You can also preach through song. Most people are more apt to listen to (and remember) a song than a sermon. Whether it's through music, song, prayer or readings, make sure the Gospel is preached and truth is proclaimed. God has promised that His Word will not return void. 

4) Remember: Although the outworking of the Holy Spirit is sometimes ecstatic, and obvious, sometimes it's internal, and initially imperceptible, and in both instances, it's miraculous. This is not something you can force. It's not something you can manipulate. You may ask the Spirit to move, prayerfully, carefully plan, and preach the gospel passionately - and never see the fruit of that. Abraham never saw the promise fulfilled. David couldn't build the temple. Paul died before the end came. You may not be see the impact your event has on the lives of those in attendance and their spheres of influence. Nothing out of the ordinary may happen. If you're lucky, things will actually go as you've planned. But that doesn't mean the Spirit didn't move. 

Don't pit the Holy Spirit against your plans. God can work through the plans of man, and he certainly isn't shackled by them. Also, remember to hold your plans with an open hand. If you sense that the Lord is suddenly asking you to change something, don't freak out. Ask for strength. Thank Him that He's in control, and roll with the punches. 

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