Strategy and Prayer

By Matt Parker
http://www.mattparker.online

I love strategic planning. Writing mission statements, doing SWOT analyses, and setting goals excite me. I get a buzz out of envisioning the future and putting the plans in place that will help accomplish this.

I just started talking with my organization’s board about implementing a strategic review. They were enthusiastic as I laid out a six-month process to them.

But there was something that made me pause and reflect.

I was reading through the book of Acts at the time. And, in the second chapter, soon after Jesus ascended to heaven, we see the disciples gathered together in the upper room. They had been given a huge task: to continue the work that Jesus had started by taking the amazing hope of the Gospel message to the nations and baptizing and making disciples.

They were not (as I might have been tempted to do) writing a strategic plan, with vision statements, goals, objectives, and performance indicators (all in a nicely bound document with different colours and a beautiful cover photograph, of course!)

Instead, they were praying and fasting. And as they did so, the Holy Spirit came down upon them in power, strengthening them and guiding the way forward.

Think about that. We can compile the most detailed, ambitious, and compelling of plans, but these mean nothing unless God is at the centre. “Apart from me you can do nothing”, Jesus tells his disciples in John 15.

As we think about the future of our organizations, we must commit to prayer. We must seek God’s will, taking time to listen for his voice. And we must keep praying, pursuing him, listening carefully, and responding to his guiding throughout the entire process.

How can your organization better keep Christ at the heart of your planning processes?

Reminding ourselves of God’s presence

By Elaine Vitikainen

Monday is often a time for the office staff of Christian organisations to come together to sing, pray and to reflect on God’s word. It is a good way to start the working week by acknowledging that God is present with them and that God will help them as they work through the week. But what if you work from home? What if you work in a place where there are no regular office devotions? What if you don’t feel that God is by your desk on Monday morning? We all heard how people dislike Mondays. A friend once shared that it is even harder when she spends the whole Sunday at the church and returns to work on Monday in a secular environment. How can we experience the presence of God on a daily basis?

James 4:8 encourages us to come near to God. And as we come near to God, God will come near to us. But how do we do this in practice? How do we practice the presence of God at work; or as we sit in front of a computer?

Why not find something that reminds you that God is present with you every day. We may not have the benefit of a cloud above the tabernacle, but we each have our own experiences of God’s presence with us. What would symbolise to you God’s presence in your work place?

This week, reflect on Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Coffee and Your Organization’s Growth

By Matt Parker
http://www.mattparker.online

For me, each morning begins with a strong cup of coffee.

Making the ideal cup of coffee takes some time. After measuring out the granules, adding water to the coffeemaker, and pressing the “start” button, I sit back and watch as the newly percolated coffee slowly drips and trickles into the cup below.

It creates the perfect result and is always worth the wait.

This morning, as I sat, bleary-eyed, watching the coffee drip into the cup, I reflected on the similarities of the drip-by-drip approach for making coffee, and for building our organizations.

We may have a clear vision for what we want to accomplish, the goals we need to meet, programmes we must create. But achieving this takes time – and often more time than we would like to take.

Rather than rushing to find a quick fix, growing a healthy organization can be more of a drip-by-drip process. Sometimes we can get frustrated at how long it takes. But the results of this approach are often so much better than if we rush too quickly to make the changes that are needed.

As you look at your organization, what is the next “drip” or two that must be added in the next week?

Is it a training program for your team? Must you send a special communication to your supporters? Is a tweak needing be made to one of your processes?

Start by praying. Decide what God is saying. Move forward with accomplishing this. Make it happen.

And, as you pour yourself another cup of coffee, commit the entire process, your vision, and your people, to God.

Sideways Time

by Richard Lister, Coach and Mentor
Coaching to Thrive

Logic drives me like a wasp.  A wasp can’t bend the window glass and I can’t shift this charity.  Time to slip sideways. 

I head out and ease into the rhythm of walking.  At the top of the hill I catch sight of a kestrel, our smallest bird of prey.  It’s hanging in the air, hardly moving, held up by the breeze.

As I ponder the kestrel I am reminded of the verse: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty’ Zechariah 4v6.  I rethink my approach: less slog, more nudging allies and being nudged.  When did this sideways thought come?

When I’d moved.  Alain de Botton says:

‘Journeys are the midwives of thought .. . There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. 

Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape.

The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.  The task can be as paralyzing as having to tell a joke or mimic an accent on demand.  Thinking improves when parts of the mind are given other tasks, are charged with listening to music or following a line of trees.’  (The Art of Travel).

Where might you need to go to get a larger, smaller or unusual perspective?  Or what other activity may prompt a sideways thought?

Resting in God

By Elaine Vitikainen

On the midnight of the 15th of June, the Government of Finland lifted the state of emergency in Finland and further eased the coronavirus restrictions. It made me reflect, ‘What did I learn during the last few months of isolation?´ Here are some of the things that I wrote down for myself:

  • Make the most of every opportunity – there may be no next time. The training we decided to postpone until after the crisis, now may never happen. We can’t retrieve time.
  • There is an opportunity to start again. During the lockdown, many of my colleagues felt that we were all at the same stage. We were all starting from scratch, navigating the new ways of working. This led to abundant sharing of knowledge and resources to help one another out.
  • The future is indeed unpredictable. We have to plan, but hold our plans very lightly. We cannot be sure that things will happen as we imagine.
  • God’s thoughts are not mine. God’s ways are not my ways. (Isaiah 55: 8-9). I do not know God’s plan for my life. But as I choose to trust God to do what is best for me, my soul rests in God.

As Space for Grace takes its own annual break over the next couple of months, why not take some time to reflect on how God has spoken to you during this crisis? How did the crisis affected your relationship with God? How can you rest more fully in God?

Pressing Return

By Nick Wright

As we wait for life to return to normal or even a ‘new normal’, I’ve been wondering what ‘return’ really means. This word keeps coming back to me: Return. Last week I was struck by the concept of ‘return on humanity’, in stark contrast to ‘return on investment’ (Clare Norman, 2020). 

In deep thought, I half-glance down at my keyboard and tap the ‘return’ key. The cursor leaps back to where it started in the left-hand margin (or the right-hand margin if you use a different script) – except that it doesn’t. It’s actually one line, one step, further ahead on the page than it was before. Now I’m thinking – a return that means a revisiting, yet also a step forward. Where do we need to go back to in order to advance forward? What will best yield a ‘return on humanity?’ 

And this came to mind. In 18th century Europe, the Enlightenment must have felt like a bright liberation from the feudal dark ages. Yet, ‘the (apparent) death of God didn’t strike (even) Nietzsche as an entirely good thing’ (Scotty Hendricks, 2016). In losing sight of God, we somehow lost sight of each other too. 

I’m convinced it’s time for a new Enlightenment: a radical return, not to religion but to the Spirit of Jesus and to step forward with renewed humanity – together. 

  • What might this look like in your work and leadership?

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.”  TS Eliot from the Four Quartets

Nick Wright is a psychological coach and organisation development (OD) consultant who is based in the UK and works internationally (www.nick-wright.com). 

Well-fed deciding for the starving

By Steven Wetton

I was in a recent meeting about food provision when somebody said: “The well fed should never be deciding for the starving.” It made me stop. I asked myself: “Do we the ‘well fed’ decide for the ‘starving’? Do we even have the right to make decisions for programme beneficiaries?” I felt really uncomfortable. For I am one of the well-fed. I realised taking such decisions pre-supposes huge arrogance on my part.

Whenever I feel uneasy, I turn to scripture. Proverbs 15 vs 22 says ” Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”. And James 3 vs 17 says” But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.”

I realised if we take the guidelines in James 3 seriously, then we will not be arrogantly deciding for the ‘starving’ but rather that we are engaging them as advisers to help us shape our interventions so that we produce a harvest of good deeds that are free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And going even further, perhaps they should be the ones deciding and we become just the advisers.

In such turbulent times, I am reminded the value of keeping God’s word as a lamp to guide us and be a light for our paths (Psalm 119:105).

This week consider:
What issues are you facing, what is making you uneasy?
Where in the Bible could you turn for guidance?

Candles in a dark world

By Nick Wright

Last night I was speaking with Jasmin in the Philippines. She told me about an incident that really moved me. That day Jasmin saw old woman, who lived on the pavement, trying to eek out an existence by selling candles on the street. As Jasmin approached, this stooped woman beckoned to her with a smile.

‘Would you like to buy a candle?’ she asked. The tone in her voice suggested that she was bracing herself for disappointment, that same disappointment she had felt day after day, year after year, on so many occasions. After all, there were other people selling candles too, so what hope did she have? ‘How much for a candle?’, Jasmin asked. ‘2 pesos’, she replied. Jasmin said, ‘I will take 10 candles’, then, as if secretly, slipped a 500 pesos note into the woman’s hand.

‘But I don’t have any change for such a large amount’, the woman said. ‘How about you keep the candles and pay me next time you pass by, when you have some smaller change?’ Jasmin replied softly, ‘This is a gift to you from Jesus. Please accept it as a gift from Him.’ At that, the woman threw her arms around Jasmin’s neck, burst into tears, and cried, ‘Maam, thank you for helping me!!’ Jasmin hugged her back and whispered gently, ‘Pray and say thank you to Jesus.’

As she finished relating this story, I asked Jasmin why she did what she did. She welled up and said: ‘I remember selling candles as a child, how hard it was. I wasn’t good with maths and so, if I made a mistake when giving people change, I had to pay it back out of my own tiny earnings. I know what it is to be poor.’ So, I asked specifically about this woman, this one person, this stranger. Jasmin replied, ‘At least, for one day in her life, she knows how it feels to be loved, to be blessed by God.’

I fell silent. All I could see were images of Jesus, touching the lives of the poor and most vulnerable in the world. ‘I come to bring good news to the poor!’ He’s still doing it now. It challenges me:

  • How can I bring good news to the poor this week?

No longer boasting about tomorrow

By Elaine Vitikainen

We are all faced by the great uncertainty of the future. A colleague told me that planning has now been reduced to what can be done in the next three days, instead of planning for the months to come. In the past, a fully booked schedule was something to be proud of. Now, it felt like we are all starting from scratch.

The verses from James 4: 13 – 15 have spoken clearly to me in this present situation: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

These verses reminded me that everything is in God’s hand. My life and my future can never be separated from God. Yes, I can plan but surely, it is God who directs my steps. It is God’s will that prevails in the end. Therefore, I cannot boast about tomorrow for I do not know what a day may bring. (Proverbs 27:1)

This week:

  • Spend some time reflecting on how God has directed your steps in your life? How was God present at some of the big turning points?
  • As you look ahead, how can you make yourself more aware of God’s presence on your journey?