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leaders in various aspects of their leadership development and growth. Feel free to download and use these materials or share them with other leaders you know. Some of these files are PDF files that can be read and printed using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download you free copy here. LEADERSHIP TOOLS The Ministry Process Assessment. This leadership tool will help you evaluate the comparative overall strengths of your organizationÕs ministry processes. You will examine ministry processes in contrast to business or administration processes. A ministry process is more than a single task. It is a collection of activities which takes one or more kinds of inputs (work, tangible resources, etc.) and creates a result that is of value to someone. A basic ministry process is not necessarily equated with a single program or department in the organization. These processes are often trans-departmental in their operation. In fact, ministry processes are often "invisible" unless you look for them. Many Christian leaders have never looked at their organizations in terms of overall or core ministry processes. Usually, consideration is limited to evaluating programs. The following is a list of typical ministry processes: STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT (charting the course for the organization) TRAINING (people to do something) TEACHING (people to know something) MINISTRY TO INDIVIDUALS (counseling, prayer, etc.) OUTREACH (interacting with those outside the organization) ASSIMILATION (integrating new people into the organization) LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT (identifying, recruiting, training, deploying new leaders) An accurate estimate of the strengths and weaknesses of your primary ministry processes will give you important insights about what would benefit most from prayer and planning as you seek to fulfill your mission. Tip: To use this tool with your team, first, agree together on a list of processes that are critical to your church or organization. Next, have each participant fill out one assessment on their own. Then, add everyone's scores together for each of your processes and divide by the number of people contributing scores to determine the team's overall average score for each process. Rank the processes from strongest to weakest. Finally, have a discussion about the results. Identify issues that need to be addressed, things that can be fixed, added, or adapted to bring improvement. If a process is very dysfunctional, discuss how it could be done differently. Download a your free copy of this resource tool in PDF format read by Adobe Acrobat Reader. The Daily Ministry Manager The Daily Ministry Management System is a comprehensive paper-based organizational system. Many such systems are for sale in any office supply store (some for a lot of money!)-this ones free. Plus, it is designed around the kind of work pastors and Christian leaders do, rather than salesmen or other typically targeted business people. I designed and used this system for years and found it to be very effective. The Daily Ministry Management System contains: 1. 2. Monthly and Weekly calendar pages.
A Goal and Project planning page that allows you to work through all the relevant issues pertaining to your project and then build a list of action plans to get it done. 3. The Weekly calendar page allows you to keep the schedule of all your appointments and activities for the week, as well as all your calls and correspondence and to-do items. It also allows you to integrate the action plans from your Goal and Projects into your weekly work management and tracking. 4. A Master List page for all those things you think about, but don’t know yet what you are going to do with (but you don’t want to forget them). Once stored here you can either: delete them (because they were stupid ideas), transfer them to your Weekly page as To-Do or other item, or to your Goal and Project page for detailed work. Any action plans would then be moved to the weeks when they should be done. The Daily Ministry Management System not only manages the week and month well, but helps you to integrate your longrange and project planning right into your day-to-day work. What a deal! The Meeting Manager Our Meeting Manager is an 8 1/2 by 11 page size personal-organizer form that you can use to enhance the effectiveness of the meetings that you run or attend. Most people find meetings to be a necessary evil, but wish they could be avoided. The problem with meetings is usually based in poor preparation, poor documentation, and poor follow-up. This worksheet allows you to efficiently and effectively manage these three tasks on one page. Keep multiple copies in your paper-based notebook organizer and you will always be on top of your meetings. The Programs and Services Analysis You have a lot of things going on in your church or organization. Leaders and workers are in place, people are participating, money is being spent. Here's the question: is what is going on effective? How can you tell? The Programs and Services Analysis tool gives you a way to think about their effectiveness by evaluating them by seven different criteria. You will build an overall picture of he relative effectiveness of your whole set of programs and services on a single page. Several reflective questions lead you from what you have discovered to what you need to do next. The New Ministry/Project Strategy Worksheet Starting something new in your church or organization? Here is a step-by-step worksheet for an individual or a team to use to build basic strategy. This tool covers the issues of team make-up, purpose or mission, demographics, programs and services, structure, and action steps. This is also an excellent reporting tool. Start up a new team, turn them loose, and them review what they have come up with using this worksheet.
POSITION PAPERS Resisting the Technological Spirit of the Age Is there a way to be "in the world but not of the world" as a Christian leader? The answer is yes, but we must think clearly and biblically about what we do and how we do it. This paper explores the biblical basis for a proactive and strategic approach to ministry that does not compromise our dependence on God. Several guidelines are suggested for maintaining strategic focus and spiritual integrity. Unveiling the Mystery of Strategic Planning In Ministry For many Christian leaders, strategic planning is a mysterious process that somehow doesn’t fit in with the day-to-day ways of doing ministry they have known. In truth, thinking, and therefore, acting strategically is much simpler than you might think. How to Turn Your Vision Into Effective Action One of the greatest tragedies for a Christian leader is the failure to see vision translated in action and results. Many leaders assume, after some time in ministry, that either God is not with them or their vision for ministry was a fantasy of their
imagination. Often, however, they are simply examples of unrealized potential—they do not understand the basic processes involved in the transformation of vision into action Resisting The Technological Spirit Of The Age Following the Holy Spirit as a leader has always required the exercise of discernment. Paul admonished us to "test everything [and] hold on to the good." (I Thessalonians 5:21) In every good thing that God desires for us, it is possible to miss his leading if we are afraid to take risks or if we haven’t learned to discern the difference between the Spirit of the Age and the voice of God. A CONCERN FACING CHRISTIAN LEADERS In our exuberance to see the Kingdom of God advance (or to see our ministries succeed—they are hopefully, but not necessarily the same thing), we face a subtle temptation to join forces with what has been called the Technological Spirit of the Age. This spirit or attitude can be seen among Christians as we come up with methods, practices or principles that we believe will bring success, and then expect, or even demand, God to bless our efforts. This attitude is completely contrary to our Biblical commitment to humble dependence on God for His leading and provision in all of our life and ministry. We are vulnerable to this temptation because our fallen nature attempts to gain control of everything, even God. When Christian leaders are caught up in this attitude, they become enamored with those aspects of their ministry that can function as substitutes for the power and presence of God. Any aspect of ministry, from the polishing of musical ability to enhance worship to training classes in evangelism, can become methods we rely on to produce the results we’re after. One of the dangers that I see in the use of strategic planning is that we can succumb to the temptation to make our plans and produce our own vision, without ever realizing that God’s presence is not among us. There are a number of perfectly proper and helpful skills and methods which we have seen other people use to enhance ministry and advance the Kingdom. Many leaders, gifted with wisdom from God, have inspired and trained us to do the work of the ministry. It is not that it is wrong to follow someone’s example or to learn from the successes of others. All followers tend to look and act like the ones they from whom they have learned. The difficulty comes when the once proper and helpful practice becomes a substitute for the still, small voice of God. Over the years, many of us have seen others, or ourselves, attempt to "make it happen" by (sometimes desperately) employing any method we thought might do as much for us as it has for someone else. It is not just in the area of planning that we can fall prey to relying on our own strength. There are other areas where this same problem can be an issue; using church growth principles (studying what removes the hindrances to the growth of the church), marketing and advertising (researching demographics, employing communication techniques to make people aware of your presence), salesmanship (bringing people to the point of decision), fundraising and financial management (actively raising and administrating money), and the use of computer technology to manage information. Whatever benefit is derived from the proper use of skills and methods will be lost if we are putting our faith in these methods. Even if our hearts are committed to only seeking God’s will, we must be on guard against relying on any process or plan instead of on the sovereign will and power of God. If there is such inherent danger in any method, why should we make use of any planning tool? I believe that the wisdom of planning has been demonstrated by wise leaders in our own movement, and that getting good advice about practical ministry matters (how to get something done) is a well-documented Biblical practice. An example of that is the exchange between Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses seemed on the verge of becoming a Biblical case study on the effects of burn-out when Jethro approached him with a practical solution. Jethro’s wise counsel enabled Moses to accomplish what God had put in his heart. However, we must be careful about using Jethro’s counsel (or anyone else’s for that matter). No one’s counsel must ever substitute for God’s counsel. Neither must the counsel contradict God’s word. It must not lead us away from what God has already told us to be or to do. HOW TO KEEP FROM FALLING PREY TO THE TECHNOLOGICAL SPIRIT OF THIS AGE Here are four guidelines to help us to "test everything [and to] hold on to the good." (I Thessalonians 5:21) 1. Appreciate the different Biblical models for fulfilling a God-given mission. God doesn’t limit himself to doing things in only one way. Philip (in the New Testament) and Nehemiah (in the Old Testament) illustrate how differently God can work to lead us in the mission he gives to us.
Philip’s mission was to evangelize Ethiopia. The way the Lord led him was to send an angel with specific instructions. Obeying those instructions led Philip into a divine encounter with an official of the Ehthiopian court whom God had prepared to hear Philip’s message. The effect was an explosion of the Gospel in Ethiopia. Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. The way the Lord led Nehemiah appears to be drastically different from his dealings with Philip. Rather than an angelic visitor with orders from on high, Nehemiah got bad news from one of his brothers who had just returned from Judah. The source of the message was actually God, and the effect was that Nehemiah burned with the conviction that he must restore Jerusalem as the dwelling place for God’s temple and his people. With the passion from God, there also followed a systematic plan to discover what needed to happen, who was responsible for what, and how he would manage the whole process to completion. What is the point for us? We are not dealing with an either/or issue- either God speaks or we come up with ideas on our own. If God speaks to us a detailed plan, we must follow his words exactly, without adding or deleting to suit our desires. If God gives direction without specifics, we must prayerfully think about how we will proceed and develop well-thoughtout plans. One way that God leads is not more spiritual than the other. The same God who said "apart from me you can do nothing" also said "a man does not build a tower without first calculating the cost." It is just that our plans must not become the end - we must be always ready to hear God speak and be ready to make course corrections at his direction. 2. Maintain a consistent and genuine prayer life. Intimacy with God keeps His voice strong in our ears. We are most vulnerable to other voices when we are estranged from Him. Prayer keeps us in touch with our absolutely dependent position on God for everything in our lives and ministry. When we lose touch with this, we will quickly take control again. The humility of a prayerful heart will help keep our old nature in its place - on the cross. 3. Never confuse the job of "following the pillar of fire" with the Lord’s job of "moving the pillar of fire." Even though Moses was at the head of the great crowd of people exiting Egypt, it was God who was supernaturally leading them. We do well to remember that we are servants going where we are sent; we are not masters of our destiny. When he says to go, we are to seek him for how we are going to there, and make wise plans. 4. Always see the plan as a means, not an end. Plans represent our best effort at identifying the next steps we need to take in following God. Plans need to be held in open hands. God may want to redirect us at any point as he did with Paul when Paul abandoned his plans to go into Asia Minor and instead went to Macedonia. Plans are not to be confused with God’s will for our lives. They are only our response to the revelation of God’s will for our lives and ministries. CONCLUSION We need to become adept and effective in developing strategic ministry plans so that we can obey the calling and vision that God puts in our hearts as leaders. But as we commit ourselves to wise planning, we must not risk losing the precious presence and leading of God by relying on any person or plan. Let us never become faithless, so that we deserve the warning God gave Israel in Deuteronomy 8:17,18 "You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today." UNVEILING THE MYSTERY OF STRATEGIC PLANNING IN MINISTRY I remember as a young pastor feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of planning. I had heard respected leaders emphasize the priority of having a plan for ministry. Somehow, I just couldn’t seem to get past the "Ought to" of planning to the "How to." Strategic plans, 5-Year Plans, and the like had a strange, mysterious quality to them. I knew that many successful and effective leaders had plans, and they seemed to accomplish their goals. What was it that they did to come up with these wonderful plans? Did God lead them up on a mountain somewhere and dictate the plan to them? Were they just smarter than I was? I began to wonder if there were basic principles to this "planning thing" that somehow they had discovered, and that maybe I could learn too?
For anyone who has ever felt as I did, strategic planning doesn’t have to be a mystery. Once I identified the basic elements involved in developing a strategic plan, I found it much easier to get a handle on the planning process, and to work with it as an integrated part of my role as a leader. All strategic planning processes, whether formal or informal, are a discovery process, and will in some degree contain the following 5 elements. Element 1: VISION Vision is infinitely more powerful than leaders may realize. Vision pulls us toward the future with an image of what that future could look like. It is where we believe God has told us to go and what He wants us to build. Vision given by God offers us a compelling reason for the sacrifice and effort needed to accomplish something significant. I recently read the results of two different studies of unsuccessful church plants. In both of those studies the number one reason given for the failure of the new church to take root and grow was the leader’s lack of clear vision. Element 2: VALUES Values are primary sources of motivation in the ministry of a Christian organization. Values drive us and empower us for action. Priorities and activities that do not reflect these values are easily procrastinated, compromised, and even abandoned. When thinking through a long-range plan, it is important to be able to identify what is important. Values are a primary element in the culture of an organization. Those who join a group not only need to know where the group is going, but what the journey is going to be like. Element 3: THE PRESENT Every determined step toward the future, no matter how bright the future appears, must always begin upon the ground of the present. Where you are now will determine what needs to happen next to get where you want to go. The book of Proverbs addresses the need for accurate information. "Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly." And, "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception." (Proverbs 13:16; 14:8) Jesus addressed the same issue: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14:28-31) Element 4: MISSION Mission defines the focus of the organization’s activity and use of resources. While vision concerns what a leader is ultimately seeking to build in the organization, mission is more concerned with the actual activities of the group in the immediate and short-range future. If a leader is not convinced about what the focus of the ministry is to be right now, it is possible to be sidetracked into all sorts of "good ideas" that will come along. If the goal is to be strategic, the only "good ideas" are those things that will move the organization toward the vision. Element 5: STRATEGY Clarity in a leader’s thinking about vision, values, mission and the present will make it possible to develop, a careful, comprehensive plan. The plan will consist of the priority goals for the organization, time-lines for completion of the actions, and action-assignments so that accountability is established. Strategic planning isn’t mysterious, neither is it beyond the capacity of all but the most gifted leaders. Planning is just knowing how to ask the right questions, then how to get the right answers.
Our planning programs, training programs, planning toolkits and free leadership tools are designed to help you work with these elements in an efficient and effective way. Our goal has been to be clear and simple without compromising the depth and quality of the planning process you need. Custom-designed Team-based Strategic Planning Programs
For churches, Christian organizations, and other organizations, we offer on-site help with the process of developing longrange ministry and organizational strategies. This is a completely modular, flexible approach that can be custom-fit to any organization or ministry. When should you consider bringing in an outside consultant to work with your team? 1. When you realize that you are seriously underutilizing your resources and opportunities for ministry, and yet are not sure how to move ahead. 2. When you and your key leaders find that you are able to talk all around the issues facing you, but are unable to translate your great ideas into effective action with results. 3. When you have basic core stability in your organization (no major crises brewing to distract everyone from thinking about the future)-this is important. Strategic planning is not what your church or organization needs if it is tottering on the brink. Other interventions would be helpful at that point to help your leadership team and the members of the organization come to terms with each other and the crisis at hand. However, if you have at least core stability in place, then you are ready to aggressively move ahead together toward the vision God has given you. 4. In other words, if you have unrealized potential and you want to see it unleashed in the most time and cost efficient manner possible. What does a planning program involve? While each organization will have its own unique needs and requirements, the following elements are typically included: Pre-work A pre-session assessment will be completed by the planning team members prior to the session. This allows everyone to give initial input about the issues and concerns they see facing the organization in the near-future and develops basic measurements of overall organizational strengths and weakness to be addressed by the planning team. The team’s pre-work inputs are synthesized into a comprehensive report for use in the planning sessions. Planning Sessions This is usually a two-day planning session with the core leaders of the organization. In these meetings the team will be lead through a comprehensive discover process to explore the critical issues involved in moving from where they now are to where they want to be in the future. The following elements are usually included: * Pre-work discussion and conclusions * Values and the organizations ideal culture * Long-range vision * Mission or purpose definition * SFSWOT analysis (Successes, Failures, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) * Goal prioritization * Action plan development * Implementation system (insuring that what gets planned gets done!) How to Turn Your Vision Into Effective Action Focused planning is a pressing need in Christian organizations today. As a church planter and a pastor I found that planning coupled with disciplined action often seemed beyond reach. The press of daily demands, unexpected crises and volatile situations kept me so consumed with running the ministry that there was little time or thought given to planning. One of my greatest frustrations in ministry has been seeing so little of my vision translated into effective action. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that effectiveness in strategic thinking and planning are critical to success in ministry and life. Strategic effectiveness is achieved by setting the right long-term priorities and implementing them. A Christian organization produces strategic effectiveness when it directly and forcefully implements prioritized goals in its operations. So how does the leader of a Christian organization develop the kind of strategic capabilities needed to lead the enterprise
to greater effectiveness and success? In this column we will address various skills and principles that will help you to work through the priority issues which are foundational to the development of an effective and comprehensive ministry strategy for your organization. What is Strategic Planning? There are many esoteric or long-winded definitions for the term strategic planning. Most Christian leaders, however, are neither esoteric nor long-winded. Consequently, these definitions are frequently less than helpful. To be useful, strategic planning must be a clear and simple process. Becoming skilled at the practice of strategic planning requires that the concept be easily grasped. Here is a definition of strategic planning we are using: Strategic Planning Is The Process of Determining The Long-range Vision of An Organization And How To Fulfill It. Although this definition is simple in terms of grammar and vocabulary, it is not simplistic. Packed into these few words are powerful concepts and insights into a process that can transform your organization. * It is an ongoing process, a way of life, rather than an "event." * Strategic planning should be a continual activity in a growing entity. Unfortunately, it is often treated like an event that, once completed, no longer serves a relevant role in the ongoing operations of the organization. * This process determines what happens in the organization; it is proactive. * Planning, not circumstances should drive the organization, yet this is often not the case. Good planning not only keeps you on track, but it also enables you to be ready to respond to unexpected opportunities that present themselves. * The energies and resources of the ministry are clearly focused on a target: your vision. * It is risky and ill-advised to define specific organizational goals without first determining where you want the enterprise to end up. By vision, we mean the overarching, all-encompassing sense of identity and direction of the organization. * Goals are the strategic opportunities at hand for the organization. * When addressed by the organization, these opportunities will leverage the organization’s resources to achieve desired ministry and financial results. * It is an intensely practical and pragmatic process of action, which fulfills your goals. * The "how to fulfill" part of the plan is often overlooked by planners. It is assumed that this will be addressed later or by someone else. Such an assumption usually translates into "nobody" ever gets around to doing "anything" with the plan. Strategic planning should lead you all the way to effective implementation. We have designed planning tools that allow you to reproduce what we would do if we came into your church or organization and worked with your team. They provide step-by-step guidance through the powerful planning process we have described here. We also provide custom designed planning programs which we will lead with your leadership team on-site. Power Needed to Balance (June 1999) Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala is a must read book. The book has reinforced several things we have been teaching about being a Biblically balanced ministry. Proverbs teaches, "The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his way" (Proverbs 16:9). The balance in this verse is that it challenges us to "plan" and trust God for the His leading. Another way of thinking about this balance is to realize the balance between planning and prayer. Brooklyn Tabernacle (the church which this book is about) is demonstration of the power of prayer to transform lives. The following thoughts are reflections stimulated or reinforced by Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. First, remember that planning without prayer neglects the greatest source of power for the accomplishment of anything to the glory of God. One of the principles we have been teaching is that the ultimate goal of strategies in ministry is to glorify God. Sincere prayer is a channel which the Holy Spirit uses to empower us toward His glory. The book of Acts demonstrates to us that each time there was a mighty moving of the Spirit it was during a time of concentrated prayer. Prayer is an expression and acknowledgment of weakness. Jim Cymbala states, "I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can't resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need Him. Our weakness, in fact, makes room for His power."1 Any planning that begins with a sense of one's own strength or that of a church is doomed to be man centered. God loves to demonstrate His power through our weaknesses. The reason is simple,
"that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Secondly, we need to always make prayer the first, continual and last part of planning. Prayer meeting has become the least attractive service and is all but dismissed as if it were for a bygone age. Cymbala speaks of a turning point, "From this day on the prayer meeting will be the barometer of our church. What happens [at prayer meeting] will be the gauge by which we will judge success or failure because that will be the measure of by which God blesses us."2 The mistake is often made of measuring success by how well our plan is executed rather then what God does by His power for His plan and glory. Thirdly, let me speak to my fellow preachers. Prayer is more important then our preaching. The grace of God has been demonstrated many times with great blessing and then there have been those other times in my almost thirty years of ministry. I can remember many of those times of great blessing and behind it was a praying church and prayer worriers. Cymbala challenges us by asking "Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, 'My house shall be called a house of preaching?"3 And, he follows that question with "I have seen God do more in people's lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my messages."4 We need to humble ourselves before God and realize God is more concerned about our prayer life then he is our preaching. When prayer is the first priority the preaching will be anointed with power. Acts 6:4 gives the order, "we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word." The church today needs to be sensitive to what God is using to build His Church. A danger in understanding our culture and ministry effectiveness is we can be diverted form the real source of power. Cymbala mentions three diversions: "The Lure of Novelty, The Lure of Marketing, and The Lure of Doctrine Without Power."5 His points are well made and should be considered in trying to be Biblically Balanced in ministry and life. God certainly can and does use strategic planning but these tools can never replace the power that only comes through prayer. Let us keep the balance by keeping the most important things most important, particularly prayer. One additional reminder is given "It takes more than academic rigor to win the world for Christ. Correct doctrine alone won't do it."6 People are looking for something authentic to happen in their lives. The greatest power source we have to change peoples lives is God Himself. One might say but "the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two - edged sword..." This is certainly true but, remember "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God." The Holy Spirit is our dependency, not our ability to weald the sword. "We should make plans—counting on God to direct us" (Proverbs 16:9 The Living Bible [paraphrased]). A balanced ministry is a ministry that recognizes the importance of planning and the priority of prayer. One without the other results in imbalance. We should plan but the power for ministry is prayer. Keeping Two-Way Communication Between You & God FYI: As we walk in the Spirit, we remain in constant touch with our heavenly Father, apprising him of both big and small decisions! Just as the instrument pilot flying through the fog is dependent on two-way communication with the radar controller, so the Christian needs to converse with God and hear his voice regularly. As in life, when an emergency arises or while facing numerous decisions preparatory to landing, the pilot maintains constant radio contact, both parties talking and listening. God’s children likewise need to hear from him through the Bible, and He wants you to talk to him in prayer. There is no possible way a Christian can “walk in the control of the Spirit” until he develops that two-way communication with God. The first half: The Word Of the two methods of communication, the more important involves daily reading of the Word of God. Though I am aware that some “prayer warriors” will challenge me, I am convinced that it is more important for us to hear from God than for God to hear from us. Certainly we are not going to tell him anything he doesn’t know, but reading his Word regularly will flood the searchlight of his truth upon the pathway of life along which we walk. It is impossible for a man to walk in the control of the Holy Spirit unless he knows God’s will, which is communicated to us through the Scriptures. Men and women who do not read and study the Bible regularly are just kidding themselves if
they think they are walking in the Spirit. They are so uninformed about the Word of God that they don’t even realize when they are disobedient to him. To find his will, we must read it daily. The San Diego Chargers football players who attended our weekly Bible study encouraged me to write a book to help them read and study the Bible for themselves. I developed a simple program to make this quiet time highly practical and helpful and to guide them into other studies. One night during a Chargers’ Bible study on the two natures in the heart of the Christian, one of the players asked, “Which nature, the self-serving or the God-serving, will control my life?” Before I had time to answer, the safety on the team perceptively replied, “The one you feed the most!” It could not have been stated better. Just as you must eat right to build up your body, so you must nourish the inner man with spiritual sustenance. That is why Peter declared, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). That kind of spiritual growth will help you overcome your weaknesses and walk in the Spirit. The second half: Prayer The other half of communication necessary to walk in the Spirit is prayer. No facet of your life can be exempt from prayer. The apostle Paul instructed us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That is, communicate with God as you move through every experience of life. This is an excellent habit to develop, for it makes you sensitive to his leading. Whenever I fly only by instruments I am in constant touch with the radar controller. My radios are on and I am alert to his slightest command. The Spirit-controlled life is like that. As we walk in the Spirit, we remain in constant touch with our heavenly Father, apprising him of both big and small decisions. Some Christians only talk to the heavenly Father when faced with “big decisions.” Not me! I take literally the proverbial words, “In all your ways acknowledge him” (Proverbs 3:6). I like to check with Him on everything. Just the other day I was hurriedly packing to get to the airport on time to get to a seminar, and I was missing a whole set of my overhead transparencies for one of my messages. After looking frantically for ten minutes, I paused and asked the Lord to help. Within two minutes I found them (where I doubt I would have ever looked) and was on board the airplane just before they closed the door. Planning to fly: A good pilot does not wait until he is confronted with a perilous situation to start making decisions. The secret to good instrument flying is planning. The same is true in life. Plan ahead, check your decisions by the Bible just as a pilot checks his flying charts, and then discuss them in prayer with the heavenly Father far enough in advance so that you will not have to act under the pressure of emergencies. Too many Christians stagger from crisis to crisis, most of which could have been avoided by steadfast reading of God’s Word and by prayer. That two-way communication is essential to walking in the Spirit!
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