I have loved that observation for a long time now, and I wish I could tell you who first said it. I’ve seen it played out in churches: the time, the cost, the organizational messes – the whole scenario.
But beyond the time, the cost and the messiness, there are three more parallels that I’d like to flesh out for you right here:
It helps to have a plan.
As a young married couple, Donna and I visited some friends of ours who had recently purchased their first home; a little old “fixer-upper” was all they could afford at the time. We got out of our car and our friends immediately launched into their remodeling horror story. They had done a great deal of hard work on some banged up walls, only to discover that their electrical and plumbing problems demanded that they tear out their nice new walls and start over.
Contrast that with the long-running public television show, “This Old House.” You probably know the drill. The “This Old House” experts would sit down with the homeowners and hear their dreams for their home. Then they would get up from the kitchen table and inspect the house from bottom to top.
Next, they would sit down with the homeowner(s) again and give them a realistic assessment of what they could do and, in some cases, what they must do to their house. In many cases the homeowners were advised to put serious money into vital, but unappealing, infrastructure upgrades before any aesthetic improvements could be made. By the end of the one-hour show, the results were always beautiful because of the dreams of the homeowners and the plan drawn up by the experienced remodelers.
There’s no question that the Bible commends planning. It’s all over the book of Proverbs, endorsed by Jesus in Luke 14:28-33, and assumed in Paul’s descriptions of farming and home building in I Corinthians three.
But to my surprise, I’ve heard it suggested that it’s less than “spiritual” to seek to revitalize your church according to a plan. “We should let the Spirit guide us, one change at a time.”
But wait a minute. The Holy Spirit wrote those Biblical passages about planning, didn’t He? We use flexible plans for church planting, church mergers, interim pastorates, church adoptions and church building construction, don’t we? Why would we not start with a flexible plan for revitalization?
A review of church revitalization literature reveals that many church leaders, by way of much prayer and eye-opening experiences, have come to very close agreement on what an effective church revitalization process looks like. The process they’ve discovered is one that the Holy Spirit has chosen to use and bless, again and again. Why would we not seek to gain from their wisdom and experience? It helps to have a plan.
It helps to have some guidance.