The strategic planning classes in seminary were the most useful and useless I took. “Useful” because they helped me to understand business planning applied to the church. That avoids the church-adrift syndrome.
“Useless” because you can’t plan God. You cannot anticipate what He is going to do, or what he is NOT going to do. You cannot tell Him what your plan is and expect Him to fulfill it. And it’s darn hard to hear what His strategic planning is. Generally, God does whatever He darn well pleases and brings the growth He wants.
So we see Paul trying to go to Asia, but he can’t. Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, HAVING BEEN KEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM PREACHING IN ASIA — Acts. 16:6 NIV (caps mine). In the strategic planning meeting with his buddies, Paul PLANS to go to Asia. But God has another plan that even Paul could not anticipate.
Hence, the Christian life is both exciting and difficult. It is exciting because God is always pulling out surprises. It is difficult for the people who want to control the future.
Prayer is expecting the unexpected. God comes through always but almost never in the way we expect. So don’t try to figure out what God should do. If you have a church, don’t flout strategic planning. If you plan, don’t try to twist God’s arm to do your plan.
After taking the seminary class, I remember laying down on paper an ambitious five-year plan. Then God did things completely different. The goals I put as attainable, were not. The goals I didn’t try to attain were the ones He did. In a way, it was funny. Prayer, then, is fun and funny.