Before I was sent by our country’s U.S. Army to a little country in Southeast Asia in 1970, I was offered a 2-week course called “Platoon Leader”. From this course I recently rediscovered my “Platoon Leader’s Manual”.
Inside the manual, I again went over the principles that a good combat leader should have. The first of these principles was mission accomplishment.
Above all the effective leader needs to be able to define their mission and stick to it.
When I was a missionary team leader, all field missionaries in our country of service had to submit annual ministry goals for their region and ministry assignment.
Several missionaries complained that the mission board was wrong in this practice. “Making goals for ministry takes the Holy Spirit out of the picture,” many said. “The picture” was exactly what the goals were intended to clarify. I attempted to point out that the mission board was not telling us what our goals should be. They were asking us to formulate our own goals in light of our region, demographic, geographic, personnel available and budget available – something only the local field missionary would know. In essence, they were asking us, “by the end of next year, what would you like for your ministry to look like?” Like Covey said in his book, Start With the End in Mind.
My explanation didn’t work. So I thought I would put it in biblical terms. Ok, let’s say the Bible is like a big assembly line. In Genesis, God creates. In Revelation 21, the finished product, the New Jerusalem, comes off the “assembly line”. In between those two points are the benchmarks to achieve the goals. In essence, God is saying, “when I finish with my work, the New Jerusalem is what it is to look like.”
That seemed to work. Making goals is godly. It also helps us to be good stewards of our resources and clarify our thinking and planning.
And since they are our own goals, we can change them, modify them and delete them as God’s Spirit leads us forward – the Holy Spirit is back in the picture.
I have learned to make goals and self-evaluate regularly. I learned the need in an Army combat course. Church planting makes goal-oriented ministry the only effective way to be accountable to yourself, your team, your ministry partners, your sponsoring org, and your Lord.
Ultimately, the combat leader learns lessons about himself/herself and how his/her motives and motivations will affect the welfare of his team in accomplishing the mission. Then he/she can begin to be objective about the outcome.
In church planting, the team leader learns to ask the right questions of his team members to help them focus on the goals that will build a congregation that is biblically sound, culturally sensitive, and spiritually alert.