Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


Sometimes our plans are not God’s plans. In my preaching this week, we are dealing with Paul in Acts 16. Luke records a curious statement.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7) When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6–7 NIV)

I am afraid that our modern strategizing might prohibit this sort of insight today. Perhaps Paul and his companions were physically bound from this region. But maybe they discerned a leading in another direction, keenly tuned into the Spirit of God.

Throughout Christian history, we have seen prominent missionaries shift direction. David Livingstone planned to go to China, yet accomplished remarkable Kingdom work in Africa. William Carey planned to go to Polynesia, rather God used him greatly in India. Adoniram Judson was an American Baptist missionary who pioneered Christian work in Burma. Did you know that he initially felt called to India? (examples from The Bible Speaks Today)

Alan Roxburgh has a great chapter on Strategic Planning in his recent book, Missional Map-Making. He accepts the need to plan, admitting that it has value for the church. Yet, danger looms when we lean too heavily into our own plans.

Never is this more evident than when I suggest that the process of strategic planning in the church is structured by modernity’s map and argue that the ways it is practiced actually undermine what God is about in the world. These are provocative claims - Loc. 1618

How might our plans inhibit God plans if we do not constantly seek the direction of the Spirit? How might strategic planning be accomplished in the church without placing God on the sidelines?