What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
Christian based ministries are especially prone to inaction. It is not because they lack the understanding of the importance of their work or lack faith, it is because they are not working with a near-term defined deadline which creates a sense of urgency. They easily fall prey to the natural human tendency to procrastinate.
They are also prone to wait on God’s perfect plan. This one reason is the cause for more inaction in the Body of Christ than any other. They are convinced that any proactive action not in lockstep with God’s plan is equivalent to going against God. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to do nothing and wait on Him to give you a detailed plan. He has given you guidance on what He wants you to do as a Christian ministry in the Great Commission. Prayer and monitored progress will allow you to determine the details of His plan. Tweaking the direction of your ministry is relatively easy once there is forward momentum. Gaining that momentum is the hard part.
The Case Against Inaction
As leaders of ministries, we are asked to make decisions with imperfect information (God’s ultimate destination for our ministry). That is what leaders do. It is easy to make decisions when we know how things are going to turn out. It is easy to make decisions when we know all of the information necessary to make the decision. The ability to make hard decisions in the face of uncertainty is the differentiator between leaders of effective organizations and managers of ineffective ones.
While we might be somewhat unclear of the exact azimuth of God’s direction for us, we certainly know the cardinal direction (see Table 1). Instead of being paralyzed where we are (A), waiting on God to communicate his end goals to us (B), we should actively pursue a path (C) within his guidance he has set forth for us, however imperfect. Prayer and measured performance can give us corrections to our course along the way (D). How much closer to God’s destination are we (F) than if we would have waited on the perfect plan (E)?
A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week. -George S. Patton
Creating a Sense of Urgency
Imagine the activity level in any given church or ministry office if we got the word that Christ’s return was next week. It could be. Why does our activity level not match that possibility?
Leaders must create that sense of urgency in their organization. What creates a sense of urgency?
- A sense of importance in the task at hand
- A deadline in which to accomplish this task
Leaders must convey the importance of the mission of the organization. This part is most likely already there. In volunteer-dependent organizations, this is necessary to get the volunteers to volunteer and the donors to donate.
The Bible’s guidance on our deadline is a little abstract. On a macro level it is easy to conceptualize, but on a micro level, it is abstract enough not to represent a true deadline that inspires action now. Leaders must create a more definable deadline for their organization. They must create and communicate the “burning platform” that motivates their organization to action.